Stewart-Haas switch to Ford is bold NASCAR power play

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Sports is always about one-upmanship. Nobody really cares about consolation prizes. If not, we wouldn’t keep score.

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It relates to NASCAR very clearly: Chevy is on top, Toyota is making significant strides and Ford lags behind, accepting bronze medals on the podium. The last time Ford won the Cup season title was 2004 with Kurt Busch driving for Jack Roush.

Ford’s top outfit the past couple of years has been Penske Racing. There’s no doubt that Penske team-mates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano can compete with anyone on the track, but it isn’t enough against a stacked deck of Chevys and Toyotas. Those manufacturers snagged 16 of the top 18 spots in the Daytona 500, including race winner Denny Hamlin in a Toyota.

Monday in Atlanta, Chevy Man Jimmie Johnson won under the Hendrick Motorsports banner. The highest Ford finisher was Keselowski, who came in ninth.

Stir up all these factors, and you’ll understand why is switching from Chevy to Ford in 2017. The move was a shocker because no one read the tea leaves before the announcement.

And it’s a game-changer, obviously, for Ford, which has lagged behind in recent years. Neither Roush-Fenway Racing nor the gang from Richard Petty Motorsports have enough manpower or horsepower to compete consistently.

“What SHR [Stewart-Haas Racing] has now done is serve notice: they want to come out from under the umbrella of being a satellite organization to Hendrick Motorsports and be a lead organization for Ford,” former NASCAR crew chief Jeff Hammond wrote on Foxsports.com.

Yes, it’s a power play for co-owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, too. They will now own the elite super-team of the Ford brand heading into 2017. Kevin Harvick is a perennial championship favorite. Busch is always sniffing around at the front of the pack.

Clint Bowyer, who will replace Stewart behind the wheel of the No. 14 car in 2017, is another A-list driver. Danica Patrick lags behind, but if her results ever catch up with her star-power, NASCAR would blow up.

Each of the three manufacturers will have a four-car “super-team” by 2017. Instead of being low on the Chevy pecking order, SHR rises to the top at Ford. And obviously with a nice pile of money as compensation. Terms of the deal were not announced.

“I have 280 employees to look out for — and their families,” Stewart said. “It was a business decision. It’s what is best for our company going forward. This was a decision that was made because of the passion that I see with Ford and their commitment to Stewart-Haas Racing in the future.”

Unlike the deal with Chevy, Stewart-Haas will build its own chassis as it transitions to Ford. The power will come from Roush Yates engines, which supplies all the Ford teams in the Cup garage.

Everything circles back to that word: Power.

It’s a paradigm shift for the sport. This isn’t your granddaddy’s NASCAR. If he was a Chevy Man, it will break his heart.

If he was a Ford Man, then let’s get ready to rumble.

TNS

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