In an off season that included Carl Edwards’ sudden departure, the subsequent promotion of Daniel Suarez and a revamped points system, it’s easy to forget one of the more intriguing storylines coming into this season.
Stewart-Haas-Racing (SHR) announced that the team would move to Ford engines starting in 2017, ending an eight-year run with Chevrolet. This past weekend, the four-car team, which includes past champions Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, along with Danica Patrick and Clint Bowyer, finally put the new engines to the pavement.
“It was like a homecoming,” said Busch, who won 14 races and one championship (2004) with Ford from 2002-2005. “It feels great to be back with Ford and Doug Yates, especially. I have always been driving by his shop in Mooresville just looking at the times we had together back early in my career, so it feels like a homecoming.”
“Everybody at Ford has been wonderful. We want the manufacturer title, we want the team title, driver title, we want everything for the Blue Oval this year,” he added.
Because SHR doesn’t build its own engines, Ford supplier Roush Yates will be providing the engines. Before the split with Chevrolet, SHR had been receiving engines and chassis from Hendrick Motorsports. This year, for the first time, SHS will also build its own chassis.
“I think that being under Hendrick with the Chevrolet relationship, I think put us in a step-down position because we’re getting engines from a competitor,” Patrick said. “With Ford, Roush Yates is independent; that’s a real positive for us as a team to be able to create our own destiny.”
“I think as you look at Ford, it’s been pretty straight forward of what the expectations are, especially when it comes to Superspeedways,” Harvick said. “We’ll try not to hinder each other. I think when you look at us and how this race has shaken out over the last few years with the Toyotas just lining up, you’re going to have some help to compete with that.”
“I think we have the fastest cars as the Fords are concerned, and I think the three of us were able to make some pretty quick ground during the Clash. I’m excited about it.”
Harvick did add that he felt the balance in the new car was different than he was used to, and that the handling last weekend “was a bit off.” Busch, meanwhile, said he may not be able to tell the real differences until later in the season.
“I can’t wait to get to the downforce tracks and the short tracks and feel it all out,” he said. “Once we get past that West coast run, it’s gonna be a good time to evaluate everything. The Hendrick thing and where we were, they were great for us at SHR. I mean, they were the early years of building that foundation up at Stewart-Haas Racing and they did a good job.”
“They won championships and won races, but now we’ve switched to Ford and this is a better template to have in place.”
THE NEWS JOURNAL/TNS