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Social media content spearheads Stewart-Haas Racing's teambuilding

Fresh off an offseason rebrand, Stewart-Haas Racing promoted its drivers with an interesting method – quirky videos that showcased their personalities outside of the car.

There was an opportunity to entertain fans, but as it turns out, these videos had another benefit. They gave four drivers from four different areas of the country a chance to learn about each other before they were competing on the race track.

“Chase (Briscoe) is from Indiana, Las Vegas is Noah (Gragson), Josh (Berry) is Tennessee and I'm from Connecticut,” Ryan Preece said. “I mean, you're talking completely different worlds when it comes to who we are.”

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These videos had different themes. One featured the drivers putting sponsor-themed puzzles together in a contest against the clock. Another featured Gragson and Berry rolling Oreo cookies across a table into some assorted beverages.

One video had all four Cup drivers and team co-owner Tony Stewart answering trivia questions about each other. Many answers were incorrect.

“When we filmed those videos, that was literally the first time all four of us had been in a room before, together,” Briscoe told NBC Sports.

As a question about Briscoe’s alternate career paths showed, there were some gaps in knowledge.

Briscoe said that he would have done graphic design if he wasn’t a race car driver. The guesses from his teammate were: personal trainer, teacher and zookeeper.

Stewart said Briscoe would have been a taste tester at KFC. Stewart also said Briscoe’s favorite dessert was chicken and waffles.

“They asked us trivia questions on each other and half the stuff we didn't know about each other,” Gragson told NBC Sports. “It was fun, but it also did allow us to learn.”

How does filming these videos translate into improved performance after a winless season? It’s not like sitting around with oversized playing cards will make the cars faster.

Where the production day made the biggest impact was behind the scenes. Having the opportunity to sit down and talk about an assortment of topics helped Berry, Preece, Gragson and Briscoe better understand each other and their different backgrounds.

“The more we can know each other and understand the way we communicate, just being around each other with the investment in time, the better we're gonna be,” Gragson said.

The content creation has naturally slowed after the start of the Cup season. The emphasis is now on competition meetings, improving as a team and contending for better results than last season.

Gragson has two top-10 finishes this season after only posting one top-15 finish in 21 starts last season. Briscoe has three top-10 finishes as well. Preece's best finish is ninth at Martinsville. Berry's best finish is 11th at Richmond.

The focus on racing doesn't mean the work on communication has stopped. The four drivers train together, study film and data together and share setup information in pursuit of the best results each weekend.

There have still been moments early in the season when communication has remained a work in progress.

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“In the competition meeting (before Richmond), basically Chase was saying, ‘One plus three,’ and Ryan was saying, ‘Two plus two,’” Gragson said. “’They weren’t disagreeing but they were trying to explain, ‘That’s not what (my car) is doing. Mine is doing this.’

“I went, ‘Woah, woah, woah. You two are saying the same exact thing. The answer is four. You’re having the same problem but you are explaining it different.’”

Briscoe added that this competition meeting was an opportunity for the SHR drivers. Instead of “being selfish” and focusing on their own situations, they were able to slow down, listen to each other and try to understand so that the entire group could get better.

The process just took a little extra time as they continued to gel as teammates.

“From me and my sprint car background, I relate kind of everything off the right rear tire,” Briscoe said. “Everything I do is based on where the right rear tire is at. Where with Ryan and his background, he goes, I guess, more off the left rear.

“He was talking about how his left rear just feels up and sliding through it where I felt like the right rear just was kind of sliding. And we were feeling the same exact thing and our lingo just wasn't matching.”

It’s not like these drivers were completely unfamiliar with each other before filming these videos or suiting up for the first time this season. Preece and Briscoe were teammates in Cup last season. Preece was also the SHR reserve driver in 2022.

Gragson and Berry were previously teammates at JR Motorsports in Xfinity. They spent one full season and one partial season together between 2021-22.

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Gragson and Briscoe even have an interesting past, to the point that Briscoe said he wrecked Gragson in his first two Truck Series starts. As they continued competing in Trucks and Xfinity, they grew closer and became friends.

Now, Briscoe and Gragson train together and study film together on a regular basis. They play golf while talking about a wide variety of topics. Their personalities are more alike behind the scenes even though the cameras show Gragson as boisterous and Briscoe as reserved.

All four drivers are closer than they were in the offseason, but the work behind the scenes will continue. Briscoe, Berry, Gragson and Preece pursue improved results as a cohesive unit while trying to get SHR back to the place of prominence it once occupied.

And once they film more videos about each other, they will be better able to answer questions about each other’s favorite desserts.