NASCAR: Surprise Kevin Harvick replacement looking unlikely

Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) /

Jenson Button is reportedly looking into becoming a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver, and his ties to Mobil 1 make him an interesting option to replace Kevin Harvick.

2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button made his NASCAR Cup Series — and his overall NASCAR — debut in March’s race at Circuit of the Americas, the first of six road course races on the 2023 schedule.

Button, who drove the No. 15 Ford for Rick Ware Racing in this race, is also set to compete for the team in the races at the Chicago Street Course on Sunday, July 2 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on Sunday, August 13.

While Button and lead Sky Sports announcer David Croft exchanged some light-hearted comments about NASCAR during the broadcasts at Albert Park Circuit on Australian Grand Prix weekend, the 43-year-old British driver is reportedly considering running the full Cup Series schedule.

In light of several “road course ringers” competing in select Cup Series road course races, there have been calls for some of them to try the ovals as well, as Button could very well seek out options to do so.

Could one such option be replacing Kevin Harvick at Stewart-Haas Racing for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season?

Stewart-Haas Racing already know that they will need to make a driver change for the seventh time in eight offseasons before next year, as the 2014 champion is set to retire and join the Fox Sports broadcast booth once the 2023 season reaches its conclusion.

It seems relatively safe to say that the team’s two Xfinity Series drivers, Riley Herbst and ex-Cup Series driver Cole Custer, are not yet ready to make the jump to the Cup Series, though that could obviously change throughout the year.

Potentially facing somewhat of an identity crisis, given the lack of performance within the four-car team aside from Harvick, could Stewart-Haas Racing take a swing at Button, even if only for one year while their younger drivers continue to develop and/or additional drivers become available?

Another element to consider here is sponsorship. Button’s three-race deal with Rick Ware Racing is backed by Mobil 1, which has a considerably long history with Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, and team co-owner Tony Stewart.

With Harvick retiring, longtime partner Busch Beer is set to sponsor a new driver in 2024, and while a formal confirmation hasn’t yet been made, this could leave Stewart-Haas Racing needing to fill a sizable sponsorship gap.

But while it can’t totally be ruled out yet, Jenson Button replacing Kevin Harvick is looking increasingly unlikely for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Josh Berry has recently emerged as the favorite to replace Harvick and is currently in the midst of finalizing a long-term deal with Harvick’s management firm, KHI Management.

However, Button potentially moving to the Cup Series full-time is still an intriguing possibility. While an 18th place finish in a road course race isn’t much to write home about on the surface, Button did it in his Cup Series debut for an underfunded team which had never before finished that high on a circuit with both left and right turns.

With very little, if any, prior focus on NASCAR, Button finished in the top half of the field at one of the sport’s tougher tracks.

Ideally, he would compete in at least one oval race later this season before taking on a full-time role in a series that consists of 32 oval races (including exhibitions) on a 38-race schedule.

Could a move to the Cup Series potentially still come with Stewart-Haas Racing? The team’s 2024 driver lineup decision could depend on whether or not Aric Almirola returns, given his longtime backing from Smithfield. While the team have made changes after six of the last seven seasons, they have never made two changes in a single offseason during that span.

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

Where could Button end up if Berry replaces Harvick? Will Harvick’s replacement be the only Stewart-Haas Racing newcomer in 2024, or will Almirola also retire?