Tony Stewart’s Cup Series Misery Could Continue in 2024 Despite SHR’s Revamp

Published 11/14/2023, 6:01 PM EST

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After a decade with Kevin Harvick‘s 2014 champion team, a new driver might not be a seamless fit at the Stewart-Haas Racing garage. SHR co-owner Tony Stewart had an entire year to prepare for Harvick’s departure; yet, when the time came for the last race of his career in Phoenix, Harvick proved he was irreplaceable. Add to this Aric Almirola’s exit and it seems like Stewart will be handing over the reins to talented but inexperienced drivers for the 2024 season.

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Tony Stewart faces the daunting task of firing up young guns 

Stewart-Haas Racing has lost its footing with the Next Gen car in the past two years. But even as this year’s slump was nearing its end, Harvick sped past all the Championship 4 contenders to lead 23 laps. He eventually finished seventh. 

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Moreover, the veteran racer remained the most consistent SHR driver this season. Although Chase Briscoe showcased some flair in the beginning, the #14 driver fizzled out toward the end of the season. A parallel concern was Stewart’s #41 driver, Ryan Preece, who made more headlines for his terrifying crash at the Daytona International Speedway than for his performance. This leaves the incoming Josh Berry and possibly Noah Gragson.

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Even prior to his suspension, Gragson could not leave an impressive mark through his brief stint with Legacy Motor Club. Berry would also be adjusting to the added pressure of inevitable comparisons with the #4 car’s previous pilot, revered across the racing community. In fact, Stewart has been vocal about Harvick’s contributions, which took Stewart-Haas Racing to exemplary heights. He insisted on hiring his championship-winning crew chief, Rodney Childers, and personally chose members of the #4 team. 

The magical chemistry translated into 37 race wins and a top-5 season finish in 7 out of the past 10 years. Additionally, the Harvick-Childers duo set an enviable example of partnership and a true testament to unspoken understanding to inspire generations to come. Under these circumstances, a new driver with barely any Cup experience would find it tough to fill the shoes of the #4 team driver. And Childers agrees.

Watch this story: Tony Stewart Highlights Xfinity Series Victory as a Lesson for Aspiring Racers

Kevin Harvick’s crew chief, Rodney Childers, admitted Josh Berry requires extensive coaching

Earlier this year, Josh Berry got the opportunity of a lifetime due to Chase Elliott’s snowboarding accident. The temporary replacement appointed by Hendrick Motorsports seemed like a permanent solution for Tony Stewart in Kevin Harvick’s absence. Berry’s top-10 finishes in select Cup races might have drawn Stewart’s attention. However, at the same time, the former JR Motorsports driver did not win a single race in the Xfinity Series this year. 

The Xfinity drivers of Stewart-Haas Racing might have been a better fit for a Cup promotion, being already well-versed in the workings of the team. Cole Custer proved his mettle with the Xfinity championship, and Riley Herbst’s recent win in Las Vegas uncovered brimming potential. Childers’s recent interview with Sirius XM spoke volumes about the adjustment issues he faced after being attuned to Harvick all these years. Childers said,

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“There are a lot of things that we don’t have to say to Kevin [Harvick]. We don’t have to have many reminders, many opinions. He’s going to do it his way. I think next year that’s going to be a lot different for us. We’re going to have to coach him [Josh Berry] along the way. We’re going to have to have a lot of reminders about different things.” 

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Tony Stewart might have made new arrangements for Josh Berry and the rest of the young SHR drivers, but will they be enough to recreate Kevin Harvick’s electric spark?

“Not Sad at All” – Tony Stewart’s Retiring Driver Reflects on 12-Year Long Journey in NASCAR

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Written by:

Parika Singh

246Articles

One take at a time

I began my motorsport journey in the European lanes of Formula 1, but after years of predictability, I ventured into the road courses and oval tracks of the United States. Upon discovering NASCAR, I was fascinated by the anecdotal gems waiting to be uncovered. Since I am a storyteller by heart, NASCAR gave me the perfect canvas with its cherished camaraderie and ancient rivalries.
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Edited by:

Nischal Kandpal

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