Why NASCAR’s Stewart-Haas Racing Is Closing Its Doors

Facebook/Stewart-Haas Racing

On Tuesday, NASCAR team owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas made a joint announcement that Stewart-Haas Racing would be closing at the end of the 2024 season, leaving six NASCAR drivers and hundreds of support personnel out of a job.

What went wrong? Why is one of NASCAR’s most prominent teams leaving the sport? We’ll explain. But let’s start with a brief look at how Stewart-Haas Racing reached the breaking point.

In 2002, beyond-wealthy businessman Gene Haas decided he wanted to enter the world of NASCAR. He started Haas-CNC Racing as a way to promote the company he owns, Haas Automation, which manufactures CNC (computer numerical control) machines, which use computers to operate tools, such as lathes and grinders, with far more precision than an operator can manage on his or her own.

Stewart Haas
Nascar Media/Getty Images/Bob Leverone

Haas-CNC Racing was, at best, a mid-pack runner, and by 2008, its drivers were averaging a 27th-place finish. Haas knew he needed to make some changes, so he made two-time NASCAR Cup series champion Tony Stewart an offer he couldn’t refuse: Leave Joe Gibbs Racing and move to Haas-CNC Racing, and Haas would give Stewart half the team. Thus was born Stewart-Haas Racing. In 2009 the team brought aboard Penske Racing driver Ryan Newman, the year after he won the Daytona 500.

The team matured and grew. Stewart won his third Cup championship in 2011. In 2013, with great fanfare, Stewart-Haas Racing hired IndyCar driver Danica Patrick who, despite lackluster performance on the track, consistently made headlines as the only female driver to make an actual living in the NASCAR Cup series.

Fast forward to the 2024 season: Tony Stewart quit NASCAR Cup racing in 2016, and his interest in NASCAR gradually faded. Also in 2016, Gene Haas, who had bought what was left of the bankrupt Marussia Formula 1 team, started his own F1 effort, called Haas F1 Team, which is still looking for its first win, having never finished higher than fourth. This year, Haas’ two F1 drivers are presently 13th and 17th in points out of 21 drivers. Haas, 71, is still running Haas Automation, has been sick for much of 2024, and is still struggling to make Haas F1 into a contender, or at least improve on 2023’s dead-last finish in the standings.

Other factors are at work here, too. Stewart-Haas driver Kevin Harvick retired from full-time racing at the end of 2023, which meant the end of his lucrative Anheuser-Busch sponsorship. Driver Aric Almirola also left Stewart-Haas after the 2023 season, meaning the loss of his Smithfield Foods sponsorship.

Tony Stewart of Stewart-Hass Racing Josh Berry announcement press conference
Stewart talks with the media during a press conference introducing Josh Berry as the new driver of the #4 Stewart-Hass Racing Ford Mustang at Charlotte Motor Speedway on June 21, 2023 in Concord, North Carolina.Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Still, Stewart-Haas entered the 2024 NASCAR season with four Cup entries for drivers Noah Gragson, Josh Berry, Chase Briscoe and Ryan Preece—none of them household names in the world of NASCAR. Stewart-Haas also has a pair of NASCAR Xfinity series drivers: Riley Herbst, who has one win in the series and sponsorship from Monster Energy, and Cole Custer, who is the 2023 Xfinity champion, and the son of Joe Custer, Stewart-Haas Racing president, and the man who has mostly been running the day-to-day operations of the company.

None of the Stewart-Haas drivers have won this season. Among its Cup drivers, only Chase Briscoe has won a race, and that was in 2022. In addition, Stewart-Haas’ deal with Ford ends this year; it had been one of the top Ford teams since it switched from Chevrolet in 2016.

It hasn’t helped that Ford has had a terrible 2024 season in all three NASCAR series. By the time Ford won its first and only Cup race of the season, which was Brad Keselowski’s victory on May 12, Chevrolet had already won seven races, and Toyota five. Besides inexperience in the Stewart-Haas Cup driver lineup, that has been a crippling factor for the team.

Tony Stewart and wife Leah Pruett
Leah congratulates Tony on his class win at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Camping World Drag Racing Series on April 16, 2023.Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Finally, Stewart, who has been spending less and less time at NASCAR races, discovered drag racing when he began dating NHRA Top Fuel driver Leah Pruett in 2020, and they got married on November 21, 2021. He promptly founded Tony Stewart Racing, fielding a Top Fuel car for Pruett, and a Funny Car for four-time champion Matt Hagan. Stewart, 53, began drag racing himself, competing in the second-tier Top Alcohol Dragster class in 2023, scoring two wins and a runner-up finish in the season championship. He and Pruett, 36, are trying to start a family, which led Pruett to quit driving in 2024, turning over her 330-mph Top Fuel car to drag racing novice Stewart. He has yet to win a race, but he is a legitimate contender.

Bottom line: Stewart and Haas have lost interest in NASCAR. In a joint statement issued Tuesday confirming the long-standing rumors that they would close shop, the pair said, “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.”

That torch will be passed to the highest bidders. The relatively modest Stewart-Haas shop is rumored to already be sold to Front Row Motorsports, which currently has two full-time Cup teams with drivers Michael McDowell, who is moving on after 2024, and Todd Gilliland.

Stewart Haas Nascar Racing
Facebook/Stewart-Haas Racing

Along with a lot of cars and parts, Stewart-Haas also has four valuable NASCAR Cup series charters to sell, which are essentially guarantees that no matter how poorly a charter team qualifies for a race, it is always awarded a starting spot. It’s invaluable when trying to attract sponsors to be able to assure them that their car will always be in the race, and should spend at least some time on the TV broadcast. There are 36 charters and 40 starting spots available, meaning non-charter teams have to try to qualify for one of just four open positions.

The price for a charter has varied wildly the past few years, with the high coming last year when Spire Motorsports reportedly paid $40 million for another team’s charter. The four Stewart-Haas charters won’t bring that much, but $25-$30 million apiece is not out of the question. Rumors suggest that Trackhouse Racing wants one of them, as does Denny Hamlin’s 23XI team, and maybe Front Row. The fourth charter might go to Joe Custer, as he tries to create a job for his son Cole in 2025.

All six Stewart-Haas drivers are talented, and should be able to land a job in one of NASCAR’s top three series. Still, pending unemployment is a bitter pill. Tweeted driver Chase Briscoe: “Stewart-Haas has been home to my family and I for the last 7 years and at the end of the year myself and the entire organization will be looking for a new home and new opportunities in the Cup series.” Tweeted Josh Berry: “Today was a tough day for all of us. It is pretty hard to find the right words.”

We’ll leave the final word to the two, with this comment from their Tuesday statement: “We’re proud of all the wins and championships we’ve earned since joining together in 2009, 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.”


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    They may dance all around it but Tony really did lose interest in NASCAR. Gene never was focused on the team and with Tony no there daily they have just not done well.

    With Charters going for so much it is a good time to sell.

    NASCAR is struggling with a bunch of new young drivers that come and go. Some have real tallant but not the team to show it while others flounder on good teams.

    Many drivers are walking away younger than ever before. I think the Earnhardt factor is in play. One they do not want to die and second head injuries like Jr’s are on their minds. THey have made their money and can walk away.

    It used to be drivers drove till 60 years old just to eat.

    I am watching Haas as his F1 team is a money pit and while he can afford it they are not showing any improvement. My hope is he will sell out to Andretti and let them have a real shot with the tech and deep pockets of GM. A competitive American team is needed in the series with so many races here now.

    Kevin Harvick alluded to the loss of Anhueser-Busch, Hunt Brothers, and Smithfield as well as getting cut loose by Ford as really creating a major financial loss. I’m having a hard time swallowing this was a long-impending thing coming due to a loss of commitment since they signed two new drivers over the winter and did a whole re-brand and a promise that they were redoubling their efforts for this season to start winning again.

    Sure, Tony has been losing interest in NASCAR over the last three or so years. He’s been upset with high fines the team has paid and he’s been less visible at the track as his drag racing career has bloomed. I really think with Ford pulling its backing which Harvick said is really big bucks, neither man was really wanting to keep dumping more money into the team. I really do believe recent economic realities for the team changed their mind less than six months of announcing their new branding and re-commitment.

    They had a lot of promise in hiring Gragson and Berry. What really sucks is those two guys are really starting to come on. I’d love to see Berry and Rodney Childers land at the Wood Brothers. With Penske resources, they could return the Wood colors back to greatness. I think Chase Briscoe could continue to develop at FRM with Ford’s new backing there. ;Harvick made it sound like Ford is really high on Chase so he will find a seat somewhere.

    I don’t know about anyone else here, but I’m really enjoying Kevin in the booth and his Happy Hour program.

    Stevie Wonder saw this coming. Haas and Stewarts half hearted effort has been more than apparent for too long now even to an outsider like myself. At best their employees had the time to put out the feelers out and have their resumes ready to go. Goodbye and good riddens .

    (ps) I hope they had the decency to buy a few obligatory (plain) pizzas before the ‘lunch meeting’ – ‘ You’ve all been like family… but we need to explore other opportunities ‘ schpeel before handing out the pink slips.

    NASCAR has to do something about the vehicles racing. Chevy is utilizing a vehicle that is no longer produced (Camaro), Dodge left (Challenger), Ford keeps plugging away with the Mustang, and Toyota has a… Camry? Do you really think many NASCAR fans drive a hot rod Camry. Look in the stands it is an aging demographics and they are trying to attract the youth crowd, which is primarily not interested, and that approach has many of the greying demographics feeling they are no longer welcome. So it is no wonder that they will be closing the doors. Sell now, while there are some that are still willing to buy the charters.

    So, will the future be SUV’s with…electric motors in NASCAR?

    Sports Car Racing IMSA and the like are growing and have adopted the hybrid prototype class and have many more manufacturers interested in that. Along with their GT offerings that actually resemble REAL cars. Hope the France family (NASCAR) that now own IMSA don’t screw it up. But give them time.

    They will all find jobs somewhere. That “Mustang” really does not look like a Mustang to me. It looks like a Mustang “Sedan” that got turned into a coupe given the way it looks from the back half from the side profile.

    As a NASCAR fan since 1964 and until the car of tomorrow, NASCAR is dead. Boring. Their strategy is to put lots of different paint colors and lots of stickers so maybe people won’t notice the cars are all the same. We’re not all that dumb. If you have to run all the same cars, at least put them on a road course.
    Late ’60s NASCAR was the best. Real cars, big motors, big personalities, wild racing. In other words, fun to watch.

    We just raced #22 Alfa Romeo GTV in Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) at Atlanta. There were 30+ former NASCAR racers there, all led by Joe Nemecheck. What a hoot watching these guys go with little regard for anything but a win. Wild racing indeed!!

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