Stewart-Haas Racing will begin fielding Fords in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series in 2017, the team and manfacturer announced Wednesday. The team has been with Chevrolet since Gene Haas launched the team in 2002 with a three-race effort.
“It was about six months ago, honestly, and it was more of a casual conversation than serious,” said SHR co-owner Tony Stewart. “But the more we talked to the group at Ford, the more we realized their passion and desire to win races and championships was very much in line with how we approach things here at SHR.”
Ford and SHR made the announcement Wednesday, surprising most everybody in the NASCAR universe who wasn’t involved with the deal. It will end a partnership between Chevy and SHR that began when the company was formed in 2009. The technical support SHR receives from Chevy’s Hendrick Motorsports will also end.
“This is an opportunity for us to get out of the shadows,” said Stewart. “To get off someone else’s coattails and get out on our own.”
SHR includes the race teams of Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch, each of whom have driven Chevys for virtually their entire careers (although Busch won the 2004 Cup championship in a Ford for Roush Fenway Racing). The team’s engines will be prepared by Roush Yates Engines.
SHR will be the largest Ford team in the Cup series, and joins Team Penske, Roush Fenway Racing, Wood Brothers Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and Front Row Motorsports in the manufacturer’s lineup.
“We’ve reorganized our tech support in all our teams,” said Dave Pericak, global director of Ford Performance. “This is another addition for us. We’re not eliminating support for any of our other teams. We’ll make available to Stewart-Haas the same support.”
Stewart said the addition of people such as Rex Stump as SHR’s technical director (hired away from Hendrick in 2014) helped in the decision. He said SHR will build its own chassis in 2017, a task performed in the past for the team by Hendrick.
“We’ve been very pleased with our relationship with Hendrick,” said Stewart. “We never initially talked about self sufficient, but as time has gone on and the sport has evolved so fast, that if you truly want to be put in the position to be at the top of your field, then there are things you have to do on your own.
“We’re stacked with quality people. We don’t anticipate any setbacks. When we come out of the box next year, we’ll have our ducks in a row. Sure, there could be growing pains, but I’m confident that we’ll be as prepared as possible.”
Hendrick team owner Rick Hendrick indicated his organization will uphold its part of its partnership with SHR through the end of this season.
“We will continue to provide SHR’s teams with engines and chassis in 2016, and those programs will be supported appropriately,” Hendrick said in a statement.
▪ SHR also confirmed that Ty Dillon will drive its No. 14 car in Sunday’s QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in relief of Stewart, who continues to recover from a broken back he suffered Jan. 31 in a dune buggy accident. Brian Vickers, who drove for Stewart in Sunday’s Daytona 500, will take over again in the Las Vegas race on March 6.Stewart-Haas Racing will switch from Chevrolet to Ford as its manufacturer partner in 2017, Ford announced Wednesday.