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Tony Stewart’s Loss Could Be Dale Jr’s Gain as SHR Charter Sale Rumors Gain Strength

Published 04/02/2024, 3:28 PM EDT

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Is Stewart Haas Racing looking to downscale its operations from NASCAR’s premier series? If we are to go by a recent report by Sports Business Journal, the team is considering selling their charters. Not only this but they are also considering reducing its four-car operation. Their sponsorship roster is on the decline, and the deadlock in charter negotiations isn’t helping their cause.

There would have been a glimmer of hope for the team if they did have a star driver carrying their banner. But after Kevin Harvick’s retirement, the team lacks a big-name presence. Amidst all this, Dale Earnhardt Jr finds himself in the picture and could end up buying the charter that sees JRM make the jump to Cup.

SHR’s decline could be an opportunity for expansion for multiple racing organizations

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There were rumors about the SHR team looking to sell off their charters last season owing to their awful run. Its three cars missed the Playoff as the team, founded in 2008, had its first winless season. The team was also hurt by the retirement of Kevin Harvick as sponsors Anheuser-Busch and Hunt Brothers Pizza both left. Following Aric Almirola’s retirement, Smithfield Foods also departed leaving SHR scrambling. Moreover, its sponsorship with Ford will also come to an end after the 2024 season, adding to their woes.

As such SHR selling their charters and downsizing may not come as a surprise. Given the stalemate between the teams and NASCAR over the charter agreement, any potential suitor for trading the charters from SHR could come within the sport with Dale Earnhardt Jr’s JR Motorsports a possible buyer, according to Sports Business Journal.

The Xfinity Series team has played a large role in the development of many current Cup Series stars like Chase Elliott, William Byron, and Tyler Reddick. JRM has been planning to make a move into the premier series and this could be the perfect opportunity. Besides, Tony Stewart and Earnhardt Jr are good friends which could tip the balance in their favor. But will the cost of the charter be a hindrance? Dale Earnhardt Jr’s recent comments do raise this concern.

In a recent appearance on Dale Jr. Download podcast, Earnhardt Jr. lamented the cost of a charter. He said that in 2016 he passed on a $2 million charter. This was around when BK Racing was selling its charter. In the past also, he has shown his hesitation to buy a charter due to the cost. In October 2022 on his podcast, he revealed his interest in owning a Cup Series team, but the charter price tag kept him away.

Money could prove to be a hindrance for JRM since charter prices have gone up from $2 million in 2016 to around $40 million as of last year. But there are other teams that could be interested in SHR’s charter.

23XI Racing has the proper backing of sponsors and growth potential. They are one of the top contenders looking to buy any charter on sale. The team owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan and Deny Hamlin is looking to expand its two-car operation. On the list of potential buyers, we also have the likes of Legacy Motor Club and Trackhouse Racing.

Trackhouse Racing is willing to spend money under owners Justin Marks and Pitbull and is on an upward trajectory. Jimmie Johnson who co-owns Legacy Motorclub with Maurice “Maury” J. Gallagher could look to expand its team in the near future and buying the SHR charter could be a key step.

Last season the rumors of SHR selling a charter came to light after their on-track and off-track troubles. However, after Cole Custer won the Xfinity Series championship, Tony Stewart shut down rumors of a charter sale. Replying to a question he said, “Why are we talking about this on Saturday night when this guy just won a championship?”

Given that all three OEMs have their own priority teams to cater to, it is hard to predict a fruitful future for Stewart’s team in the Cup Series even if they switch manufacturers. Unlike many sports, NASCAR teams are dependent on their sponsors and the charter system to run their operations successfully. In the last 10 years, a handful of teams have departed from the NASCAR Cup Series owing to sponsorship issues.

Racing organizations that shut down in the last decade

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There have been several departures of racing companies and teams from competing in the Cup Series. In the last decade, BK Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, NEMCO Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Swan Racing, and HScott Motorsports are some of the prominent names that left their racing operations in NASCAR.

Tony Stewart and Gene Haas are in a troublesome situation regarding their team’s future. The only saving grace for them could be the proposed permanent charter that can ensure their long run in the series. However, given how NASCAR is holding its ground, such a deal is unlikely to pan out even if both parties agree on a new charter agreement. While racing and getting results is always an option for the team to make a comeback, given the competition, the current driver lineup isn’t expected to pull off miracles.

The charter sale might be a reality soon, but for now, the SHR team would like to focus on the racing bits and try to build on the decent start they have had this season.

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Written by:

Chintan Devgania

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Chintan Mahesh Devgania is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. As someone who likes to dive deep into the sport, he often takes up less explored topics to eventually see them make their way into top stories. His report on Toyota’s young recruit, Jade Avedisian, sharing her thoughts on Late Model Racing, was an example of that.
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Edited by:

Shreya Singh