How Difficult Would 2024 Be for Noah Gragson If the Stewart-Haas Racing Move Comes Through?

Published 12/07/2023, 1:49 PM EST

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After a rather tumultuous 2023 season in NASCAR’s elite division, both Stewart-Haas Racing and controversial rookie Noah Gragson might join hands. Recent photo leaks show the 25-year-old in the SHR race shop alongside someone who looks like Drew Blickensderfer—the #10 team’s crew chief—deepening the plot as fans speculate the major news to ascend to the surface at any moment now.

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Though the team or the driver hasn’t confirmed anything, fans are busy scrounging for updates as both SHR veterans, Aric Almirola and Kevin Harvick, have decided to call it quits on their Cup Series careers. But even if the Gragson-SHR buzz is true and if the driver makes a switch to the Ford camp, will it benefit the 2023 rookie, given the team’s bleak position? Let’s look a little deeper.

A deep speculation: How will Noah Gragson & SHR benefit from each other?

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SHR’s fortunes have been on the wane for some time, and 2023 was the most disastrous season for them since Tony Stewart became a co-owner in 2009. The once prominent Ford team became a mere image of its former self, unable to even rack up a win this season despite having 4 potent drivers in the fray. Adding insult to injury was Aric Almirola‘s sudden decision to follow Kevin Harvick out of the SHR garage permanently.

SHR’s aging lion Harvick, despite his proven track record of 60 wins and 444 top-10s, struggled to add a win this season. That pretty much exposed SHR’s inability and their sub-par equipment. The picture was even more grim for the #10, #14, and #41 teams.

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To put things into a better perspective, let us do a side-by-side comparison between SHR and the other Ford behemoth, Team Penske. While both teams got off the season on the wrong foot, the Penske camp was able to identify its vulnerabilities and strengths. They bounced back as Ryan Blaney showed his mettle in the playoff rounds and helped Roger Penske win back-to-back titles.

That brings us to the bigger question. What has SHR done so far? After all, they couldn’t even bid their star driver a fitting farewell so what can they do extra for the young and bold Noah Gragson? Taking nothing away from Tony Stewart and his men, SHR needs a rejig at the team level. They could take a leaf out of RFK Racing’s book, where Brad Keselowski has breathed new life into the team in the past two years.

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While Gragson’s possible switch to SHR might earn him invaluable experience, working under legends like Stewart and Gene Haas, his hopes of having a breakout year seem unlikely to come true, given his track record thus far. If anything, there is more excitement around Josh Berry’s prospects than Gragson’s.

Gragson sits down with Matt Weaver, detailing his new profound transformation

Earlier this year, the scene was electric for the 25-year-old when he got a chance to pilot the #42 Chevy for one of the sport’s most decorated drivers, Jimmie Johnson, in 2023. The 2022 Xfinity Series runner-up was looking for a major turnaround in his career, hoping to make the most out of his opportunity at Legacy Motor Club.

Even though he was able to make a mark for himself, turning heads when he stood up to Ross Chastain, taking a clean right hand to his chin and sparking a new controversy, his antics reached a whole different level when his team and organization noticed his insensitive social media activity. This in turn got him a stiff suspension, forcing him to sit through a NASCAR-mandated sensitivity program before he could reinstate himself into the grid.

After completing the program successfully, the youngster got real about his changed mindset, he said, “I was quite frankly uneducated and just ignorant.” Speaking to Sportsnaut’s Matt Weaver, Gragson said, “The RISE program, they really took me step-by-step and allowed me to ask questions about things that I didn’t understand. Five years from now, whenever from now, this will be one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

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The time off from the track also meant a new routine, incorporating new habits into his daily life alongside a more focused a mature approach. “Another thing I’ve learned the past handful of months is just trying to find balance. I don’t know that I would use the word ‘relaxing’ but this time has allowed me a lot of time to self-reflect. It’s given me the space to build better personal habits, start working with a sports psychologist,” Gragson concluded.

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Written by:

Kishore R

998Articles

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Edited by:

Nischal Kandpal

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