NASCAR team facing bleak outlook ahead of crucial rebuild

With Kevin Harvick retiring and Aric Almirola moving on, Stewart-Haas Racing are lacking a true top driver entering the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Aric Almirola, Chase Briscoe, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR
Aric Almirola, Chase Briscoe, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR / Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Stewart-Haas Racing went winless for the first time in team history during the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, and the 2024 season figures to be a major rebuilding year after Kevin Harvick retired and Aric Almirola left to compete part-time for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series.

Harvick was replaced by Josh Berry, whose Cup Series experience is limited to select appearances as a substitute driver in recent years.

Almirola was replaced by Noah Gragson, who was rumored to be dropped by Legacy Motor Club at the end of the 2023 season even before he ended up being released after "liking" an inappropriate meme on social media. He recorded two top 20 finishes in 21 starts as a rookie last year.

All things considered, things are not looking up for Stewart-Haas Racing, which enter the 2024 season with a lot to prove. Chase Briscoe is the team's "veteran" driver, and he is only entering his fourth season with the team. Through three years, he has just one win and one playoff appearance.

The only other returning driver is Ryan Preece, who could only manage two top 10 finishes in his first season with the team last year.

Tough NASCAR Cup Series season ahead for Stewart-Haas Racing

Even before their winless 2023 season, Stewart-Haas Racing had been heading in the wrong direction. They have just four wins since a 2020 season in which they led the series with 10 trips to victory lane, and two of those wins came in an eight-day stretch during the summer of 2022. Harvick was their only playoff driver in 2023, and he was eliminated in the opening round.

But perhaps nothing does as good of a job at illustrating the team's bleak outlook as DraftKings Sportsbook's championship odds.

DraftKings, which is offering fans an instant $200 just for betting $5 on any driver, does not list a single Stewart-Haas Racing driver in the top 16, indicating the uphill climb it is going to take just for the team to get any of their four drivers into the playoffs.

Their top championship threat is listed as the 33-year-old Berry, and his odds are +6000. Behind him is Briscoe at +7000. Gragson is listed at +10000, and Preece is listed at +15000.

Berry, the team's oldest driver (by three days over Preece), has the fewest career Cup Series starts of anybody on the team with 12, and he is viewed as their top threat. How telling is that about where this team currently stands?

Combining implied percentages, the odds of a Stewart-Haas Racing driver winning this year's championship are roughly +2000. And quite frankly, even that seems generous.

But who knows? Maybe they'll prove us wrong. Tony Stewart himself has addressed the team's recent struggles, labeling them unacceptable.

However, it looks as though the only way that is going to happen is with a victory in a "wild card" type race at a superspeedway or maybe a road course.

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The 2024 season is scheduled to get underway on Sunday, February 18 with the 66th annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, which is set to be broadcast live on Fox beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET. Start a free trial of FuboTV and don't miss it!