NASCAR Cup Series
SHR drivers facing uncertain future: 'It seems nobody knows anything'
NASCAR Cup Series

SHR drivers facing uncertain future: 'It seems nobody knows anything'

Published May. 20, 2024 11:29 a.m. ET

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Noah Gragson knows that when looking for a ride for next season, anything a driver can add to a resume is a good thing.

So when Gragson won the fan vote to participate in the NASCAR All-Star Race on Sunday night, it meant more than just a validation from his passionate fans.

"It's definitely something you can lean on for marketing [yourself]," Gragson said. "I've got great support from the fans and definitely can use it for a little bit of leverage in the future."

Gragson was the only SHR driver to make the all-star main event, something for the organization to at least feel good about. With Stewart-Haas Racing's plans for 2025 in limbo and drivers and crew members indicating the real possibility of the team selling all four of its Cup charters, even the drivers admit to having no idea what's happening.


Stewart-Haas Racing Chief Operating Officer Joe Custer politely declined comment Sunday afternoon on the SHR team plans for 2025. Custer, father of SHR's Xfinity Series driver Cole Custer and who has worked with team co-owner Gene Haas for decades, is the team executive who has primarily been at the track this year.

Chase Briscoe sits 14th in points and SHR holds an option on him for next year. He has yet to hear anything and isn't supposed to be talking to other teams.

"I am not really allowed to [talk to other teams] until somebody tells me what I can do — until they tell me if they're picking me back up for next year or if there is a next year, nobody really knows for next year," Briscoe said last week at Darlington.

"I push for answers, but nobody knows anything. It's crazy. I feel like when there are rumors people know stuff, but it seems nobody knows anything."

That's the life of those in one of the most notable Cup organizations of the last 15 years. Briscoe probably was speaking for many when he said Friday at North Wilkesboro prior to all-star practice: "It'd be nice to be able to sleep a little bit easier at night just at least having a clue what's going on. I haven't heard anything. I'd love to get some answers for sure."

Briscoe knows he's not alone. Gragson just started at SHR and while it was termed a multiyear deal when he signed, said he doesn't have anything set for next year.

"There are some nights that you think, ‘Man I don't know what's going to happen' and then I just try to remind myself to focus on trying to run good for this week and just being present-minded and whatnot," Gragson said Friday. "It's a tough sport as it is and when you've got those type of distractions, it doesn't make it any easier."

Chase Briscoe and Noah Gragson said they are awaiting word on 2025 plans for SHR

Most drivers use agents or business managers. Gragson uses former driver Brandon McReynolds, who also has SHR Xfinity driver Cole Custer among his drivers. SHR drivers Ryan Preece and Josh Berry are represented by Kevin Harvick's KHI Management. 

"You can't stress over it too much, but definitely want to try and be in the know," Gragson said Friday. "I have a great business manager. ... But at the end of the day, it does somewhat at this time of year keep you up at night if you don't have anything signed.

"I don't have anything right now signed for next year and don't know the future, but I know I'm in good hands."

Gragson has gotten off to a strong start this year at 19th in the standings and would be 18th if not for a 35-point penalty earlier this season. Berry, in his first year of a two-year deal with the team, is the top Cup rookie this year at 21st in the standings. Preece is 28th but would be 22nd without his 35-point penalty.

Berry, who finished third in the Open event, one spot short of qualifying, said it was a good run and when it was indicated he could be racing for his job, he responded:

"I most definitely feel like that's the case," Berry said. "And I'm going to race like it."

This situation is not a surprise. SHR has been a team in transition all year. It lost major sponsors Smithfield (which left the sport) and Busch Light (which went to Trackhouse Racing and Ross Chastain after the retirement of Kevin Harvick). Its deal with Ford Motor Company for support also ends after this season and there has been no announcement of any renewal — typically those announcements are made by this time.

SHR started as Haas CNC Racing in 2002 and team owner Gene Haas gave Tony Stewart half the team in 2009 for him to come drive and help operate the organization. They won championships in 2011 with Stewart and 2014 with Kevin Harvick. The organization has 69 wins with the last coming in 2022 with Harvick, who retired after the 2023 season.

Overall, the organization has run better this year, but Stewart, whose primary focus has been his NHRA drag racing team where he competes full time, and Haas, who also owns a Formula 1 team, have not attended a Cup race for several weeks.

Harvick, now a FOX Sports analyst and who substituted Friday for Hendrick Motorsports' Kyle Larson in the NASCAR All-Star Race practice, responded with a quip when asked about the difference driving for Hendrick Motorsports and SHR.

"I heard from the owner twice in two weeks, so that's different," Harvick said with a laugh.

According to team employees, SHR executives have indicated they hope to let them know in the next couple of weeks of their plans. It is possible that the team keeps its two-car Xfinity program (where Custer and Riley Herbst currently drive) as well as its business of supplying Xfinity cars to other teams (such as Sieg Racing).

Front Row Motorsports, Trackhouse Racing and 23XI Racing are the teams most often mentioned by industry executives and insiders as the ones most likely to acquire a charter (or charters) from SHR. Trackhouse needs charters as it has four drivers — current drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez and on-loan-to-Spire Zane Smith and Xfinity driver/three-time Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen — it possibly would want to run in Cup next year.

It also is possible that Front Row, looking to expand its Cup program, buys one of the charters and leases space at SHR, potentially giving SHR employees work in either its Cup programs or truck programs.

"We're looking at it for sure," FRM general manager Jerry Freeze said in general about going to three Cup cars. "It's not a done deal. If there is an opportunity there, we'd like to do it."

Freeze said they would not have room in their current location for three Cup cars and a truck program. Whether that could lead to any potential deal to lease any of the SHR shops along with a charter, he declined to speculate. FRM needs to replace Michael McDowell, who announced last week he will leave for Spire next season, and whether it could absorb SHR employees was something Freeze wouldn't try to guess.

"It's too early to tell," Freeze said. "I don't know exactly what's going to happen there [at SHR]. If you can have three charters in NASCAR, that's a place we'd like to be. If we can be there next year or the year after or the year after that, then that's what we want to do."

 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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