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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Racing Team’s Closure Reveals Intricacies of NASCAR ‘Franchises’

  • Stewart-Haas Racing will cease operations at the end of the 2024 season.
  • The team will then sell its four charters that could be worth $50 million each.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The dissolution of one of NASCAR’s biggest teams is set to provide the biggest look yet into its complicated charter system, which is the sport’s version of franchises.

Stewart-Haas Racing is one of only three Cup Series teams that employ four full-time drivers. But this week, the organization announced it would close operations after the 2024 season. “The commitment needed to extract maximum performance while providing sustainability is incredibly demanding, and we’ve reached a point in our respective personal and business lives where it’s time to pass the torch,” SHR co-owners Tony Stewart (above) and Gene Haas said in a joint statement.

Now, not even 48 hours since SHR’s announcement, the sale of its charters, which represent four of the 36 available, appears to already be underway. Charter spots guarantee entry into, and prize money from, all NASCAR Cup Series events. On Wednesday, Front Row Motorsports announced it had acquired another charter, in addition to its existing two. Although no price or seller was disclosed, multiple reports linked the deal to SHR.

Beyond existing teams, SHR could also sell its charters to new investors looking to enter NASCAR. And the deals could come at a steep price: Previously, the most recent single charter sale went for $40 million when Spire Motorsports bought one from Live Fast Motorsports last fall, according to The Athletic, and the top of the market is projected to be north of $50 million.

That means SHR could fetch more than $200 million if it sold its charter at premium rates. And that’d be quite the return, given that NASCAR teams paid nothing for the charters when they were created in 2016. 

End of an Era

Stewart-Haas Racing was officially launched in 2009 when Stewart, then a two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, became a driver-owner for a team owned by Haas that had been operating as an offshoot of Hendrick Motorsports. Stewart won the ’11 title driving for SHR, which earned one other Cup Series championship in ’14 with Kevin Harvick.

Harvick retired after the 2023 season, in which he was the best driver at SHR, finishing 13th in the Cup Series standings. This season, no SHR driver is currently in the top 15: Chase Briscoe sits at 16th, followed by Josh Berry (19th), Noah Gragson (21st), and Ryan Preece (28th). While SHR’s charters will live on at new teams no matter what, its drivers are not guaranteed to find new homes next season.

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