24 February 2016

Stewart-Haas Racing switching from Chevy to Ford is truly a stunner

In the world of NASCAR, teams changing their manufacturer affiliations happens every once in a while and most of the team, they aren't that big of a deal. For example, Furniture Row Racing moved from Chevrolet to Toyota this offseason and it didn't make a lot of of headlines.

But today's news that Stewart-Haas Racing was moving from the bowtie of Chevy to the blue oval of Ford was truly a stunner and here is why.

First of all, considering the strong relationship that most of the SHR drivers have with Chevrolet, that makes it a surprise. Kevin Harvick has been one of Chevy's flagship drivers for much of the millennium and Danica Patrick has been exclusively aligned with Chevy since first dabbling in NASCAR in 2010. Most notable, team co-owner Tony Stewart has a very close relationship with Chevy as they help fund his various racing efforts and he was never particularly fond of when Joe Gibbs Racing joined Toyota in 2008, creating SHR later that season.

Second, SHR has become one of the elite organizations in the sport. They have won two championships (Tony Stewart in 2011 and Kevin Harvick in 2014) and almost all of their drivers in their short history have made the Chase, with the exception of Patrick. They have also benefitted from a strong partnership with Hendrick Motorsports, who are still the top team in the sport.

So why did this move happen? While staying a little coy, co-owner Gene Haas, who founded the original Haas CNC Racing back in 2003, seemed to indicate that they will greatly benefit financially from the move. Another facet of the deal that Haas noted was being able to have some more independence as an organization instead of having to rely on someone else.

It will certainly be a boon for Ford, even at what is thought to be a high cost. Top teams simply don't switch manufacturers very often as the last one to do it was the aforementioned Joe Gibbs Racing. Ford only had Penske as a team that was consistently in the championship mix as Roush Fenway Racing has struggled over the last several seasons and now they get another one.

As for SHR, I don't think you'll see much if any decline next season not only because Ford will be giving them a ton of resources but because by adding Clint Bowyer next year, who will replace the retiring Tony Stewart, they should have three championship-caliber programs.

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