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Stewart-Haas Racing linked to current NASCAR champion in 2024 silly season

Stewart-Haas Racing has been linked to a current NASCAR champion in silly season. Find out the driver that could replace Kevin Harvick.

NASCAR: Cup Practice

Stewart-Haas Racing is tasked with replacing Kevin Harvick in the No. 4 car for the 2024 season. This comes after Harvick announced his intentions to retire from full-time racing at the conclusion of the 2023 NASCAR season.

Several names have been linked to Stewart-Haas Racing; however, this one is likely the best one on the surface.

Stewart-Haas Racing connected to current NASCAR champion in silly season

NASCAR: Daytona 500 Practice
Feb 17, 2023; Daytona Beach, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick (4) during practice at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Stewart-Haas Racing can go in several directions when making the decision on who will drive the No. 4 car next year. However, the pool of available drivers has quickly diminished due to contract extensions before the 2023 Daytona 500.

Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez both signed long-term deals with Trackhouse Racing while Alex Bowman inked a new multi-year contract with Hendrick Motorsports. Chastain was heavily connected to the No. 4 car before his new deal.

The new contract extensions mean Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. are the best drivers available and neither of them will go to Stewart-Haas Racing. Therefore, the options in the NASCAR Cup Series are mostly average outside of one driver.

Jordan Bianchi, a NASCAR insider for The Athletic, went on Door, Bumper, Clear and revealed his personal choice for the No. 4 car if he were the one making the decision.

“I mean contract aside, Erik Jones has a multi-year deal with (Legacy Motor Club) and I understand that but we know how contacts work. To me, Erik Jones is a top-flight driver and if you put him in race-winning equipment, he is going to get the job done…I know this is the unfortunate reality in NASCAR. Well, sponsorship concerns, and does he align with the right sponsors? I don’t care. At the end of the day, if I am (Stewart-Haas Racing), I want a driver in my race car who is going to win races and is going to make me better…I want Erik Jones.”

Jordan Bianchi on his personal pick for the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing car

Erik Jones would be a stellar option for the organization as he is only 26 years old. Jones has won the Southern 500 twice and will forever be in NASCAR history as the 2015 Truck Series champion with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

The driver of the No. 43 car for Legacy Motor Club does have a multi-year deal; however, it is possible to buy out contracts in NASCAR. It happened last season with Tyler Reddick and it will happen again in the future.

However, if the organization is unable to buy out Jones and give him the No. 4 car next season, which drivers would make sense as possible backup options?

Related: Kevin Harvick talks about picking a driver for the No. 4 car in 2024

3 more candidates for Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 4 car in 2024

Stewart-Haas Racing
Mar 5, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick (4) during the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Stewart-Haas Racing’s decision on a replacement driver for Harvick will likely be the biggest one for any organization during the silly season process. This is due to the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion’s performance.

Through three races, Harvick sits third in the point standings while Aric Almirola is 21st, Ryan Preece is 31st, and Chase Briscoe is 32nd. Quite frankly, the organization has shown little speed outside of the No. 4 car.

Therefore, if Harvick’s replacement is not a talented driver, there is a possibility that none of the four entries are even close to the NASCAR playoffs. The list needs to be short and full of talent.

Cole Custer currently drives the No. 00 car for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and while people may question why he is on this list after being demoted, the answer is pretty clear.

Custer is really talented and he is expected to win multiple races during the 2023 Xfinity Series season. Eventually, there will be a point where the 25-year-old driver is running so well that Stewart-Haas Racing will have no choice but to promote him back to the Cup Series.

Zane Smith is another common name that has been thrown around by many people over the last few months. Smith drives the No. 38 truck for Front Row Motorsports and won the NASCAR Truck Series championship last season.

The 23-year-old driver will be making starts with Front Row Motorsports in the Cup Series so he will have previous experience. Plus, Smith is Ford’s best prospect, and putting him in the best equipment possible is important.

Finally, John Hunter Nemechek would be another solid option if they could pry him away from Toyota Racing. Nemechek drives the No. 20 car for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series and has been electric to start out the year.

If the 25-year-old driver has a breakout season and Toyota Racing does not have an open spot for him in the Cup Series, maybe Ford Performance could swoop in and steal him for the No. 4 car.

Stewart-Haas Racing will have options available to them; however, it is very critical that it is a successful hire because they can not afford to lose Harvick and gain someone who does not perform at a high level.

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