By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
Deep down you can feel a shift of power occurring among the manufacturers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ranks. Chevrolet has long had it’s foot on the throat of the competition, but weeks ago, one of the manufacturer’s strongest teams, Stewart-Haas Racing, announced that they are jumping ship after the 2016 season.
But what kind of an impact will Stewart-Haas have on Ford’s attempt at catching Chevrolet as the Series’ top car brand? Ryan Blaney, who drives a Ford for the iconic Wood Brothers Racing organization, talked to Tribute Racing about SHR’s swap to Ford on Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway.
“I think it’s a really good move. I’m excited that Ford has brought in another powerhouse team to their program,” Blaney told Tribute Racing. “I think it’s going to really help out all the Ford teams. Just having four more cars in the Ford camp – you just look at numbers and the odds increases, championship expectations and odds. You put more cars out there to go try to win races and that’s what Ford is all about, trying to win races and championships.”
Blaney is optimistic that this move will bolster the Ford Performance racing camp, which aside from Team Penske, has struggled to win races over the last few years.
When you don’t win races, championships are even harder to come by. It’s been 14 years since another manufacturer aside from Chevrolet won the Cup Series manufacturer’s championship, and in the last 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series seasons Ford Performance has failed to rack up any driver’s championships.
Overall, Ford drivers have just two titles over the last 16 seasons. It’s pretty safe to say it has been pretty rough stretch for the blue oval teams, but perhaps with the addition of SHR all of that can change in 2017. The SHR team has won two of the past five championships in the Cup Series, and Kevin Harvick was one finishing position shy of adding a third cup to the mantle last season.
The team will bring in three of the most talented drivers in the sport in Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer, as well as one of the sport’s most marketable drivers in Danica Patrick. The team also has a slew of smart people turning the wrenches and it’s all led by crew chiefs Rodney Childers and Tony Gibson.
But it’s obvious that SHR should not miss a step even with a manufacturer swap. The real question is: Can SHR help the Ford Performance camp improve as a whole? If so it will probably take an unheard of level of cooperation between SHR and the other teams in the Ford camp moving forward. Blaney is optimistic that his team will have an opportunity to collaborate with the power-house organization.
“You never know, we might work really well together,” Blaney explained. “Different organizations, teams, typically don’t share information. Even if they are the same manufacturer, but you never know. I think it’s a good move, for sure.”
Whether this is the start of a new dominating future for Ford Performance remains to be seen, but for once it feels like a manufacturer is being set up to go toe-for-toe with Chevrolet in the near future.
NOTE: Joey Barnes contributed to this story
Image: Sean Gardner/Getty Images