2017 is going to be a banner year for change at Stewart-Haas Racing. Not only is the driver whose name is half of the race team’s name retiring at the end of the season, but the race shop is switching manufacturers. Plus, earlier this week, they announced plans to field a full-time, single-car team in the Xfinity Series. Driver and sponsor lineups will be announced prior to the conclusion of the 2016 season. It’s all in the name of becoming self-sufficient and staying competitive.
One of the biggest changes for the 2017 season, and a massive surprise to many is the fact that SHR will be switching from Chevrolet to Ford. The 2016 season marked the beginning of a spinning down of the long relationship between Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports. HMS has provided chassis and engines for SHR and has ties back to SHR as far back as 2002.
HMS owner, Rick Hendrick was told performance was not the issue with SHR switching to Ford, but rather “it only what made the most business sense.”
Chassis building will be brought in house with the switch of manufacturers.
On top of the change in manufacturers for 2017, the No. 14 team will have a new driver behind the wheel. Clint Bowyer will drive the No. 14 in 2017, after his single year stint with HScott Motorsports. Bowyer will replace Tony Stewart, who is retiring at the end of the 2016 season. In three seasons, Bowyer will have driven all three manufacturers — Toyota with Michael Waltrip Racing in 2014, Chevrolet with HScott Motorsports and Ford next year with SHR.
Full-Time Xfinity Team
The Most noteworthy change for next year, and for the future of the race shop is SHR’s announcement that they are fielding an Xfinity Team. Having a full-time entry in the Xfinity series offers SHR a place to train and develop talent — drivers, crew and equipment.
SHR likely has seen and envied the success Cup teams like Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports (via JR Motorsports) have had in developing talent via the lower national series. Having the equivalent of a farm team, also makes finding substitute drivers a bit easier. Incidents like Stewart’s back injury that made him miss the beginning of his final season will become a slightly easier process.
In 2014, SHR broke ground on new buildings on its Kannapolis, North Carolina campus. SHR’s car build outsourcing reduction, along with the creation of an Xfinity race shop, make the additions make more sense now. Without these pieces of the puzzle, it was a bit perplexing. The SHR Cup teams were already maxed at 4 cars. More fabrication and an Xfinity team make the new structures logical and almost a necessity.
Source: Stewart-Haas Racing – Stewart-Haas Racing to Field NASCAR XFINITY Series Team Beginning in 2017