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Bad nearly evolved into worse – much worse, actually – for Stewart-Haas Racing. With its Cup Series program already embroiled in a costly, contentious battle with NASCAR, SHR’s Xfinity crew appears to have narrowly averted tragedy Wednesday afternoon.

The hauler carrying the No. 98 Ford of Riley Herbst crashed near Flagstaff, Arizona, causing the trailer to tilt precariously off the side of an interstate.

No serious injuries reported after the Stewart-Haas Racing hauler crash

The Alsco Uniforms 302 is a homecoming race for Riley Herbst, who is in his third full-time season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. The Las Vegas native bowed out in the first round of the playoffs but will drive in Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The hauler carrying Herbst’s car and other equipment was en route to Las Vegas when Wednesday’s single-vehicle crash occurred on I-40 near Flagstaff, Arizona. According to the statement from Stewart Haas Racing, the truck had two occupants. While no serious injuries resulted, one went to a local hospital for treatment and observation. There was no further information available as of early Thursday.

The SHR statement did not indicate a cause for the wreck but said speed was not a factor. While the rig was damaged, SHR said the hauler was relatively unscathed, and the organization was arranging to get the hauler to Las Vegas by Friday morning as scheduled.

Sprint car driver Spencer Hill came upon the crash scene after emergency personnel responded. “Scary situation, and could have easily been so much worse,” he tweeted.

Stewart-Haas Racing has spent plenty of time in the news recently

SHR co-owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas already had plenty on their minds even before Wednesday’s scare outside Flagstaff, Arizona. The organization’s NASCAR Cup Series team, with drivers Kevin Harvick, Chase Briscoe, Cole Custer, and Aric Almirola, has endured another frustrating season on the heels of a one-win season in 2021.

Harvick scored a pair of late-season victories but then flamed out of the playoffs almost immediately. Almirola is 20th in points, and Custer was only 25th even before NASCAR docked him 50 points this week.

Briscoe is the lone bright spot, having advanced into the round of eight in the Cup Series playoffs by virtue of his controversial ninth-place finish last weekend on the Charlotte Roval. That race was the source of Custer’s penalty as NASCAR’s review of video as well as radio traffic concluded that the No. 41 Ford improperly impeded traffic in order to boost Briscoe as he battled defending series champion Kyle Larson for the final transfer position into the semifinals.

SHR has decided not to fight a two-front war with NASCAR

Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart and Xfinity Series driver Riley Herbst. | Getty Images
Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart and Xfinity Series driver Riley Herbst. | Getty Images

William Byron Redux: Getting Penalties Right Has Been Job 1.01 at NASCAR

NASCAR and Stewart-Haas Racing have certainly had plenty to talk about lately, beginning with Kevin Harvick’s unflattering review on Labor Day weekend at Darlington of the “crappy-ass parts” the sport’s governing body requires its Cup Series teams to use.

On Oct. 5, NASCAR suspended crew chief Rodney Childers for four races and fined him $100,000 for what it called modification of a part supplied by a vendor. The part in question was the deck lid.

Harvick and the team lost 100 points apiece, and SHR announced it would appeal the penalties. After having Childers sit out last weekend at Charlotte to be sure he could return to the pit box for the season-ender in Phoenix, SHR dropped the appeal.

SHR likely would have proceeded with its appeal, but the developments this week with Cole Custer suddenly became a bigger headache. NASCAR fined Custer $100,000 and docked him 50 points, tagged the team for another 50 points, and hit crew chief Michael Shiplett with a $100,000 fine and an indefinite suspension.

“Stewart-Haas Racing denies any wrongdoing and will vigorously defend its personnel against these allegations in its appeal with NASCAR,” the team said in its statement.

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