NASCAR: Martin Truex Jr. to Stewart-Haas Racing?

Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Without a contract to compete beyond the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, Martin Truex Jr. faces an uncertain future. Is Stewart-Haas Racing an option?

Martin Truex Jr. is set to enter the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season pretty much the same way he entered the 2022 season: without a deal to compete the following year.

The 2023 season is set to be Truex’s 18th season as a full-time Cup Series driver and his fifth behind the wheel of the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Early last season, he hinted that he may decide to retire after the 2022 season, reiterating what he had said before about competing because he loves to compete and feels he is competitive, as opposed to competing because he feels he needs to.

While his decision shocked some, he ultimately decided to return for another year in 2023. He was almost immediately asked if he had thought about 2024, and he simply stated that he hadn’t, as it had taken him about six months just to decide on 2023.

Now here we are, nearing the start of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, and the same question is starting to be asked: will Martin Truex Jr. be back next year?

Truex entered the 2022 season having won at last four races in five of the last six seasons, and in four of those five seasons, he made it into the Championship 4. He won the 2017 championship and finished runner-up in the standings on the other three occasions.

So the 2022 season, the first with the Gen 7 car, was a frustrating one for Truex, who placed no higher than fourth all season long, ending a seven-year win streak, and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

While many believe that Truex will either return to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2024 or retire after 2023, could Stewart-Haas Racing be an option to consider?

There had been a lot of recent speculation about what Kevin Harvick’s future might hold. At 47 years old, he is the oldest full-time driver in the sport, and he has been competing full-time since 2001. He does not have a contract to compete past 2023, and he even admitted about a year ago that his initial plan was retire when the 2021 season ended.

Recent rumors of Harvick’s potential retirement emerged after a “4ever” was seen on his fire suit for the upcoming season in an Instagram post that has since been deleted.

Several sources reported that a retirement announcement was indeed imminent, and he later confirmed those reports, announcing his plans to step away from the Cup Series after 2023.

Some would argue that replacing Harvick with Truex is a silly move because Truex isn’t a long-term answer. But while Truex is also a quadragenarian, he is also five years younger than Harvick at 42, and if he decides that he wants to keep competing, perhaps he feels that he has a few years left in him.

Maintaining the veteran presence of a former champion in Stewart-Haas Racing’s driver lineup also seems to have more pros than cons, especially considering the organization has struggled over the last two-plus seasons.

But would Truex really consider switching teams if he were to stay in the Cup Series? Maybe, maybe not, but just look at Kyle Busch. Who would have thought that he would leave Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota after 15 years to reunite with Chevrolet and join Richard Childress Racing?

All things considered, Busch, who once stated that he didn’t think he would be able to land another ride if a new Joe Gibbs Racing deal didn’t come through, needed a change of scenery. And he got it in what was considered the biggest free agent signing in the last decade and a half.

Could Truex not necessarily feel the need to retire but to start fresh, especially if his 2023 season is as disappointing as his 2022 season was?

The other big advantage here — possibly the most important advantage in this day and age, considering the whole Busch situation with Joe Gibbs Racing — is sponsorship. Bass Pro Shops has long been a dedicated primary sponsor of Truex, and they also have a long history with Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart.

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So provided that the outdoor and conservation company wants to remain in the sport — and there’s no reason right now to suggest that they don’t — and would be open to staying with Martin Truex Jr., things would presumably be a seamless transition in that regard, something that can’t always be said.