This hasn’t been a great last 8 weeks for Stewart-Haas Racing. First it was Kevin Harvick’s car spontaneously catching fire in Darlington during the Southern 500 to which Harvick uttered the line, “crappy parts” regarding the Next Gen. A week later, he cut a tire a crashed in Kansas. 6 days after that he had a bad final pit stop in Bristol and for the first time of his Cup career, was eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs.
A week later it was another cut tire and crash for Harvick, this time while leading in Texas. A week after that, it was a massive penalty handed down for a violation of a Next Gen parts rule following Talladega. A week after that was the large penalty handed down to Cole Custer for his role in how the ending went in Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400.
With how all of this transpired, you can tell SHR is feeling picked on.
Harvick has been very vocal about the safety in NASCAR and questioning the leadership in their role in this Next Gen.
Shortly thereafter, his car was 1 of 2 “random” cars selected to go back to the R&D Center a week after. Some would say that’s a conspiracy theory that he was only chosen because he’s been so outspoken and that this was NASCAR’s way of “sticking it to them.”
Then comes then news on Tuesday about Custer. You can sense that they feel wronged in a sense that Chase Elliott purposely slowed Kevin Harvick in the Round of 16 cut race at Bristol last year which helped Elliott’s teammate Kyle Larson win instead of Harvick.
These threats seem serious.
Stewart-Haas Racing isn’t taking this lightly as you can see. They also issued a statement on Thursday saying, “Stewart-Haas Racing denies any wrongdoing and will vigorously defend its personnel against these allegations in its appeal with NASCAR.”
They feel picked on. They feel wronged. They’re going after NASCAR in what seems like the beginning of a potential war. There’s already animosity between the drivers in general and the sanctioning body in how we got to this point in terms of safety to where 3 drivers were out last weekend due to injuries suffered in this Next Gen. NASCAR tried to dispel this tension by doing a crash test a week ago in Ohio to help lessen the stiffness to this car in some key areas and held a drivers meeting with them last Saturday morning. They even told teams they’d pay for these parts to be updated for the 2023 season.
You also have a war starting between the ownership and the sanctioning body in terms of cost and the TV revenue piece of the pie. Now you have this with SHR.
On Wednesday, NASCAR made an amendment to the rule book to allow them to have multiple people in the appeals room on their behalf. That was their response to SHR appealing the Custer penalty.
The thing is, they still have a driver championship eligible. Chase Briscoe made the Round of 8 and have a 1 in 4 shot of making it to Phoenix next month with a shot at a championship. The problem is, look at all this noise surrounding this organization right now. This can go 1 of 2 ways for Briscoe’s No. 14 team. It can either rally them together to “stick it back” to NASCAR or it could divide them all in a way that these threats the top brass are taking at SHR make it sound like the future of this organization has become murky.
How would you feel if your Briscoe and the team members of that 14 team and instead of SHR rallying behind you, they’re bickering with NASCAR. They’re creating a lot of noise and has to have some of them wondering if they need to brush up their resumes because they could be out of a job soon.
The new TV and charter deal is set to go into place in 2025. That means you have the final 4 races of this season, all of next and all of the following year. SHR could decide to sell all 4 charters in this process and walk away leaving all their employees wondering, “what’s next?”
These workers have families. They have kids. They have mouths to feed. They’ve put in a lot of hard work and sacrifice in a season that’s featured a new car and a lot of tinkering and very little time off. NASCAR raced the Busch Light Clash the week before the Super Bowl. They had a week off between the Clash and Daytona and just 1 other week off since.
How appreciated does this 14 team feel right now by their own bosses? How would they feel under these circumstances?
They’re tired. They’re overworked. They’re in the fight for a title and possibly wondering if they need to look for a job in the process.
It’s why SHR needs to sit this team aside and give them the support. They need to give them the confidence back and need to give them the long term security that they’re fine. They need to cut down the noise of they could be among the 4 drivers eliminated from championship contention in a couple of weeks at Martinsville…