NASCAR Cup Series
Stewart-Haas Racing's closure the end of a storied era
NASCAR Cup Series

Stewart-Haas Racing's closure the end of a storied era

Published May. 29, 2024 12:19 p.m. ET

The shuttering of Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of 2024 is not a surprise.

In February, the future of SHR was one of the storylines, possibly the biggest storyline, going into the season. 

And yet, to see it in print Tuesday that SHR will cease operations after 2024 still was a little stunning. At one time, SHR ranked as one of the teams to beat every week and boasted a stout driver lineup with champions Tony Stewart (co-owner), Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch and perennial race winners Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman.

So it's no surprise that the announcement elicits a mixture of feelings.


The optimist in me says:

--A 16-year run as a team (or 23-year run if going back to when Gene Haas entered the sport in 2002) is a solid run and many NASCAR teams don't last that long. Stewart, as an owner, has fielded cars in series throughout his racing career and rarely has he spent more than 16 years in a series.

The pessimist in me says:

--How does a three-time Cup champion (Stewart) and one of the most successful businessmen in the sport (Haas) get to a point where they can't find sponsorship and make this work, especially with the potential of a new charter deal? How can it be that tough to land the big sponsor deals? What does it say that they remain in NHRA (Stewart) and Formula 1 (Haas) and are getting out of NASCAR?

And then there's the realist, and here it goes:

--Ford is entering Formula 1 in 2026, which means it unlikely is going to increase any NASCAR funding. With SHR struggling on the track and other Ford teams showing improvement, it makes sense that it couldn't make an offer that could support SHR if it had limited sponsorship. Chevrolet and Toyota probably weren't looking for a new four-car organization. And if Honda does come to NASCAR, it most likely wouldn't be until 2027, too long for SHR to run without manufacturer support until that kicked in.

--Both Stewart and Haas have not had the presence they have had during the heyday of the organization. Stewart has focused on his NHRA drag racing team. Haas has focused on his CNC machine business and his F1 team. That's their choice and those are both worthwhile programs. But when a race team is struggling, it needs more visible presence of its ownership to show there is a clear leader. No matter what they did behind the scenes, there needed to be more of a public-facing presence. At least from the outside looking in, it was hard to know who really was in charge.

--The new car didn't fit into either the Stewart nor the Haas wheelhouse or what drove their passion for racing, where creativity and developing parts and pieces and then letting the drivers use their talents. This car has to be driven a certain way and the margin of error when tuning the car is so small, the benefit of racing ingenuity is minimal and the fun of working on the cars is diminished because it takes more assembly skills than ingenuity. The SHR worker pipeline was one of old-school racers, and there are elements of the Next Gen car that don't cater to them.

Kevin Harvick reacts to Stewart-Haas Racing shutting down after 2024: ‘It’s unbelievable to me!’

--The closing of an organization will impact hundreds of employees. Hopefully, any of those who want to stay in the sport can land jobs with the teams that buy the charters or assume the Xfinity programs.

So what do I think? It's a mixture of kudos for a solid run, frustration for the situation, sadness for those employees and the realization — a realization that comes quite often in the motorsports world — that it's a business. And typically a business doesn't last forever.

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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