The End of Stewart-Haas Racing Is More than Just Tony Stewart Downsizing

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End of Stewart-Haas Is More Than Just DownsizingIcon Sportswire - Getty Images
  • There were numerous factors contributing to the decision to close Stewart-Haas Racing.

  • Some might point to Tony Stewart restructuring his priorities.

  • Haas will continue in NASCAR with Haas Factory Team, which will consist of one Cup and two Xfinity teams.

Until Tony Stewart and Gene Haas talk about their decision to shut down Stewart-Haas Racing beyond their joint official statement there will always be speculation as to what led to the closure of the operation that won 69 NASCAR Cup and 22 Xfinity races, and three championships—two Cup and one Xfinity—in 16 years.

Granted, SHR hadn’t won a Cup race since 2022 but it appeared on the upswing this year with its four drivers producing five top-five and 21 top-10 finishes in 18 races this season.


So why the sudden decision to shut down at the end of 2024?

Some might point to Stewart restructuring his priorities. He’s now married to Leah Pruett, whom he adores, he will become a father later this year and he loves drag racing. Since meeting Stewart when he was competing in NASCAR, he is the happiest I have ever seen him. He sold his All-Star Circuit of Champions to Kyle Larson and Brad Sweet and their High Limit Sprint Car Series and he has put his 400-acre estate in Columbus, Ind., on the market.

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Hopes were high for Tony Stewart, center, and Gene Haas, left, at NASCAR Media Day in 2015.Bob Leverone - Getty Images

Haas has seemed more focused on his Formula 1 operation since being granted a F1 license in April 2014 and then entering the international series in 2016. The F1 offices are within walking distance of the SHR facility in Kannapolis, N.C., but no one ever talked about Haas being at the NASCAR operation. Outside of racing, Haas found himself battling cancer last year.

One could say there were numerous factors contributing to the decision to close SHR, but the main fracture in the two men’s relationship began in August 2013. That’s when Haas hired Kurt Busch to drive a fourth SHR car without consulting Stewart, who was in the hospital recovering from a broken leg he suffered in a Sprint Car race.

A month earlier, Stewart had told Ryan Newman that SHR didn’t have a ride for him in 2014 due to a lack of sponsorship, that SHR was fielding only three cars. The drivers would be Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick and Stewart. Both Indiana natives, Stewart and Newman had known each other since racing Sprint Cars as youngsters and Newman was the first driver Stewart had hired after SHR was created in 2009.

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Kurt Busch and Gene Haas celebrate at NASCAR Cup Series win at Michigan in 2015.Chris Trotman - Getty Images

Haas, without consulting Stewart, hired Busch and said that Haas Automation—the company he founded in 1983—would sponsor the Las Vegas native. Newman moved to Richard Childress Racing and SHR became a four-car operation. It was as if Haas had returned to running SHR as he had the single-car operation he founded in 2002.

That team had a dozen different drivers in seven years, no victories in 284 Cup races and only one top-five finish. Jason Leffler gave Haas a Xfinity Series victory in 2004 at Nashville, but it was the only one in a four-year period for the team that had six different drivers.

After those extremely lean years and the fact Haas was headed to prison, he knew he needed a successful driver who could bring big-buck sponsors to the operation if the team was to survive. A sales engineer who lived in the Charlotte, N.C., area was asked to arrange the deal between Stewart and Haas.

At the end of the 2008 season, while Haas was in jail serving a two-year sentence for tax evasion, Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing was born. Haas, who had been ordered to pay $75 million restitution, was released on probation on May 7, 2009, after serving 16 months.

By the time Haas was released, Stewart had his personnel and sponsors in place and the new organization’s performance was unlike anything Haas had enjoyed before. One month after Haas’ release, Stewart gave SHR its first victory. SHR quickly became a championship contender in the Cup Series. However, once the fracture occurred in the owners’ relationship in 2013 the break continued to widen. Eventually, it fell apart.

Haas will continue in NASCAR with Haas Factory Team, which will consist of one Cup and two Xfinity teams. That operation and the F1 offices will remain in their current location in Kannapolis. Haas also still has Wind Shear, a division of Haas Automation, which constructed a full-scale rolling road wind tunnel adjacent to the Concord, N.C., airport. Known as Windshear, the 180-mph wind tunnel, is about a 10-minute drive from the race team facilities.

Stewart owns several businesses, including Eldora Speedway and Tony Stewart Racing, which competes in the NHRA and World of Outlaws.

And for the SHR employees, some will remain with Haas, others will move on or retire, but they won’t forget the mark they left on the NASCAR landscape despite an owner relationship that has been broken for a decade.