Stewart-Haas Racing could join the graveyard of former NASCAR teams or find new life

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 31: Team owner Gene Haas (R) officially inducts Tony Stewart into the NASCAR Hall of Fame during the 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Charlotte Convention Center on January 31, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Another headstone could soon be planted in the graveyard filled with many NASCAR teams who once competed in American stock car auto racing’s biggest league.

Gene Haas’s once mighty vision which started in 2002 as part time effort known as Haas CNC, one that dove into the sport fulltime 2004 and gained an ally in a three-time NASCAR Cup champion and Hall of Famer with deep pockets in 2009, is no more.

Tony Stewart announced to the team Tuesday that Stewart-Haas Racing will breathe its last at the end of this season. Shortly after the news was announced to the world.

“We have made the difficult decision to close Stewart-Haas Racing at the conclusion of the 2024 season. It is a decision that did not come easily, nor was it made quickly,” a joint statement from Tony Stewart and Gene Haas read.

Haas, who founded and operated Haas Automation successfully enough to first sponsor Hendrick Motorsports cars then launch a NASCAR race team of his own would branch out beyond the highest level of the sport into the Xfinity series soon after launching his Cup effort. Haas then launched a team in Formula 1 in 2014 stepping away from NASCAR leaving the race cars with fenders to be managed by Stewart and Joe Custer.

Stewart raced for his new co-owned team starting in 2009, winning 4 Cup races that season. Stewart would go on to collect his third NASCAR Cup title with the team in 2011. Kevin Harvick would another in 2014. In addition to those titles the team has a Xfinity series title won by Joe’s son Cole last season.

Overall, the four cars it fields in the Cup series have won 69 races and 22 in the Xfinity series.

Stewart stepped away from fulltime NASCAR racing at the end of 2016, Harvick at the end of last season. Stewart was inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame as part of the 2020 class.

“Racing is a labor-intensive, humbling sport. It requires unwavering commitment and vast resources, with a 365-day mindset to be better than everyone else. It’s part of what makes success so rewarding.

“But the commitment needed to extract maximum performance while providing sustainability is incredibly demanding, and we’ve reached a point in our respective personal and business lives where it’s time to pass the torch.”

‘Passing a torch’ could mean a new life for the assets, and the people, currently with the team. This has happened in the past, most recently when Chip Ganassi sold his NASCAR assets to Trackhouse Racing and former Ganassi driver Kyle Larson, went to Hendrick Motorsports and much bigger things and Trackhouse to a serious contender.

That could mean that the current stable of drivers, Chase Briscoe, Josh Berry, Noah Gragson, Ryan Preece and Cole Custer along with crew chiefs, car chiefs, engineers and the rest of the people needed to put cars on a racetrack will have new ownership.

Or it could mean that when the checkered flag falls at the end of final race at Phoenix in November the flame will be extinguished, and the NASCAR world will watch SHR ride off into the sunset.

“We’re proud of all the wins and championships we’ve earned since joining together in 2009,” Tuesday’s statement said. “But even more special is the culture we built and the friendships we forged as we committed to a common cause – winning races and collecting trophies.

“That is the same commitment we made to our personnel, our partners and our fans coming into this year, and that commitment will remain through the season finale at Phoenix.

“We have tremendous respect and appreciation for all of our employees, and we will work diligently to assist them during this transition to find new opportunities beyond the 2024 race season.”

No one may ever know the real reasons behind the closure. When Harvick left at the end of last season, several high-profile sponsors abandoned SHR and moved to other teams. That sponsor money paid a lot of bills and has yet to be replaced. Stewart himself recently put his beloved mansion complete with 415 acres in his home state of Indiana on the market for $23 million. That could be a hint of troubles behind the scenes, or simply a coincidence. Maybe he had wife Leah are looking to downsize as they work on starting a family of their own. Or maybe the team needs an infusion of cash to finish out the season.

In the end, the fact that the team which has ranked among the four top elite teams in the sport, hasn’t won a race in the Cup series since 2022 and by many measures has struggled could have hammered the final nail in the coffin

For now, Gene Haas is focused on the F1 side of things, while Stewart started his own NHRA team in 2022 and now races for that team in the top ranks. What will happen to the F1 team is a bit unclear, but Stewart seems to have a very secure future with his own drag racing efforts.

The final act of Stewart-Haas Racing will be playing out in the months ahead. Come November it could have a new life elsewhere or a new headstone will appear in a row with such teams as Bill Davis Racing, Leavine Family Racing, Morgan-McClure, Stavola Brothers Racing, and Rusty Wallace Racing to name a few.

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Greg Engle