It isn’t rare in sports for athletes to swap teams or even just brands, however, it is rare that the team swaps things around. But that is exactly the case for Stewart-Haas Racing.
In 2017, the organization will make the bold move, going from Chevrolet to Ford after being with the manufacturer synonymous with apple pie since its first year as Haas CNC Racing in 2002. The move, which will have a key swap to Roush Yates Engines, means that there will no longer be an alliance with NASCAR powerhouse, Hendrick Motorsports.
For a team that has won two championships since 2011, switching manufacturers is quite controversial. With fans upset due to the shocking change, it is time to consider what this means for Stewart-Haas Racing, its employees, partners and everyone else concerning the organization.
Q: What is going on with Stewart-Haas Racing? Why on earth would they switch to Ford when Roush is struggling and Team Penske is off to a rough start? Should we be worried? – Kenny R., Norfolk, Va.
A: You have to think about it in terms of the future. Stewart-Haas Racing shouldn’t be second in line to Hendrick Motorsports. Instead, it has the opportunity to do something special with Ford.
With approximately 280 employees, SHR has a lot to look out for. The move enhances the organization’s ability to be an industry leader, with a goal of creating their own chassis. As team co-owner Tony Stewart has relayed multiple times, he wants to add employees as they transition to Ford. Additionally, it will give the team a chance at creating a dynasty, comparing it to Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing, which each field cars in multiple types of motor sports.
“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,” Stewart said. “That’s what we do.”
Kurt Busch is the only driver on the team to have competed in a Ford in the past, racing with Roush from the start of his career until 2006. However, for Danica Patrick, the move means another change as she expects to settle into NASCAR’s premier division this year more than her previous seasons with SHR.
“Their ultimate goal is getting the cars to be as fast as possible and getting us to Victory Lane and in a position to then win championships,” Patrick said. “They’re doing whatever they feel will make that as real as possible. As a driver, I do everything I can to perform on the weekends. I communicate with my crew chief, and keep team morale up and other things, so our jobs are not the same.
“[Driving a Chevy my whole career] is just a matter of what happened. It’s not because I said ‘I want to drive a Chevy’ or ‘I want to drive a Ford’ or ‘I want to drive a Toyota’. It has nothing to do with that. It’s about the team and the people involved and I think that Tony’s done a great job of getting people involved that are great and that create successful teams.”
For Roush Yates Engines, which provides powerhouses to Roush Fenway Racing, Team Penske, Wood Brothers Racing, Go Green Racing, Front Row Motorsports and Richard Petty Motorsports, the addition of SHR to its stable means more jobs and approximately 60 more engines each season. Additionally, it will provide them a boost as they attempt to break Chevrolet’s streak of 13 straight manufacturer titles, spanning since 2003.
“For us, that’s four more top-notch cars, opportunities to win races and championships,” Doug Yates said Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “But the work starts now because we’ve got to get ready for next year. … Today, we build about 750 Cup, XFINITY and Truck engines a year. At our road race shop we build about 250 a year. Obviously, we will have to add some people. We feel like we have a good process, we just have to add volume.”
Though Ford has struggled recently, specifically with RFR and RPM each going winless since the summer of 2014, add Stewart-Haas will give an additional four cars in the stable a chance to help the others succeed. With SHR’s massive technical support coming into play, it will only make the entire Ford camp stronger.
Q: I saw John Hunter Nemechek win a race on Saturday, but his truck was all black. Why is a guy that is winning race have no sponsors? – Marcy K. St. Louis, Mo.
A: I truly have no clue. I don’t think many people do. John Hunter Nemechek is one of the top rising stars in NASCAR, and his ability has been shown time-and-time again. The well-known surname is there: Nemechek. One would think that would help gather sponsors instantly, especially since his father, four-time Cup Series winner Joe Nemechek, is a rather household name to avid fans.
But for some reason, this No. 8 truck is constantly black ever since SWM-NEMCO Motorsports made its Camping World Truck Series debut in late 2013. Last season, the team didn’t have sponsorship for five events out of the 18 that the younger Nemechek competed in, along with one for his father.
There is definitely some sort of problem that a young, marketable racecar driver is not getting more funding. It is sad to say that as he moves through the rankings, it could increasingly become a problem. While his dad’s funding is helping him at the moment, that may not be the case five years from now.
Last season, Nemechek earned his first career victory at Chicagoland, showcasing his skills at saving fuel in a pressure-cooker of a situation. In just the second race of 2016, he piloted his No. 8 truck to Victory Lane at Atlanta, leading the final eight laps en route to the triumph. During both victories, his truck didn’t have a primary sponsor.
I can tell you this: Nemechek will have a sponsor soon. If he continues to compete for wins like he has, someone will partner with NEMCO to have their logos slapped on that truck.
Receiving motors from Earnhardt-Childress Engines, the organization is largely independent from the other teams in the garage. The only other full-time team with ECR motors is GMS Racing, which is not aligned with NEMCO.
Obviously, it is certainly a question that the marketing folks within the team cannot get their hands wrapped on. But for a driver that had an average finish of 9.5 with eight top 5s and 10 top 10s in just 18 races, it makes you wonder what else Nemechek can do to get the attention of a potential sponsor.
He’s young. He’s fast. He’s talented. He has a well-known last name. What else does he need to do?
Have a question? Email me at Joseph.Wolkin@Gmail.com and make sure to check back next week when we’ll answer your questions on all things NASCAR.