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Stewart-Haas Racing switching to Ford in 2017
By Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles 24 Feb 2016

One of NASCAR's most prominent teams is making a manufacturer switch.

Stewart-Haas Racing surprised many on Wednesday when it announced it was changing from Chevrolets to Fords for the 2017 season.

“I am proud of our association with Chevrolet as they helped build our organization into the team it is today,” SHR co-owner Tony Stewart said in a statement. “This new partnership with Ford allows us to strengthen our position in the sport and ensure the long-term stability and success for everyone who is a part of Stewart-Haas Racing.”

Stewart-Haas Racing has always been a General Motors team dating back to its Haas CNC days. The team has a technical alliance with Hendrick Motorsports which will end when the team is done with Chevrolet at the end of the 2016 season.

It's unclear from the brief release whether SHR will build its own equipment or form an alliance with a Ford team. Joining forces with anyone on the Ford side outside of Team Penske would be a performance downgrade for Stewart-Haas. Penske has been far and away the best Ford team over the past two seasons. It's currently the only Ford team capable of competing for a championship.

That lone wolf status of Team Penske was likely an incentive for Ford officials to get a major team on its side. While Toyota has most of its backing behind the four cars of Joe Gibbs Racing and the technically-aligned Furniture Row car and Chevy has Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing and others, Ford was outnumbered at the top of NASCAR.

“We have said very clearly that we are not in NASCAR just to race, but to win races and championships,” Dave Pericak, the global director of Ford Performance said in a statement. “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.”

In addition to performance on the track, the addition of Stewart-Haas Racing's four drivers gives Ford a huge marketing boost with Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick. Kurt Busch is returning to Ford – he drove Fords for Roush Fenway Racing to start his career and won a title with Roush in 2004 – and Clint Bowyer joins Stewart-Haas at the end of the season to replace Stewart, who is retiring from the driver's seat. Busch's title was the last time Ford won a Sprint Cup championship.

“Motorsports is an extremely challenging environment where in order to maintain success you have to constantly innovate. It’s true in NASCAR and it’s true in business,” SHR co-owner Gene Haas said. “We’ve enjoyed great success with Chevrolet, but this opportunity with Ford allows us to evolve while continuing to compete at the highest levels of the sport.”

Another surprising bit of news...Panini putting out NASCAR product in 2016, and SHR switching to Ford in 2017...

The next thing you are going to tell me is that Donald Trump is leading in the Republican Primary race...

WHAT?!!! The main reason Stewart left JGR and partnered with Haas CNC was b/c JGR switched from Chevy to Toyota. I guess he doesn't care now since he won't be driving the SHR cars. I wonder what Harvick thinks about this b/c he has always driven a Chevy.
My thoughts exactly...I'm not sure I get it, but I'm willing to bet you just need to follow the $$$...Smoke pretty much said that the move to Toyota by JGR was a big reason to start SHR...

So, SHR ends its relationship with Hendrick, possible ties with Rousch, I suppose...word is Ganassi might also move to Ford. Interesting, interesting...
Why would anyone want ties with RFR right now in the Cup Series?! Roush did show some improvement at Daytona 2016, but they have been very weak for at least a couple of years in the NSCS. That is the main reason Carl Edwards left the RFR team for JGR. I'm still a bit surprised that Biffle hasn't announced a retirement or team change already.
The next RFR change is going to be Biffle moving on OR retiring and Bubba Wallace replacing him in the #16 OR RFR drops Stenhouse Jr. down so they can put Bubba in the #17. I think Bayne is solid in the rotation and RFR certainly wants to move Bubba up to NSCS when they have a seat for him.
Bayne has a bigger fanbase than Stenhouse, Bubba is even bigger now and Ricky is just a minor player on the team. I think Stenhouse or Biffle is done after the 2016 season at RFR. I guess we'll see what happens in November!
Hendrick Motorsports statements on Stewart-Haas’ manufacturer change
By Daniel McFadinFeb 24, 2016, 12:16 PM EST

In a statement from Hendrick Motorsports, team owner Rick Hendrick reaffirmed his loyalty to Chevrolet in the wake of Stewart-Haas Racing’s departure for Ford in 2017. Hendrick also confirmed that Hendrick Motorsports’ technical relationship with Haas Automation will continue beyond 2016.

“Hendrick Motorsports is entering its 33rd NASCAR season carrying the Chevrolet bowtie on our cars. We’ve never raced with anyone else,” said Hendrick in the statement. “Representing the most successful manufacturer in NASCAR history is something our entire organization takes immense pride in, and we look forward to working together with Chevy toward a historic 40th manufacturers’ championship in 2016. It’s a relationship we hope to continue for many years to come.”

Hendrick continues: “We’ve had a strong relationship with Gene (Haas) and his companies for two decades,” Hendrick said. “Our technical association with Haas Automation has been rewarding for everyone involved, and we look forward to building on that effort in the future.”

HM general manager Doug Duchardt also addressed Stewart-Haas Racing’s departure and the success it had enjoyed as a partner with Hendrick, which includes two Sprint Cup championship in 2011 and 2014. Duchardt said his team will still provide SHR with engines and chassis this season.

“Chevrolet race cars with Hendrick Motorsports engines and chassis have won eight of the last 10 championships, and we couldn’t be more proud of the hardworking men and women responsible for that record,” said Doug Duchardt, general manager of Hendrick Motorsports. “We will continue to provide SHR’s teams with engines and chassis in 2016, and those programs will be supported appropriately. Our company has enjoyed being associated with SHR since its inception, and we will work with them this season to earn more Chevrolet victories.”

I agree on the Roush Fenway Racing comments - hardly a team that is killing it right now...but I was thinking more in terms of powerplants, and the Penske guys run Rousch-Yates engines, and flipping Logano should have won the Championship in 2015 if not for that malcontent Kenseth... Smile, Rousch-Yates as opposed to Hendrick Motorsports.

And Penske oly has two teams...they could add another with an SHR manufacturer maybe Regan Smith...
Ryan: Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing marriage prompts lingering questions
By Nate Ryan Feb 25, 2016, 8:00 PM EST

Both sides of NASCAR’s most momentous deal in recent memory each believe there is tremendous upside, or the agreement never would have been struck.

In adding Stewart-Haas Racing next season, Ford Performance gains a four-car powerhouse that has won two of the past five championships and gives the Blue Oval a legitimate shot at its first Sprint Cup manufacturer’s championship since 2002 (Chevy has won the past 13 in a statistical category based on an automaker’s highest finisher).

In aligning with Ford, SHR gains the ability to build its own chassis, taking control of its direction on car development, while also getting a sweetheart deal that surely will mean a cash infusion over its previous deal with Chevy.

The downside?

The most obvious is the potential for SHR to endure an awkward final season with Chevy chassis and engine supplier Hendrick Motorsports. While both sides have been saying the right things, the situation simply is too fraught to expect a perfectly smooth parting.

But will it be clear sailing once the new partnership begins in 2017?

Not necessarily. While it might seem as if Chevy and Hendrick are facing a more unclear future with an engine gap to fill and a power structure to address, there also will be lingering questions for Ford and SHR when their marriage officially begins in a little less than a year.

Here are a few:

–Penske cooperation: Wednesday’s announcement of the addition of SHR hardly focused on Ford’s current flagship organization: Team Penske. That might seem odd: The Fusions of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have been perennial contenders for the past two seasons, and both might have raced for the championship last year if not for late-race misfortune twice in the third round.

But Penske’s absence from the announcement also could be construed as being partially by design, telegraphing what’s to come in their relationship with the new team on the block.

With roots firmly planted in the “Unfair Advantage” philosophy that it rode to a record 16 victories in the Indianapolis 500, Penske has a history of not playing nice with others in NASCAR’s premier series. When it was a Dodge team from 2003-2012, Penske was criticized by its manufacturer teammates (such as Evernham Motorsports) for declining to collaborate on sharing information and R&D. It has a strong alliance with Wood Brothers Racing, but that’s as a supplier of both equipment and personnel (driver Ryan Blaney). The dynamics are different for cars affiliated only by a logo.

Cooperation between Penske and SHR might be a non-starter anyway if, as expected, both teams are building chassis on separate platforms. But it seems a given that the relationship will be vastly different than the harmonious relationship enjoyed by Stewart-Haas and Hendrick, which liked billing itself as a virtual eight-car team with a completely open book on crucial setup and technical data.

It’s probable – and certainly Ford’s hope – that both teams will qualify multiple cars for the playoffs. Yet there still could be lingering tension despite the mutual success in vying for exposure and recognition – reasoning that isn’t unlike what Tony Stewart cited with joining Ford to “get out of the shadows” of Hendrick, Chevy’s top dog.

–Blending personalities: It’s well documented that SHR has a combustible blend of driving personalities. Though the addition of more easygoing Clint Bowyer in place of the oft-mercurial Stewart could mean fewer sparks, the ingredients seem ripe for some conflict (recall that Kevin Harvick accosted Hendrick’s Jimmie Johnson after the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup opener) – and not just on the SHR side.

Consider that Brad Keselowski, who began driving full-time in 2010 when Penske was the lone Dodge, has hardly any experience with competing against a championship-contending team under the same manufacturer umbrella. The 2012 champion’s strength is being strong-willed, and it’ll bear watching if he views the SHR drivers as newfound allies or treats them the same.

–Whither Roush: Ford Performance Global Director Dave Pericak said there will be no reduction in support for any of its current teams, but the stakes remain high for Roush Fenway Racing. Irrespective of Wednesday’s bombshell, the pressure remains on the three-car team to recapture its championship glory from a decade ago.

If Roush struggles to qualify a car for the playoffs for the second consecutive season with Trevor Bayne, Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., it could threaten the sustainability of its Ford support.

Team owner and namesake Jack Roush is a lifelong Ford man. If the team were forced into weighing a manufacturer switch to ensure viability, Toyota wouldn’t be an option given the bellicose barbs he’s tossed at the Japanese automaker in the past. Would Chevrolet offer a potential lifeline, and if so, would the team consider it?