Home>Nascar>NASCAR silly season: What’s next for Stewart-Haas Racing drivers?

NASCAR silly season: What’s next for Stewart-Haas Racing drivers?

MADISON, Ill. — Chase Briscoe knows he will race for a different team in 2025 than he has for the last seven years. Which one? The Stewart-Haas Racing driver doesn’t have much of a clue.

“I have absolutely zero idea,” Briscoe said on “NASCAR Race Hub” last week a day after SHR announced its closer following the 2024 season. “I haven’t been able to talk to anybody until literally just [Tuesday]. … It’s definitely been different being in this position.” 

The closing of SHR puts four Cup drivers on the free-agent market. When the season started, it seemed only Ryan Preece was in a year where he was under the microscope as far as performance.

The SHR drivers enter a free agent market that awaits one big decision.

Joe Gibbs Racing is awaiting word from Martin Truex Jr. on whether he will return for 2025. The 2017 Cup champion made his stay-or-retire decision (to stay) in June two years ago and then in August last year. With no clear replacement for him if he retires, JGR likely would want a decision soon.

Truex said Saturday that he had not made a decision.

If Truex does decide to retire, Briscoe, the top SHR driver at 15th in the Cup standings, could be a possible candidate. If JGR wants to stay in the current Toyota stable, it could try to make a run at Legacy Motor Club driver Erik Jones, who has previously driven for JGR. 

With his Ford ties, Briscoe is also a likely candidate for the ride at Wood Brothers Racing, where Harrison Burton is struggling for a third consecutive year. 

Noah Gragson, who has some sponsorship from Bass Pro Shops, also can’t be counted out for that JGR ride, where a significant amount of the Bass Pro money goes each year to sponsor Truex.

Gragson, 23rd in the standings in his first season at SHR, said he didn’t know where he would land. He likely would be a candidate for any open ride considering he has five top-10s in the first 15 races this year.

“You never know in this business,” Gragson said. “I know this time, it’s really important to run good, but I’ve got to remind myself don’t overdo it, either, trying too hard to run good, and I don’t know what to think right now. It’s all super new.”

Noah Gragson says he’s not bitter about the closing of Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of the season

The other two SHR drivers — 33-year-olds Josh Berry and Preece — might have a little more difficult time staying in Cup. Berry, 33, is 20th in the Cup standings as a rookie and had five consecutive top-20 finishes before a cut tire ended his day early Sunday at Gateway. Preece is 29th in the standings.

Both of those drivers have some companies that could follow them wherever they go, whether that be any of the three national series. Berry would be seen as potentially having more upside considering he is in his rookie year while Preece is in his fifth Cup season.

“It’s so early to tell, but obviously there are going to be a lot of things, dominoes are going to start falling,” Preece said. 

It’s still so early in the silly season part of the year, it is hard to know what openings teams could have. The teams with openings or likely openings in addition to the Wood Brothers and possibly JGR:

–Front Row Motorsports has two openings with Michael McDowell leaving for Spire next season and with the team expanding to three teams. The team hasn’t said where it is getting its third charter, but team owner Bob Jenkins, according to sources, was at SHR last week talking to employees about potential jobs. Both of SHR’s Xfinity drivers, Cole Custer and Riley Herbst, are candidates for those rides. Both potentially could bring their current sponsors with them, Custer with Haas Automation and Herbst with Monster Energy.

–23XI Racing is expected to obtain one of the SHR charters although team co-owner Denny Hamlin said Saturday they have not agreed to any purchase. The team’s current reserve driver is truck series driver Corey Heim and he would be a candidate for that car. Heim will race a third Cup car for 23XI at Nashville later this month. Herbst also possibly would get a look if 23XI wants Heim to get more experience or if it wants more time to find Cup funding for Heim.

–Trackhouse Racing is expected to obtain one of the SHR charters. It has one driver (Ross Chastain) under contract confirmed for Cup next year. Current Trackhouse driver Daniel Suarez said he is close to renewing his deal with the team. Three-time Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen, who is running full-time Xfinity this year, could be elevated to full-time Cup next season. Zane Smith, who is on loan to Spire this year with a move initially planned to a Trackhouse car for next year, is 34th in the standings. If NASCAR limits organizations to three charters, he could be the odd man out.

Josh Berry says there is a little bit of relief to know the future of Stewart-Haas Racing

Where does the fourth charter from SHR go? That is unclear. It’s no secret that Richard Childress Racing would like to get back to being a three-car operation, but whether it can accomplish that goal for 2025 remains to be seen.

The other teams that could have openings would be Kaulig Racing and Rick Ware Racing, both of whom have a car that is using multiple drivers this year. 

In addition to Custer and Herbst, Xfinity drivers who could be candidates for Cup rides would be Austin Hill (likely only at RCR), Chandler Smith and Sam Mayer. Truck Series points leader Christian Eckes along with Heim are the two names from that series most mentioned for possible Cup rides.

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.

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