As the 2024 regular season rapidly approaches, a lot of eyes will be placed on Stewart-Haas Racing as the once-perennial, championship-contending organization looks for a fresh slate this year with a new driver lineup.
SHR co-owner and three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart joined SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday to discuss if SHR can turn the tide in 2024.
“God, I hope so,” Stewart said. “We’ve had two miserable years in a row, and I’m tired of taking the blame from everybody for why the cars aren’t running good. I think the fans need a reality check and a reminder that I’m not the crew chief, I’m not the engineer, I don’t dictate the setups on the cars. I give these guys the tools to do the job and we just haven’t got it done the last couple years.”
With the retirement of longtime veteran Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola returning to Joe Gibbs Racing in a part-time gig, SHR boasts a four-driver lineup of young talent in returners Chase Briscoe and Ryan Preece while Noah Gragson and rookie Josh Berry make their respective debuts with the Ford-powered organization.
“Kevin and Aric were great leaders, and nobody felt worse about the end of the year than I did with those guys moving on to the next step in their lives, but it’s hard to sit there and be too upset because I understood when I made that decision too and why I made that decision so you got to support them on it but having four young drivers isn’t something I thought I would have but I will say it’s been a surprise and a shock, and a pleasant surprise at that, the energy these guys have brought to the race shop this offseason.”
While Stewart said he wasn’t expecting to have a full roster of young talent, he’s optimistic about what they are bringing to SHR’s shop.
Last year, SHR entered the season with a combined average age of 37 years old. For 2024, that drops to an even 30 years old, with Gragson the youngest at 25 and both Preece and Berry carrying the elder torch at just 33.
“I’m excited about the energy at the shop. We kinda had a rah-rah meeting, and I will say having four young drivers in the shop, as much as I was really nervous about it, I’m really excited about the energy that it’s brought to the shop,” Stewart said.
Through two seasons of the Generation 7 Cup car, SHR has only had three playoff appearances combined across all four stables, with both Briscoe and Harvick reaching the playoffs in 2022 and only Harvick making the postseason in 2023 in his final season. Briscoe is the only SHR driver to advance past the Round of 16 since Harvick made the Round of 8 in 2020.
SHR only owns three wins across the last 115 Cup races dating back to 2020. The organization went winless in 2021 and 2023, while Harvick collected two wins and Briscoe broke through at Phoenix Raceway in 2022.
Stewart was stern in his approach heading into 2024 as he expects all employees in the SHR camp to take the organization to a formidable level that exceeds the mediocre performances across the last two campaigns.
“Two years ago, first year with the new car, you might have an off-season trying to figure out a new product, but to have that bad of a season two years in a row, we will not stand for that and let that be the standard,” Stewart said.
“If we’re not having the results we’re looking for, we’re gonna start making some major changes. Everybody knows that. Everybody understands that. It doesn’t mean we gotta go out and win eight or ten races this season, but we need to see the needle move in the right direction. We need to make progress.”
The first opportunity for the new-look, new-attitude Stewart-Haas Racing team will be at the Daytona 500 (Feb. 19, 4 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).