In a surprise announcement Wednesday, Stewart-Haas Racing made the announcement that its four-car operation will switch manufacturers going with Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series beginning in 2017. Since Tony Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing to drive and co-own SHR the company has driven under the GM banner.
In a media driven industry Tony Stewart seemed pleased as a team they were able to keep the negotiations under wraps with Ford before Wednesday’s big announcement.
“It’s very hard to keep secrets in this sport,” said Stewart. “For us to be able to work for over six months on this and it to stay as quiet as it has, has been pretty remarkable, I think.”
Stewart and co-owner Gene Haas both initiated each of their remarks during the national conference call Wednesday morning by thanking Chevrolet and reaffirmed their commitment for the 2016 season driving under one of the most recognized emblems in the world the Chevrolet Bowtie. The SHR co-owner then shared their optimism about the future moving forward in 2017 with Ford.
Haas called the relationship with Chevrolet a ‘long and awesome run to bring us to where we are today with two championships and 30 race wins’ but that Ford will ultimately bring Stewart-Haas Racing the stability that it really needs. Stewart reiterated, ‘we weren’t disappointed with Chevy” and he said he didn’t feel the announcement and impending move would not seriously harm the current Chevy alliance with Hendrick Motorsports.
“We’re being proactive in announcing this,” Stewart said. “We’re gonna get it out there and then go back to business. We just wanted to make sure we were more in control of it.”
Stewart said he spoke with Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports in January about the possibility of SHR switching engine makes, and informed him of the team’s final decision before the announcement. SHR has a technical alliance with HMS in which HMS provides Chevrolet engines and chassis, HMS purchases CNC equipment from SHR co-owner Gene Haas’ Haas Automation since 1996.
Chevrolet released a statement simultaneously from its Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, Jim Campbell saying, “We are disappointed with Stewart-Haas Racing’s decision, but our focus for 2016 has not changed.”
Stewart is in complete agreement with the statement released by Chevrolet saying, “We’re committed to Chevrolet this year and we’re committed to winning races and trying to contend for a championship again this year. We’re still all-in this year with Chevrolet.”
SHR fields cars for Kevin Harvick the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, Kurt Busch the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, Danica Patrick, and next year Clint Bowyer will take over for co-owner Stewart who plans on retiring at season’s end.
“It was a business decision. It’s what is best for our company going forward,” said Stewart, who has driven under the GM banner for 20 years. “This is what we felt like was best and as a business owner you can’t overlook great opportunities and that’s what this was, it was a great opportunity for our company. I wouldn’t be doing my job as a car owner if I didn’t look and explore every opportunity that was out there to make our company better and help give us the best opportunity to win more races and championships in the future.”
Next year, SHR will get its engines from Roush Yates Engines, the company supplies engines to all the Ford NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams. And SHR, for the first time, will begin building its own chassis in house.
“We believe the addition of Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017 will give our program a major boost in terms of being contention for both drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships every year,” said Dave Pericak, Ford’s Global Director of Performance. “This is really about adding to an already strong Ford team and making it even stronger, and aligning all of our teams around the vision that we have of getting back in the winner’s circle.
Currently Ford partners with Penske Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Front Row Motorsports, and the Wood Brothers Racing.
NASCAR released the following statement after the news broke:
“Stewart-Haas Racing has been a top-tier team in our sport for many years, and we wish them well in their future endeavor with Ford Performance. Our sport is rooted in healthy competition, and NASCAR is fortunate to have three strong auto manufacturer partners all committed to the common goals of winning and growing the sport. We know that SHR and Chevrolet will work together as hard as ever this season to win races and pursue their third Sprint Cup Championship together.”
Read Stewart’s full transcript from teleconference at this link provided by Autoweek.com.