Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing Team, Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
With Kevin Harvick retiring, Stewart-Haas Racing already have an open seat for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, and they could end up with two.
The offseason between the 2023 and 2024 NASCAR Cup Series seasons is set to become the seventh in eight years during which Stewart-Haas Racing make a driver change, as 2014 champion Kevin Harvick confirmed earlier this week that he is set to retire when the 2023 season ends.
Stewart-Haas Racing don’t exactly have a ton of up-and-coming Cup Series-ready prospects competing for them (or for any Ford organization) in the lower series, and Harvick’s No. 4 Ford may not be the only seat they need to fill for 2024.
Aric Almirola, whose initial plan was to retire after the 2022 season, opted to return to the No. 10 Ford for “2023 and beyond”, but his new deal reportedly allows him to retire after 2023 if he chooses to do so.
Even having made driver changes after six of the last seven seasons, Stewart-Haas Racing have never made more than one change during that span. Could losing two drivers — or even just one — after the 2023 season result in them making a blockbuster signing?
The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series free agent class is loaded, but there is one team in particular that should take notice of Kevin Harvick’s retirement.
That team is Trackhouse Racing Team. In his first season with the Justin Marks and Pitbull-owned organization, Ross Chastain earned the team their first two victories and their first playoff berth, and he made it all the way to the Championship 4, finishing runner-up in the standings behind Team Penske’s Joey Logano.
He is not reported to have a deal to compete past 2024, and if that continues to be the case, there is very little reason to believe he won’t be getting some calls from other teams.
One of those “other teams” happens to be a winning organization already with a confirmed vacancy.
Of course, the most likely scenario is that Chastain re-signs with Trackhouse Racing Team, as that would appear to be in the best interest of all parties.
But while it’s not necessarily concerning, Harvick’s retirement, especially coming as early as it did, could create somewhat of a sense of urgency for Trackhouse Racing Team to get a deal done to retain 30-year-old Alva, Florida native.
As mentioned, there are currently several other solid drivers set to hit the free agent market after the 2023 season — Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., and Alex Bowman to name just a few of the big ones.
But in terms of a combination of age, talent, and potential, Chastain is the one driver of the group who needs to be locked up for the long haul before he gets away.
You could even make the case that Trackhouse Racing Team as a whole should be looking long-term, as Daniel Suarez might very well be a top three free agent in that regard as well following his breakout year in 2022.