By Geoff Bodine
February 27, 2016
I was pretty surprised by the news of Stewart-Haas Racing announcing their partnership with Ford Performance next season, but in this business, news out of left field does happen. Nothing lasts forever.
A great example is that Jeff Gordon didn’t run a Chevrolet his entire career in NASCAR–he ran a Pontiac, Ford and Oldsmobile in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in the early 1990s.
At this time, there’s more questions than answers, and it will be an interesting story to follow.
The Potential for Distractions
Could the manufacturer swap announcement this early in the season be a distraction for SHR? It’s a situation we will have to watch, but I don’t think it will be a distraction for them.
The suppliers they’re getting their engines and other equipment from could be a different story. Yet, they’re all professionals. I wouldn’t expect them to do anything to hurt the team.
What could potentially be distracting is the media attention this move brings for Stewart-Haas. Drivers and owners are used to being asked tough questions. For the four drivers, Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch, I don’t think it will be a big deal for them.
Through my professional career, I’ve been fortunate to drive different brands of cars. I started in Cup with an Oldsmobile, drove a Buick and eventually moved to a Pontiac.
I drove a Chevy with Rick Hendrick and I made the big jump from a General Motors manufacturer to Ford with Junior Johnson in 1990. I also drove a Dodge for Bill Davis Racing in 2002 and a Toyota for Larry Gunselman in 2009.
It feels strange to jump to a different manufacturer. You form alliances with a lot of people, especially when you’re with a brand for a while.
You hate disrupting it, because people are very brand loyal in racing. Not only the folks with the brand aren’t happy that a team or driver are leaving, but also, your race fans may stop cheering for you.
Some fans, of course, go with a driver no matter what. That can be a touchy subject for the manufacturer and the fans.
But the bottom line is, is that all the manufacturers treat their drivers well.
As far as the employees in the shop, it generally isn’t as big of a deal. In today’s world with the Generation-6 car, bodies are pretty similar. The nose might look different and same for the window opening, but the frame, roll cage, everything looks the same.
For the drivers, they’ll have to remember who to plug during interviews. They’re going to have to remember “Ford, Ford, Ford,” not “Chevy, Chevy, Chevy.”
Every once in awhile, you slip, which everyone expects you to slip occasionally.
If I was driving for Stewart-Haas and was told we would be fielding Ford’s next season, I would be very happy. The Roush-Yates Engine package is strong.
When you get in the car, and get behind-the-wheel, they all go. You truly can’t tell the difference between the manufacturers. Those cars are so close in setup today.
Generally speaking, I don’t believe any business likes to lose business. By four teams going somewhere else, that’s a lot of engines that Hendrick doesn’t have to build.
I have no idea what the ripple effect will be on Hendrick Engines, but I’m sure everyone will survive.
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.