Everyone at Stewart Haas Racing is trying to stay focused despite charter rumors and distractions

Stewart-Haas Racing is currently a four car NASCAR Cup Series team under the Ford Performance banner owned by Tony Stewart and Gene Haas with drivers Chase Briscoe, Ryan Preece, Noah Gragson and Josh Berry.

There is also a two car Xfinity Series program with drivers Cole Custer, the defending series champion, and Riley Herbst.

The reminder is important because if garage rumors are to be believed, part of that program may cease to exist by the start of next summer, or Stewart-Haas Racing may not reach the 2025 season. That includes one of its two Kannapolis, North Carolina shops, which may have been made available too.

The other shop is currently a domestic home for the Haas Formula 1 team.

The team doesn’t even have a manufacturer alliance signed for next season, which tracks, because the team is in such a state of limbo. Employees have said they don’t know if there is going to be two charters left or none whatsoever.

What is senior leadership telling drivers?

“Zero,” says rookie driver Berry.

With that said, everyone is also trying to just put their hours in and perform to the best of their abilities, because this season could very well be an audition for whoever buys those charters.

“We all should,” Berry added. “We’re all reading the rumor mill and where there’s smoke, there’s fire. All we can do is just go out there and, really, all of us, we can talk about the pressure and different things but we’re all trying to do the same things we were doing before, which is be faster and better.”

His crew chief, Rodney Childers, conceded there is an air of distraction around the shop but veteran leaders are doing their best to instill a culture of working through it.

“I think no matter what, if there are rumors, there’s always going to be a distraction,” Childers said. “Everybody on this No. 4 team came here to build something special. We came here to win races. We came here to win a championship, to sit on poles, to do a lot of cool things and we’ve all done that.

“That’s all we can hang our hats on at the moment is to go out there and be our best every week, to be somebody that the garage looks up to and thinks a lot of. I told my guys that if we continue to do that, that’s all that really matters to us. All of the stuff in the background is going to happen whether we want it to or not, or it’s not going to happen whether we want to or not, so, for me, it’s just trying to stay focused, trying to stay positive and keep moving forward.”

NASCAR: Coca-Cola 600-Practice
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Berry says there is not a better leader in the garage than Childers.

“I’m so fortunate to have him,” Berry said. “I knew that going into this season but I never realized the kind of person and leader he was until I got here. So yeah, his leadership is going to be really important to keep the wheels on this train.

“There is no better person for this situation than him.”

Briscoe says the Stewart-Haas drivers are actually a close bunch, befitting the ‘bunch of racers’ moniker, spending a lot of time together, whether it is working out or in their study groups.

“There is a lot of uncertainty though,” Briscoe said. “But that’s why it’s important to stay together because when you start cracking from the inside, that’s where things can go wrong from a performance standpoint.

“When it comes to the rumors, I have experience with this from all my years in the Truck Series at (Brad Keselowski Racing) and we still went out there and won our last race together at Homestead. To experience that early in my career actually helps me share that with my teammates for how to stay focused and positive and control what you can.”

It’s a similar narrative from Gragson too.

“We’re just trying to stick to what we know, prepare as good as we can every weekend and not let the outside noise distract us,” Gragson said. “There is a lot of that going on right now. But if we can just keep doing what we’re doing as a group, that will create opportunities for us as individuals, no matter what happens.”

Berry agreed with that and said they need to push each other to be better and that he was disappointed as a result, that Preece was thrown under the bus for missing a driver group session.

“I wasn’t really impressed with that,” Berry said. “We have to keep working together. Our cars have speed. They are better than it looks. When our cars handle, they can move to the front. We have to keep letting our crew chiefs work together and just build upon these relationships we have throughout the summer.”

So, what actually is happening behind the scenes right now?

Stewart-Haas Racing itself isn’t commenting publicly about the matter. The most prevalent rumor is that Front Row Motorsports is in the market to buy a charter and the building. Front Row Motorsports team owner Bob Jenkins has a history of aggressively swapping buildings when the right opportunity presents itself too.

Speaking on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio earlier in the week, Front Row Racing general manager Jerry Freeze conceded that Jenkins has a willingness to enter markets where they make sense but also said there is “a lot of smoke (but) not a lot of substance” to the current garage chatter.

Front Row just lost driver Michael McDowell to Spire Motorsports and now has one empty seat to fill to pair with Todd Gilliland but the addition of a third charter could also provide more opportunities for current Stewart-Haas drivers if that team downsizes or closes.

Trackhouse Racing will need a third charter for Zane Smith, who is currently out on loan to Spire but that seat will go to McDowell next year. So Trackhouse will either need to find a charter or another team to loan out Smith too.

That doesn’t even factor into Trackhouse eventually needing room for Shane Van Gisbergen, who himself is out on loan to Kaulig Racing for both a full-time Xfinity Series and part-time Cup Series campaign.

23XI Racing is also on the market for a third charter with Legacy Motor Club also being talked about in the garage as a team that could pursue any ownership tokens made available.

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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