Stewart-Haas Racing stunned the NASCAR world this week with the announcement that they would switch from Team Chevy to Ford Performance for the 2017 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Team co-owner Tony Stewart is a longtime Chevrolet fan and athlete, so the switch to Ford was a shock to many, but he says it was for the good of the team.
Speaking to media during a teleconference yesterday, Stewart said the decision to switch from Chevrolet engines to Ford was best for the team as it allows them to operate more independently. Right now, SHR buys their engines and chassis from Hendrick Motorsports, but the Ford switch will allow them to do more fabrication in-house.
“As you know, we’ve had a great relationship with Hendrick Motorsports,” Stewart said. “We’ve had a great relationship with their motor program, the chassis program and the technical side and we’re grateful for the partnership we’ve had with them, but, obviously, it will change in some respects for 2016 with this news, but we believe we’ll still have a really good working relationship for another year this year.”
“As far as next year, we’re trying to do everything we can to try to be as self-sufficient as we can going into 2017. We’re gonna be adding a lot of personnel to our organization, doing our own chassis program, and we’re excited about it.”
SHR also made the switch to Ford as it was a good business decision, explains Stewart. ‘Smoke’ may be a life-long Chevy guy, but as a business owner, he must always have his employees’ best interests in mind. He thinks the Ford switch can net them more wins and championships, so it’s hard to fault him for wanting what’s best for his brand.
“Obviously, for 20 years I’ve been under the GM banner,” Stewart said. “I was very honest when I spoke to our employees this morning. I never would have dreamed that we were gonna be having this conversation today, but, at the same time, because of this being a very big business — I have 280 employees to look out for, their families, I have Gene’s best interest to look out for when we’re making decisions here. It was a business decision. It’s what is best for our company going forward. There’s a little bit of a tug-o-war with me because of my loyalty, but, at the same time, I didn’t have any of those relationships when I came into this sport. I went through the same thing when Joe Gibbs Racing switched to Toyota.”
Stewart says that for now, SHR is focused on this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta. He added that “at some point we’re gonna (sic) need to start preparing for the transition,” but also said they want to be careful not jeopardize their 2016 season and will continue to vie for a championship under the bowtie banner throughout 2016.
“Our partnership with Ford doesn’t start until next year, and we’re excited about it, but this year we’re still a Chevy team and we’re still committed to going out and doing everything we can to win races and a championship for them.”
Read Stewart’s full transcript from teleconference at this link.