What Haas’ continued NASCAR presence says about its F1 program

Elizabeth Blackstock
Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Xfinity Series car, during the Hy-Vee Perks 250 at Iowa Speedway.

Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Xfinity Series car, during the Hy-Vee Perks 250 at Iowa Speedway.

Less than a month ago, NASCAR Cup Series team Stewart-Haas Racing announced it would be closing its doors. Now, Gene Haas has reconfirmed his interest in American stock car racing by reintroducing the single-car Haas Factory Team in Cup.

What initially seemed like a massive shake-up now feels more aligned with owner Gene Haas’ current motorsport goals: To reevaluate and refine its racing programs going into the future. Today, we’re going to look at NASCAR’s Haas Factory Team, and what its existence says about the Haas Formula 1 team.

Gene Haas’ big NASCAR shake-up and F1 consequences

Stewart-Haas Racing, the NASCAR Cup Series team operated in partnership between Gene Haas and Tony Stewart since 2009, announced on May 28 that the team would be closing its doors at the end of the 2024 season.

However, on June 20, Gene Haas announced that he intends to keep one of the four charters previously held by the Stewart-Haas Racing Cup Series team in order to continue one with a single-car Haas Factory Team outfit in the future.

Essentially, a NASCAR charter guarantees that the car in question will enter every NASCAR Cup Series points race; there are a maximum of 36 charters available, and they can be bought and sold on the open market, with each team seeing a cap of four cars. Non-charter cars are referred to as “open” cars.

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By preserving one charter, Gene Haas has signaled that he intends to pare down his NASCAR effort.

“My commitment to motorsports hasn’t changed, just the scope of my involvement,” Haas said in a statement. “Operating a four-car team has become too arduous but, at the same time, I still need a platform to promote Haas Automation and grow HaasTooling.com.

“Maintaining my presence in Cup allows Haas Automation to compete at NASCAR’s highest level, which is important to our customers and distributors.”

In addition, Haas will preserve its two-car NASCAR Xfinity Series team in the secondary rung of the Cup Series ladder to provide “a full weekend experience for our guests” and to deliver “added depth and scale to our overall operation.”

At the moment, no manufacturers, partners or drivers have been announced for the upcoming Haas Factory Team effort.

Haas’ F1 rethink

Gene Haas’ massive NASCAR evolution has come during the same year that his Formula 1 outfit has faced significant changes.

On January 10, former Haas team principal Guenther Steiner was relieved of his duties, which were then taken over by engineer Ayao Komatsu. Further, technical director Simone Resta left the team.

Even as the initial Haas F1 news came to the fore this year, it was clear that the outfit’s NASCAR operation was also in dire straits. With co-owner Tony Stewart focusing more heavily on his career in the NHRA and the SHR Cup team struggling to secure long-term investment, it should be no surprise that all of Gene Haas’ enterprises would undergo a significant shift.

What Gene Haas’ NASCAR goals say about his F1 team

So, should we be steeling ourselves for a Haas motorsport exit sometime in the near future? Not quite.

Gene Haas has long maintained that his primary goal in motorsport has been the promotion of Haas Automation, the machine tool business that developed Haas’ fortune. The global demand for the hardware and software offered by the company certainly hasn’t decreased.

However, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for Gene Haas to tighten the reins on his extracurricular spending. Both his F1 and NASCAR Cup teams have felt a bit diffuse of late; performances have failed to meet expectations, and neither team has felt united in pursuit of its goals.

The fact that Gene Haas hasn’t totally pulled out of NASCAR signals a lot about his F1 efforts — namely, that the American businessman is still invested in motorsport, but that perhaps his efforts have instead grown more focused.

After all, there’s no point in fielding four cars in a NASCAR Cup Series team if none of them can score points; it makes far more sense to pare back those efforts and put all of the team’s resources toward one car and one goal.

As the F1 2024 season progresses, then, we’re likely to see a similar stripping back and refocusing of effort.

With Haas now taking up Sauber’s mantle as Ferrari satellite team, Komatsu at the helm, and a guaranteed new driver thanks to Nico Hulkenberg’s departure for 2025, Haas F1 may be readier than ever to pave the way to a comeback.

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