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“This Is What Defines Legacies”- Tony Stewart Comes to Terms With SHR’s Disheartening Reality as He Unravels 2024s Uphill Battle

Published 01/20/2024, 11:40 AM EST

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In their fifteen-year-long history, no season has been as tumultuous for Stewart-Haas Racing as the 2023 season. Not only did the four-man team go winless in the previous season, but also the departure of Star drivers, Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola left their future hanging in the balance with sponsors also exiting. While Cole Custer managed to bring in six victories and the Xfinity Series championship home to ease Tony Stewart and Gene Haas’ pain, it was not enough in the wake of their Cup Series nightmare.

However, the spirit behind the scenes is higher than ever, with Josh Berry and Noah Gragson both poised to take Stewart-Haas Racing to new heights. Before heading into the new season, Tony Stewart briefed the crew on the realities of the long battle ahead.

“We’re not at the top of the hill looking down anymore,” – Can Stewart-Haas Racing rebuild from within?

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SHR’s woeful season did not end with Harvick and Almirola’s retirement. New problems in the sponsorship department began to occur. Eight of the team’s biggest sponsors had all decided to call it quits from NASCAR or move on to other projects, leaving the team with a lot of work to do to secure sponsors for their new drivers.

Fortunately for the #4 garage, SunnyD and Harrison’s stepped forward to extend their support to Josh Berry’s 2024 campaign. On the other hand, Guenther Steiner’s firing from the Haas F1 team that helped build from the ground up is another reason for the NASCAR team to pull its socks up quickly. While any major sponsors for Noah Gragson are yet to be announced, Stewart wasted no time addressing the elephant in the room in SHR’s latest debrief.

Stewart addressed the entire team in the video posted on SHR’s Twitter. “We’ve all got a lot of work to do. We’re looking up the hill. We’re not at the top of the hill looking down anymore, we’re at the bottom of the hill looking up, and this is the group of people that can get us where we need to be. But I’m excited about what we have on tap, I think we got a group of drivers that, for the first time, all truly want to work together to make each other better.”

SHR’s crew chief lineup for 2024 will include legends such as Rodney Childers and Drew Blickensderfer, who will retain their roles at the Ford team. Brian Wilson is set to be the crew. Chief of the #2 Stewart Haas Racing challenger driven by Austin Cindric. Veteran spotters Joe Campbell and Eddie D’Hondt are also going to be a part of SHR’s 2024 lineup, truly cementing the four-team crew as one of the favourites.

Reflecting on the changes in the crew chief camp, Stewart shared, “I think we have four crew chiefs that understand that if they can work together, we can climb this ladder a lot faster too. So I feel like the attitude in the building is really, probably in certain areas, better than it’s ever been. I know we can do this, I really do. When we climb out of this hole we’re in, this is what defines legacies and organizations. If we can do it and do it our way and get back to the form that we want to be in, we’re going to stamp our names in the history books.”

It’s safe to say there’s nothing more important for Stewart-Haas Racing as of right now than to enter the 2024 season with a bang. But while many believe SHR is only aiming to win races this year, Tony Stewart set the record straight on expectations from the team.

Watch this story: The $75,000 Legacy – Dale Earnhardt’s priceless memorabilia

Tony Stewart has an enticing proposition for the SHR crew

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Continuing to brief his team, Stewart brought out the reality that it had been great for the team when all was going according to plan, not just great, but quite easy as well. Fast-forward to their worst-performing season, and the same really is not the case. While Kevin Harvick’s garage was showing promise, the case was not the same for the remaining three, and this is a major drawback that the SHR boss wants to address.

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He shared with his team, “This room is one team all team. Every one of these people, to the left or right, or the front or behind, is your teammate, and we’re all here for the same reason; To make this organization a championship-winning team again. We are going to do whatever it takes to get this back on form, but I feel like everybody in this room and these two buildings can do this. It’s been done before, it can still happen.”

Stewart seemed to fear going down south in a matter of a few weeks, believing it to be too soon. But when it’s the topic of extracting the most out of your team, the 52-year-old knows just the right way. To conclude his motivational speech, Stewart laid down an enticing proposition; “If we go kick their a*ses at the Daytona 500, I promise I’ll throw you a hell of a party when we get back here, so, looking forward to it.”

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While 2023 has not been a year of much joy for Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, will their restructuring for 2024 be the turning point many fans have been waiting for?

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Written by:

Kabir Bajaj Ahmed

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One take at a time

My journey into the world of motorsports began when I watched the Top Gear Ayrton Senna tribute as a child. I later materialized my passion for motorsport through karting on the side. By the time I completed my undergrad in Journalism, I had extensive karting experience, with a few podium finishes to my name.
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Edited by:

Rohan Karnad