Wednesday, February 24, 2016

COMMENTARY: Stewart Haas Manufacturer Change Is About More Than Money

For Haas and Stewart, it's all about winning.
Stewart Haas Racing dropped a major competitive bombshell today, announcing that they will jump from the Chevrolet camp to Ford next season, inking a multi-year deal to place drivers Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick at the wheel of Ford Fusions in 2017 and beyond. 

Today’s announcement was the biggest manufacturer move since Joe Gibbs Racing bolted from Chevrolet to Toyota in 2008; bigger even than Team Penske’s decision to leave Dodge for Ford in 2013. 

Stewart Haas has been a Chevrolet team since Gene Haas founded his fledgling Cup Series team in 2002. Chevy loyalist Rick Hendrick reportedly helped broker the deal that brought Tony Stewart to SHR as part-owner in 2009, triggering a competitive ascent that culminated in a pair of Sprint Cup Series championships with Stewart (2011) and Kevin Harvick (2014).  

Hendrick Motorsports has provided chassis and engines to SHR for the last eight seasons, sharing information and technology freely with their bowtie brethren. 

Ford, meanwhile, has been shut-out of NASCAR’s championship picture since 2003 and 2004, when Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch claimed back-to-back titles for Roush Fenway Racing. Both Kenseth and Busch ultimately chose to leave RFR and Ford for greener pastures, after the team plummeted in the championship standings and proved incapable of quickly righting the competitive ship. Kenseth now drives Toyotas for Gibbs, while Busch -- ironically -- plies his trade for Stewart Haas.  

Ford has advanced just one driver -- Team Penske’s Joey Logano in 2014 -- to NASCAR’s Homestead Final Four. Clearly, the Blue Oval was in need of a quick, competitive pick-me-up. Stewart Haas Racing will provide that help, in spades. 

“We have said very clearly that we are not in NASCAR just to race, but to win races and championships,” said Dave Pericak, Global Director of Ford Performance today. “We believe the addition of Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017 will give our program a major boost in terms of being in contention for both drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships every year.  

“We believe that our NASCAR engineering experience and tools match up very well with the expertise and personnel that Stewart-Haas Racing has in house right now, and that we will both benefit from this partnership going forward.” 

Stewart Haas Racing’s unexpected turn reportedly includes a substantial outlay of cash by Ford, along with promises of long-term technological support. And while money does indeed make the world go `round, SHR – like Ford -- is in business to win races and championships.  

Stewart – previously a Chevy man to the core -- will wear Ford’s Blue Oval in 2017, charting new manufacturer waters for the first time since his awkward, Toyota-powered final season at JGR. Harvick will drive something other than a Chevrolet for the first time, as well. Their partnership with Hendrick Motorsports -- so successful for so long – will be left by the wayside in favor of a powerhouse new deal that is as promising as it is surprising. 

For those long-term loyalties to be cast aside, Stewart, Gene Hass, Harvick and the rest of Stewart Haas Racing clearly believe that their race team will be better under the Ford banner than it has been in the Chevrolet camp. 

At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.


  1. Great news to keep the feild improving and growing. Look forward to see the SHR try to turn itself into a true self sustained power house. (Correction Joey was in the final four in 2014 he fell short in Phoenix)

  2. Anonymous11:59 AM

    humm... could Ford be returning to F1 racing?

  3. Anonymous12:52 PM

    I know the engines will be from Roush-Yates. Do we know about chassis? Will they build their own? Penske obviously has significant advantage with chassis over Roush.

  4. Anonymous1:03 PM

    I don't think anybody saw this coming but at the same time you had to expect Ford would go after a powerhouse team given the way Roush has been performing the last couple years. Especially when compared to Penske.

  5. How is it not about money. Article says ford isn't doing good in the cup series for years while Stewart-Haas has enjoyed success. Only proven thing ford can actually offer is money.

  6. Anonymous3:25 PM

    You didn't answer the question of your headline. After running down the details of the deal and assorted quotes, you don't answer the question about what the move is about. If not money, what? More championships? Both Penske and SHR have won recent championships so that can't be the answer. More championships? That wouldn't explain the switch to Ford either.

    1. It's about two things - Ford needs more teams to rededicate itself to winning in NASCAR, and SHR couldn't keep going with Hendrick because Hendrick was not going to keep backing them.

  7. Am I the only one to suspect that a B2B deal between Ford Manufacturing and its supplier Haas Automation was part of this equation?

  8. Team SHR team Ford should be allies with Team penske Racing

  9. I just hope that this won't jeopardized their 2016 efforts with Hendrick and Chevrolet support. This could be a lame duck year for SHR in 2016.

  10. Some bottom lines on this deal -

    Ford clearly is rededicating itself to NASCAR after years of subpar performance.

    SHR knew it couldn't keep going as a Hendrick satellite team, especially with Toyota now in the driver seat of the series.

    One area Ford (and the other brands) need to address is this - they need to start helping their teams build their own engines and engine shops.

  11. Dwayne in Memphis2:45 PM

    "Clearly, the Blue Oval was in need of a quick, competitive pick-me-up. Stewart Haas Racing will provide that help, in spades." I'm not sure how a team that was relying on someone else to supply 2/3 of the chassis/power/body combination is really going to bring a quick pick-me-up to Ford. Great drivers? Sure. Great crew chiefs? Sure. Sponsors? Sure. Jack Roush has had those all along as well...and the infrastructure in place to be great. Yet they haven't been. Now SHR will essentially be a start-up team building a chassis for the first time. Still getting the power elsewhere.

    Penske seems to be succeeded despite Ford. I'm not sure much of a shot in the arm these 4 teams will be for while. They may be able to claim that they've won 2 championships with their drivers, but as you mentioned, Matt and Kurt won at Roush. They may want/need to shake off that "Hendrick Satellite" label, but I don't see them jumping to Ford and setting the world on fire.

  12. Dave from CT6:05 PM

    Just an observation, but I always thought of the SHR logo as looking ckevy nostalgically, like the '57 Caddy logo with the v of sorts at the bottom, just me or?????????????????