AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 04: Retired NASCAR Cup Series driver, Tony Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Hass Racing, NASCAR looks on during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 04, 2023 in Avondale, Arizona.
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Stewart-Haas Racing Disappoints Despite Offseason Hype

Tony Stewart has caught a lot of flack over the last several years because of his team's poor performances.

2023 was a year of reflection for Stewart-Haas Racing as it saw the retirement of legend Kevin Harvick, who performed well enough during the season to qualify for the playoffs.

Also gone is Aric Almirola, so SHR has had a lot of changes during the offseason and has hired young drivers, such as Josh Berry and Noah Gragson, to join Ryan Preece and Chase Briscoe. All four drivers have the talent to be successful, but one problem for Stewart-Haas is that among the four drivers, only Briscoe has won a Cup race.

Stewart visited Sirius XM NASCAR Radio this week addressing the struggles his team had at the Busch Light Clash in Los Angeles, and how he is trying to boost confidence in his drivers and team.

"It's like I told these guys," Stewart said.  "I said, 'Everything's in front of us now. There's nothing behind us. It's not like you're looking for somebody chasing you down. We're at the bottom of the barrel, in my opinion, and our performance is already in the tank, so we have nothing but everything in front of us. So don't look behind. Don't. Don't look over your shoulder.'"

Their drive to succeed is high despite the pressure, but after last weekend's Busch Light Clash, there are still more questions than answers, especially for the new drivers at the team.

Berry didn't even make the main event. In his first run behind the wheel of the No. 10 Ford, Gragson was the worst car in the race, finishing several laps down, and only avoided a last-place finish because some other cars wrecked out of the event.

Preece was the only SHR car to fight amongst the top 10 throughout the race, but finished 11th.

As for the No.41 car he drove, Preece told NBC his restarts were good, but the long runs still need work.

"For us, we really struggled with balance all night. I felt like we were really good on restarts, but for the long runs we struggled and I feel like 11th was kind of a victory for us," Preece said. "I think we're going to really have to take a deep dive into what we have going on to continue to elevate ourselves because I know all of us had really high expectations to come in here and do what we did last year, and I know we're going to continue doing that when we go to other short tracks this year."

Briscoe once again proved to be the best the team has to offer, as he fought his way to a 7th-place finish while all the chaos between drivers unfolded in the closing laps of the 150-lap race.

SHR doesn't have that established driver like Harvick to settle its disappointing performance in the Clash. With all the offseason hype about the team's driver lineup, the pressure might become unbearable — it's certainly not doing them any justice.

The team and drivers are going to have to step it up in a big way as the regular season starts. With the Daytona and Atlanta hosting the first two races, SHR could be in for a long season ahead.

More: Tony Stewart Slams His Critics