Stewart-Haas Racing shocked everyone in the NASCAR community as they began their Wednesday morning. The racing team, who holds two Sprint Cup Series championships since their inception in 2009, announced a manufacture switch from Chevrolet to Ford that will begin in 2017.
The news comes as a surprise because co-owner Tony Stewart and General Motors have held a long-standing relationship in NASCAR. Though it isn’t the first time Stewart has seen himself with a different manufacture. Pontiac served as the manufacture when Stewart began his Sprint Cup Series career in 1999 with Joe Gibbs Racing. Pontiac left NASCAR in 2002 and the racing team switched to Chevrolet before fielding Toyota’s in 2008.
“I am proud of our association with Chevrolet as they helped build our organization into the team it is today,” said Tony Stewart, co-owner, Stewart-Haas Racing in a release. “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 is a team that uses engines, chassis and technical support provided by Hendrick Motorsports. Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, played a major role in helping Stewart form a racing team with Gene Haas and Joe Custer.
“As you know, we’ve had a great relationship with Hendrick Motorsports. Rick was a big part of helping me meet Gene and Joe Custer and helping me become part of the Stewart-Haas family,” said Stewart in a teleconference. “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.”
The goal for the racing team is to be self-sufficient as they head into the 2017 Sprint Cup Series season.
“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,” continued Stewart. “We’re gonna be adding a lot of personnel to our organization, doing our own chassis program, and we’re excited about it. We see this as a lot of growth for Stewart-Haas Racing. It’s not just changing OEMs, it’s a great opportunity for us to kind of get out of the shadows and, to some degree, get off the coattails, to a certain degree, and really get out on our own and I think that’s something everybody here at SHR is really excited about and proud that we’re finally in a position to do this and branch out in this way.”
The racing team will continue to field four entries in the Sprint Cup Series with Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch. An interim driver will fill the void in the No. 14 Chevrolet until Stewart recovers from an off-season accident. Clint Bowyer will replace Stewart in the No. 14 ride in 2017 as Stewart will retire from racing in the Sprint Cup Series.