NASCAR: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2024?

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., JTG Daugherty Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., JTG Daugherty Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Stewart-Haas Racing know they have a seat to fill for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season. Is Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. an option?

2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick announced before the 2023 season began that it would be his final season in the sport, wrapping up a 23-year career and a 10-year run with Stewart-Haas Racing.

As a result, Stewart-Haas Racing know that they will need to select a new driver for the No. 4 Ford for the 2024 season. Even if they move Ryan Preece from the No. 41 Ford to the No. 4 Ford, they will still have a vacancy to fill following the departure of their longest tenured driver.

Several drivers were floated as possible replacements for Harvick when he made his retirement official, and one of them was Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Now a Daytona 500 champion, Stenhouse is a driver who can’t be ignored for that looming Stewart-Haas Racing vacancy.

He did sign a multi-year contract extension with JTG Daugherty Racing last summer, but there have been far crazier NASCAR contract situations that have been altered in the last year alone.

Generally speaking, the terms of “multi-year” contract extensions aren’t publicly revealed, as is the case here, so there could technically be options on both sides.

Stenhouse is a driver who has dirt track racing roots, which inherently makes him the type of driver Tony Stewart gravitates toward. He also happens to be managed by Kevin Harvick, Inc., the agency owned by the driver whose seat is set to be vacated.

That is an underrated link that cannot be overlooked. Kevin Harvick, Inc. also manages Preece, who was signed to be Stewart-Haas Racing’s official reserve driver before the 2022 season and was considered a shoo-in to replace Aric Almirola behind the wheel of the No. 10 Ford when Almirola was initially planning to retire after 2022.

Even with Almirola returning, Preece landed a full-time ride with the team for 2023, replacing Cole Custer. Custer, whose father is a team executive, was sent back to the Xfinity Series.

Additionally, Stenhouse now has three career victories, including what was only JTG Daugherty Racing’s second ever and their first in nine years. Aside from Harvick, Almirola leads Stewart-Haas Racing with three victories.

It may not seem like much, but Stenhouse could provide a solid veteran presence at a team that could very well be entering rebuilding mode over the next few years. Let’s also not forget that Almirola hasn’t confirmed whether or not he will be back in 2024 either.

He also has experience competing for Ford, having driven full-time for Roush Fenway Racing in the Cup Series from 2013 to 2019 — and winning the 2011 and 2012 Xfinity (Nationwide) Series titles for the team. Both of his first two Cup Series victories came in a Ford.

While all three of his wins are superspeedway wins, he has proven to be able to contend on other tracks. He had a run of four straight top eight finishes, including a runner-up effort at Dover Motor Speedway, at tracks 1.5 miles in length or less last year. In fact, he has recorded a top three finish in a non-superspeedway race in each of the last three seasons.

DNFs/crashes (at least six in each of his first three years at JTG Daugherty Racing) have always been somewhat of a talking point when it comes to Stenhouse’s career, even leading to the nickname “Wrecky Spinhouse”, but he has never really been in top-tier equipment at the Cup level to the point where you can say that he has truly squandered an opportunity.

He has actually been quite consistent in his ability to finish well — or at least considerably better than you would expect from a driver competing for one-car team with just 45 employees — when he has brought his car home in one piece. He was one of only two drivers without a finish lower than 18th place in the first quarter of the 2021 season.

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

A potential Ricky Stenhouse Jr./Stewart-Haas Racing pairing may be too good to pass up just one year after the former’s Daytona 500 triumph. Is he the favorite to replace Kevin Harvick in 2024? At the very least, he should get a good look, provided there is any element of flexibility in his current contract. Perhaps after this year, he won’t want to seek options outside the No. 47 Chevrolet anyway.