Stewart-Haas Racing have made a driver change after six of the last seven NASCAR Cup Series seasons. They are going to need to double down in 2024.
Entering the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, Stewart-Haas Racing did something that they had not done since the start of the 2016 campaign: begin a season with the same four drivers they had the year before.
In 2016, Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart, and Kurt Busch all returned from 2015, but since then, there has been one driver change within the organization during all but one offseason.
After 2016, Stewart retired, and Clint Bowyer took his place. After 2017, Patrick retired, and Aric Almirola took her place. Busch switched teams after 2018, with Daniel Suarez replacing him, but Suarez only lasted there for one season, with Cole Custer replacing him in 2020. Bowyer retired after 2020 and was replaced by Chase Briscoe. After 2021, all four drivers returned.
But after 2022, Custer was demoted back to the Xfinity Series and replaced by Ryan Preece, who had been rumored to replace Almirola after Almirola had initially said he was going to retire.
Suffice it to say that driver changes are nothing to new to this organization. But what they are doing for 2024, however, is uncharted territory during this recent eight-year stretch.
Stewart-Haas Racing enter an offseason in which half of their NASCAR Cup Series driver lineup will change.
Considering who they are losing, the lack of experience they are retaining, and the fact that they are currently as non-competitive as they have ever been, it might as well be deemed a total rebuild.
Josh Berry has already been named the replacement for 2014 champion Harvick, while Almirola, after months of speculation, confirmed that he will not be back for a seventh season with the team next year. While he stopped shy of announcing a full retirement, the No. 10 Ford is going to need a new driver next year either way.
Custer, who has since won the Xfinity Series championship, had been viewed as a possibility, but Noah Gragson has since emerged as the favorite. That status was solidified after Custer announced his Xfinity Series return.
Gragson is currently without a ride after being suspended and ultimately released by Legacy Motor Club back in August. He requested his release from the team after being found to have “liked” an inappropriate meme on social media, though there was speculation that his performance would have led to him being dropped at the end of the season anyway.
Entering the 2024 season, Briscoe is the team’s longest tenured driver, and he has only been there since 2021. He owns one win and one playoff appearance in three seasons with the organization.
Preece, the only other non-first-year driver in their 2024 lineup, remains winless and did not make the playoffs in 2023. He didn’t make it in three previous seasons in the series with JTG Daugherty Racing either.
Berry’s Cup Series experience is limited to select starts with Spire Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports as a replacement driver, with the highlight being a runner-up finish for the latter at Richmond Raceway back in April.
Gragson’s rookie season saw him finish in the top 20 just twice in 21 starts, though he did post a top five finish last year in a part-time role with Beard Motorsports.
Stewart-Haas Racing went winless in 2023 for the first time since 2008, and the 2008 season was a year before they won their first race. Now they are set to enter 2024 with four drivers whose combined career win total is one, and they don’t have a single driver who finished in the top 20 in the 2023 standings.