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Stewart-Haas demise might ignite NASCAR’s ongoing charter feud

Stewart-Haas demise might ignite NASCAR's ongoing charter feud

Racers, start your valuations.

After months stuck under a caution flag, we have officially entered the “interesting times” phase of the 2024 NASCAR season, and it has nothing to do with what happens on the racetrack. Instead, it has everything to do with the world of the Cup Series garage sizing up who everyone else really is and finding out who they themselves really are and, most importantly, what the teams are really worth.

Don’t take it from me. It was a NASCAR team executive who recently said to me: “Charter truth is going to be out there now. Feelings are going to get hurt. Because no one actually wants to hear what they’re really worth. Unless you’re Jeff Bezos, it’s never as much as you think.”

Ah, charter truth.

Normally, I avoid the topic of NASCAR team charters like I avoid my friends and family on Facebook during an election year. The mere mention of charters makes my eyes glaze over. But now, charters aren’t simply a topic. They are the — all caps THE — topic, thanks to last month’s announcement that Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), an organization with two Cup titles, will be closing its doors after this season takes its final checkered flag at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 10.

However, the intrigue is only partially about the actual charters. It’s about what they mean and the leverage they do or do not provide in a tug-of-war that will ultimately determine the direction of NASCAR’s future.

The news of the sale wasn’t a surprise. Gene Haas has long been distracted by his Formula One efforts, and Tony Stewart, now an NHRA drag racer, has been very open in recent months about his distaste for life as a NASCAR team owner. That doesn’t make SHR’s shuttering any less sad. A lot of good people, NASCAR lifers, are now scrambling for work in 2025 and beyond.

But as the initial hurt of the May 28 announcement begins to subside, the very interesting time of sorting out what’s next and what that means has arrived. And it means a lot.

What’s a NASCAR charter?

Stewart-Haas is a charter member of NASCAR’s charter group, the teams that in 2016 received what essentially amounts to a franchise tag for each full-time car they field in the Cup Series, 36 charters initially…

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