Stewart-Haas Racing has employed Kevin Harvick since the 2014 season with him being the NASCAR organization’s most successful driver to date. However, it appears his time with the team could be ending soon.
Let’s dive into the latest on Harvick’s future in NASCAR.
Kevin Harvick rumored to leave Stewart-Haas Racing after next season
Gene Haas, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, indicated on the grid before the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that Harvick told the organization about his plans to leave at the conclusion of the 2023 season, according to multiple reports.
In response, Haas said the organization has been trying to get the 46-year-old driver to sign an extension. Harvick would be 48 years old at the start of the 2024 season with his birthday coming in December.
This is not a shocking development. Every driver needs to put the steering wheel down and focus on life after NASCAR at some point. It’s also not surprising to see Stewart-Haas Racing push for a new deal with Harvick.
The lineup consists of Harvick, Aric Almirola, Chase Briscoe, and Cole Custer. Two drivers, Harvick and Almirola, are really close to retirement as Custer’s future with the organization seems uncertain.
Stewart-Haas Racing is not in the wrong for pushing a contract extension toward Harvick. If he wants to sign it, then it will be signed. However, the organization can’t force Harvick to do anything when his deal is up.
The California native has been a consistent force in the No. 4 car with 37 wins since he joined the organization. It eclipses the 23 wins he tallied with Richard Childress Racing to start his career.
Unfortunately for Stewart-Haas Racing, the options for Ford in the lower ranks of NASCAR are not very strong.
Related: Aric Almirola announces big return to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2023 and beyond
NASCAR drivers that could replace Kevin Harvick in 2024
In all likelihood, Harvick will step away from NASCAR at the conclusion of the 2023 season and it’s completely understandable. It’s hard to compete in this competitive sport until you are 50 years old unless you are Mark Martin.
As stated above, the options for Stewart-Haas Racing are not very strong in the lower ranks. The easiest name to slide into the No. 4 car will likely be Ryan Preece as Tony Stewart likes him.
Preece, 31, has won a NASCAR Truck Series race this season but it hasn’t been as impressive as expected for him. There is likely a better option if this is the direction Ford has for the next driver that will be listed.
Zane Smith would be the best option as he is Ford’s best prospect. Smith, 23, has three wins, 12 top-5 finishes, and 17 top-10 finishes in his breakout Truck Series season with Front Row Motorsports.
Plus, the 23-year-old driver will be competing in the NASCAR Xfinity and Cup Series with select events in 2023. It will allow Smith to have good experience in the upper divisions for a possible jump to the Cup Series in 2024.
The eight-year difference between Smith and Preece is also glaring. Smith has more potential and could be a spectacular driver in the Cup Series if given the equipment that is capable to succeed.
There can always be two open seats so Stewart can have Preece in a ride too; however, unless Ford has a different plan, Smith seems to be the best option within the camp.
If not either of them, Stewart-Haas Racing employs Riley Herbst in the Xfinity Series and has been running well this season. Herbst could move up with Monster Energy if they want to go that route.
The Cup Series lineup within the organization has been relatively stable since the 2020 season but it’s clear that a massive amount of change will be coming in the next few years.