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Stewart-Haas Racing to close NASCAR teams by end of 2024, says time to ‘pass the torch’

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Stewart-Haas Racing, a two-time NASCAR championship team with 69 Cup Series victories since its founding in 2009, will close its organization at the end of this season

Co-owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas announced the decision after nearly a year of rumors that their four-car Cup team was looking to sell its charters and scale back or abandon the stock car series entirely. The news was delivered to the nearly 300 SHR employees late Tuesday afternoon.

“It is a decision that was not made easily and was not made quickly,” the owners said. “Racing is a labor-intensive, humbling sport. It requires relentless commitment and enormous resources, with a 365-day mentality to be better than everyone else. It’s part of what makes success so rewarding. But the commitment required to deliver maximum performance while providing sustainability is incredibly demanding, and we have reached a point in our personal and business lives where it is time to pass the torch.”

SHR is fielding Cup cars this year for Josh Berry, Chase Briscoe, Noah Gragson and Ryan Preece. Berry and Gragson are in their first season with the team. SHR has the 2025 option on Briscoe and he is not allowed to discuss future employment options, even though rumors swirl that SHR might close.

“Stewart Haas has been home to my family and me for the past seven 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,” Briscoe posted on social media. “I have great partners behind me and can’t wait to get them back to victory lane.”

The move also means the SHR Xfinity Series team, whose two cars are driven by Cole Custer and Riley Herbst, will close its doors.

Gene Haas founded Haas CNC Racing in 2002 and the California businessman lured Stewart in as co-owner ahead of the 2009 season. Stewart had won two Cup championships for Joe Gibbs Racing at the time, but was unable to gain an equity stake and the chance to make a small don’t turn down helping team fight for titles.

Stewart gave the new team its first Cup victory in his debut season in 2009 (he won four races that year) and its first Cup title in 2011. Kevin Harvick added a second championship in 2014.

Stewart, Harvick and Clint Bowyer all retired from NASCAR, and SHR has since undergone a grueling rebuild. The organization’s last Cup Series win came in 2022 with Harvick, a year before he retired. SHR did not win a cup race last season.

The team will also lose some of its support from Ford at the end of the season, although Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance, told The Associated Press last week that he had no idea what SHR’s plans are after this year are.

SHR also lost major sponsorship this season when Smithfield Foods left NASCAR and Anheuser-Busch moved to Trackhouse Racing.

Haas spends most of his time with his Formula 1 team and Stewart drives a full NHRA schedule, making both absentee owners at NASCAR events. Haas, 71, was also ill for much of last year.

The NASCAR team is primarily led by Joe Custer, the Chief Operating Officer and longtime confidant of Gene Haas. His son Cole won the Xfinity championship for SHR last year.

SHR’s achievements include two Cup titles, two Xfinity championships and victories including crown jewel events such as the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and Southern 500.

“We are proud of all the wins and championships we have achieved since we came together in 2009, but even more special is the culture we have built and the friendships we have forged as we work towards a common goal – winning races and collecting trophies,” said Stewart and Haas. “We have tremendous respect and appreciation for all of our employees, and we will work hard to help them during this transition to find new opportunities beyond the 2024 racing season.”

Part of Haas’s F1 team is run from the Kannapolis shop and it is unclear whether that will continue or whether Haas has plans to leave F1 as well.

It is also not clear what happens to the four charters that SHR owns that guarantee access to the field every week. Spire Motorsports bought a charter last year for $40 million, but the actual charter value fluctuates annually.

Teams are locked in a bitter battle with NASCAR over charters, which expire at the end of this season. The teams want them to be made permanent and not renewable, but NASCAR has declined to comment on the issue.

If SHR is able to sell the charters, there appears to be interest from Front Row Motorsports, 23XI Racing and Trackhouse. There is also speculation that Joe Custer might retain one of the charters and drive a car for his son.

It is unknown where SHR drivers land. Briscoe should now be able to talk to other teams about his future. The team also had an option for next year on Berry, who doesn’t bring much personal sponsorship and got a break in his career when SHR hired him prior to this season.

Gragson’s contract was announced as a multi-year deal and has the support of Bass Pro Shops to move to another team. Preece is in a contract year with SHR and was therefore already free to shop around the series.

Cole Custer could end up in a car in the Cup or the Xfinity Series with backing from Haas’ CNC Automation company, while Herbst has significant financial backing from Monster Energy that should give him options.

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AP Auto Racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing

Jenna Fryer, The Associated Press

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