WEAVER: Ford Finds a Bigger Gun in Stewart-Haas Racing
Ford hasn’t won a manufacturer’s championship in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since 2003. That’s been the exclusive domain of Chevrolet, who leads the highest level of the sport with 749 victories and 39 championships.
So it came as a significant shock when Stewart Haas Racing announced on Wednesday morning that it would switch from Chevrolet to Ford for the start of the 2017 season.
This is astonishing on several levels.
First, Stewart Haas has enjoyed a lot of success as an extension of Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet. It has won two championships and 30 races since 2009, while employing two of the most recognizable Chevy mainstays in Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick.
Why would Stewart Haas walk away from the Hendrick support that’s made them one of the most dominant entities in recent NASCAR history? What would convince SHR co-owner Tony Stewart to leave Chevrolet, especially give how disappointed he was that he had to drive a Toyota in his final season at Joe Gibbs Racing when it left Chevy in 2008?
At this point, it’s mere speculation, but like most things in motorsports, money probably did most of the talking.
Ford has enjoyed a degree of success with Team Penske since joining forces in 2012 but has also had to endure its most tenured partner in Roush Fenway Racing falling into the depths of the middle of the pack. Surely Ford, looking to strengthen its overall NASCAR effort, examined several options and were able to work out a deal with SHR that, at least on paper, appeared to strengthen both parties.
This is likely a damning blow to Roush-fenway which will surely be relegated to third in the Blue Oval pecking order, but Ford needed a bigger metaphorical gun to challenge the Chevrolet and Toyota powerhouses. With the announcement that SHR will be joining Ford at the start of the 2017 season, it’s probably a safe bet that the 12-year Chevrolet manufacturer’s winning streak will also be challenged like never before.
Much more will come out in the coming hours and days, but one thing has been made abundantly clear — Ford has found a bigger gun.
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