Ryan Preece is set to return for a second year with Stewart-Haas Racing in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, leaving the team with one open seat.
Preece may not have had as strong of a 2023 season as he would have liked in his return to full-time Cup Series competition, having recorded just one top 10 finish in the season’s first 30 races, but Stewart-Haas Racing are still not where they want to be as a whole.
It made sense to continue the partnership between driver and team for at least another year, especially since the organization have already made a driver change with Kevin Harvick set to retire at the end of the 2023 season. Josh Berry is slated to replace him behind the wheel of the No. 4 Ford.
But even with Chase Briscoe also set to return to the No. 14 Ford, there is a chance that Stewart-Haas Racing will need to make another driver change for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Stewart-Haas Racing are no strangers to making driver changes, having made one after six of the last seven seasons. But during that span, they have only ever made one change in a single offseason. This year, the belief is that they will have to make two.
Aric Almirola initially planned on retiring after the 2022 season, but he changed his mind during the season and decided to return for a sixth year behind the wheel of the No. 10 Ford in 2023. He signed a new deal to stay with the team for 2023 “and beyond”, but that deal was said to contain a clause which would allow him to retire after 2023 if he chose to do so.
After the 39-year-old Fort Walton Beach, Florida native missed the playoffs for the second straight year following a four-year streak of postseason appearances to open up his tenure with the team, the belief is that he will not decide to return for a seventh year with the team in 2024.
Given the timetable he publicized regarding a decision last month, expect his plans to be made clear in the coming weeks.
Should Almirola decide to retire, it is unknown if longtime sponsor Smithfield Foods would continue their partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing. Cole Custer, who was demoted to the Xfinity Series and replaced by Preece behind the wheel of the No. 41 Ford after the 2022 season, is viewed as the top replacement candidate for Almirola behind the wheel of the No. 10 Ford.