Stewart-Haas Racing this week made the shock announcement that they would switch from Chevrolet power to Ford for the 2017 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. As team co-owner Tony Stewart explained in a teleconference, the decision to switch from Chevy to Ford was made so SHR could do more fabrication in-house and be more successful going forward, but was it a bad idea? SportingNews.com’s Jeff Owens thinks so.
On the surface the SHR-Ford move seems logical. SHR currently buys their chassis and engines from Hendrick Motorsports, which is and always will be the No. 1 Chevy team in the eyes of General Motors. By moving to Ford, there’s a good chance SHR could be Ford’s new banner team alongside Team Penske, so they could begin to build their own chassis and other components in-house that, in theory, could be better than the customer components Hendrick would sell to fellow Chevy teams.
It also seems the relationship between SHR and Hendrick has somewhat deteriorated over the past year, if remarks made by Stewart are any indication. SHR has managed to outperform Hendrick while running their engines and chassis, so it would be no surprise if they were beginning to get a bit frustrated with the outcome of the partnership.
“I feel like our relationship with Hendrick has been changing a little bit over the last year,” Stewart said. “The technical side of it has changed quite a bit going into this season, so we’ve kind of been working in this direction.”
These reasons don’t justify the switch in the eyes of critics, however. Owens and others believe Chevy will shut out SHR over the next year so they don’t bring their data over to Ford, which would obviously have a negative affect on their performance in 2016. It will also take time for SHR to warm up to building their chassis, so success isn’t guaranteed out the gate. Don’t forget the legions of Chevy fans that will no longer root for Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart (who will be replaced by Clint bowyer in the No. 14 car next year) on Sunday.
Stewart isn’t worried, though. He believes the switch to Ford will have little impact on SHR’s performance in 2016 and wouldn’t have signed on with Ford if he wasn’t confident in his team’s ability while flying the Blue Oval banner.
“I don’t feel like it’s going to be a step backwards,” Stewart said. “We’re committed to Chevrolet this year and we’re committed to winning races and trying to contend for a championship again this year. They realize that. We’re still all-in this year with Chevrolet.”