NASCAR: Struggling Cup team dropping half their cars for 2025?

Rumors of a charter sale emerged in regard to Stewart-Haas Racing during the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season. While nothing happened for 2024, are things different this time around?
Noah Gragson, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR
Noah Gragson, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

Stewart-Haas Racing have run four full-time entries in the NASCAR Cup Series since the era of charters began back in 2016. In fact, their four-car lineup days date back to several years prior to the introduction of charters, having not run any fewer than four entries since 2013.

But just like last year, rumors have emerged that the struggling team could be looking to sell one or possibly even two of their charters.

After leading the series with 10 wins in 2020, things have taken a turn for the worse for the Tony Stewart and Gene Haas-owned team.

They have collected just four wins since September 2020, and the 2023 season was their first ever winless season under the name Stewart-Haas Racing. Kevin Harvick, who has since retired and joined the Fox broadcast booth, was their only playoff driver a year ago, and he didn't make it past the first round.

Driver changes have been nothing new to the organization, as they entered this past offseason having made a change after six of the last seven years. But this time around, they needed to make multiple changes, a first during that eight-year stretch, after fellow veteran Aric Almirola also opted to move on for new opportunities.

As a result, the team entered the 2024 season with Chase Briscoe, who finished in 30th place in last year's standings, as their veteran driver, and Ryan Preece, who collected just two top 10 finishes last season, as their only other returnee. Newcomers Josh Berry and Noah Gragson entered with a combined zero seasons of full-time Cup Series experience under their belt.

Stewart-Haas Racing downsizing in 2025?

While the start of the 2024 season hasn't been a complete disaster for Stewart-Haas Racing like many predicted it would be, none of their four drivers are currently in provisional playoff spots.

Quite frankly, the fact that having their top driver in 18th place in the standings isn't considered a disaster just speaks to how low expectations have become, even when you factor in the constant driver turnover.

Stewart said before the season began that if the team could not right the ship this year, there would be changes, and now rumors of those changes have begun to creep up.

According to Sports Business Journal, the team are also believed to have lost over $10 million in big-name sponsorship as a result of Harvick's retirement and Almirola's decision to join Joe Gibbs Racing's Xfinity Series team.

Briscoe is the only one of the team's four drivers said to be under long-term contract, having signed through 2026 last year, so even completely ignoring the fact that they have not been competitive for four seasons, now would be the time for the team to downsize.

Four two-car teams, all of which have run a third car on select occasions in recent seasons, are said to be among the frontrunners for a charter, should Stewart-Haas Racing choose to sell.

Those four teams are 23XI Racing, Trackhouse Racing Team, Legacy Motor Club, and RFK Racing, three teams that, unlike Stewart-Haas Racing, are on upward trajectories. 23XI Racing and Trackhouse Racing Team both entered the Cup Series as one-car teams in 2021 before expanding to two entries in 2022.

Legacy Motor Club ran one car as Richard Petty Motorsports prior to their 2022 merger with GMS Racing, at which point the team became known as Petty GMS Motorsports. They rebranded to Legacy Motor Club ahead of the 2023 season, when seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson was brought on as a team co-owner.

They switched from Chevrolet to Toyota ahead of the 2024 season, giving Toyota two very good possibilities (the other being 23XI Racing) when it comes to further expansion in the Cup Series.

And RFK Racing experienced a major resurgence in 2023 after a rough 2022 season, the first season with former series champion Brad Keselowski as both a team co-owner and a full-time driver.

The other major possibility being discussed is Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports. JR Motorsports have long been the subject of rumors regarding a potential move to the Cup Series, but the Xfinity Series team have long been hesitant due to the cost of a charter.

Given how much charter prices have increased in recent years, with Live Fast Motorsports' post-2023 sale to Spire Motorsports said to have eclipsed $40 million, it remains to be seen if the fan-favorite organization could truly be players this time around.

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All things considered, the writing appears to be on the wall for Stewart-Haas Racing. The start of the 2024 season has not given anybody any reason to believe that a major resurgence is on the cards. The question is whether or not they will pull the trigger and offload a charter or two, and who will be the buyer (or buyers).