If you are like me, you about fell out of the bed (down your stairs, off your toilet, or wherever you were) when you heard that SHR announced this morning they would be switching manufacturers and going with Ford starting in 2017. I know I nearly made poor Abbie pee herself as I sat there on the edge of my bed having just woken up, trying to find out if what I was reading was true or one of those weird internet rumors. (Fear not AbbieRoo held it like a champ til I could get it processed that I was reading truth and not fiction).
I admit I was completely shocked and wondering what was going on. Then I read the actual SHR announcement in its entirety and I started to read between the lines a little bit. And decided that this manufacturer switch might not be as crazy as it sounds. Wait what did I just say?!
Hear me out: Let’s start with what we know to be facts about this situation: SHR will be building their own chassis and using a Roush-Yates prepared power plant (just as an aside for you – that is the the same power plant if I am not mistaking that Carl Edwards nearly won the 2011 championship with). This is just speculation on my part of course, but reading between the lines of the full press release I am figuring that the Ford deal is bringing more to the table than Stewart-Haas Racing than Chevrolet. It’s probable that they are bring not just more money (because come on- we all know money talks) but I think there is a big jump in the technological (engineering) support to the team and that right there might have made the big difference. We all know that the cars they race in NASCAR are not stock off the dealership floor like they use to be. Technology in motorsports (and hence NASCAR) is constantly changing with the newest latest and greatest innovations. I get the sense that perhaps SHR will be able to get more of the technological support with the Ford deal than they currently have with their current Chevrolet deal.
But let’s not be one sided here- this deal is not just a benefit on SHR’s side. Think about what Ford is getting: a team that has consistently had at least one but usually multiple entries in the chase for the cup. That right there is exposure and chances at a championship. Currently, Stewart-Haas is not considered Chevy’s premiere team. That goes to Hendrick Motorsports and there is no denying that question. However, by moving to Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing can be very well jockeying for position as their manufacturer’s premiere team. Possibly another reason for the switch.
Motorsports and specifically NASCAR fans are very sponsor/brand loyal overall more so than in any other sport – I read an article several years ago that had data to back up this claim but damned if I can find it now to reference. I am sure this fact is not lost on Stewart-Haas Racing or on Tony Stewart himself. This decision did not come lightly. They know that there is a part of their fan base that will not like this change. And they don’t. I have been watching the reactions online. There are fans that are upset. There are fans that are excited because they drive a Ford and now their team/driver will be driving a Ford. There are fans wondering where SHR’s loyalty is (as background, I believe that Haas ran Chevy before the incarnation of SHR with the exception of one year when they ran Pontiac). This is not lost on Tony Stewart as he mentioned during the teleconference:
“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.” Tony Stewart, 2/24/16 teleconference (Source: FoxSports)
So one would have to think that Ford must have had a very attractive package to woo the team into switching manufacturers.
In Tony’s NASCAR career only- he has driven Pontiacs, Chevys and Toyotas. And for those who are crushed by the switch- here is a little someting to consider this- Tony himself won’t be in the car so technically HE won’t be driving a Ford, he will be the co-owner of a team that is a Ford team.
I personally look at like this- I am a fan of Tony Stewart. I really don’t care what he drives. For instance- my favorite Global Rally Cross driver drives a Volkswagon not a Chevy.
Now as for me personally? I am a Chevy girl- 3 of the 4 cars I have driven in my 27 plus years as a licensed driver (I didn’t even have to do math to figure that out- it was a fact that was conveniently pointed out to me on my car insurance renewal statement) have been Chevrolets (a used 1990 Chevy Lumina gifted to me by my parents in 1995), a 2008 Chevy HHR, and currently a 2014 Chevy Equinox). I didn’t stop being a fan of Tony’s the year he drove a Toyota.
My only real concern about the switch is I worry that when my driver, Tony Stewart, comes back into the car. It’s his last season and I really want my driver to go out on a strong positive note. I worry that their current partnerships with Chevy and Hendrick will suffer following this announcement so early in the season. THAT is my current and immediate concern about the switch.
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