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NASCAR Owner Haas Exploring Formula 1 Run

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 17 2014

Gene Haas, who co-owns Stewart-Haas Racing and employs Danica Patrick, is eyeing Formula One. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas is exploring the possibility of fielding an American-based team in Formula One, reportedly beginning in 2015.

Haas is co-owner with three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart of Stewart-Haas Racing. According to various reports, Haas’ interest in F1 is the result of an announcement in December from the governing Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) that it would consider entries for a new team beginning in 2015.

“We have responded to the FIA’s ‘call for expression of interest’ regarding a Formula One entry on behalf of Haas Racing Development,” Haas said in a statement released from Kannapolis, N.C., on Thursday. “We respect the FIA’s evaluation process and will share more details in the coming weeks.”

The last United States-based team to attempt to compete in Formula One was USF1 _ ironically, based in Charlotte, N.C. While the team fronted by former F1 television commentator Peter Windsor was granted entry for the 2010 season and generated reams of publicity, the operation never got past the chassis-construction phase and was disbanded.

Haas, however, is an accomplished businessman. He is founder, president and sole-stockholder of Haas Automation, a leader in CNC machine tool manufacturing. Haas, whose CNC Racing joined NASCAR in 2002 as a Chevrolet team, partnered with Stewart in 2008 after “Smoke” left Joe Gibbs Racing to form Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart won his third Cup championship with Haas in 2011.

Meanwhile, Autosport.com reported that “high-level sources” had confirmed that Haas is working with former Red Bull Racing and Jaguar technical director Gunther Steiner on the F1 project. “Haas Racing Development has asked for a license and expressed an interest, but at the moment we have no further comment to make,” Steiner told Autosport. “The FIA is still in the decision-making process and there is still one more step to go before they award the license.”

SHR recently expanded its facilities in North Carolina, which could be part of the run-up to an F1 program. Autosport also reported that Haas owns factory facilities in Brussels that could become a European base. Haas also owns the full-scale Windshear wind tunnel, a facility regularly used by F1 teams for aerodynamic development.

If the project is approved by all parties, Autosport reported that Haas likely would partner with Dallara Automobili to build its first F1 chassis. The Italian manufacturer currently is sole-supplier of chassis run in the IndyCar Series.

There certainly is renewed marketing incentive for an American team, and sponsors, to join F1’s globe-trotting “Flying Circus.” The 2014 F1 calendar includes a stop at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, which will play host to its third annual United States Grand Prix in November as part of a 10-year contract. A second American F1 race, tentatively planned for a street course in New Jersey with the New York City skyline as its backdrop, remains on hold because of financing.

Stewart-Haas Racing, which has logged 19 Cup victories since 2009, will field Chevrolet SS stock cars in 2014 for Stewart and holdover Danica Patrick, as well as SHR newcomers Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. Harvick joined the team after a long tenure with Richard Childress Racing, while Busch – the 2004 Cup champion – drove for Furniture Row Racing last season.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 17 2014
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  • Russ says:

    There must be gold in them thar hills. Certainly F1 wants a American team because of the US car market.However it is almost inconceivable that such a team would be more than a back marker for many years to come.
    What makes sense is that this is merely a stalking horse. With Bernie coming ever closer to the end of his ability to manage F1 (I believe he is in his mid 80’s) change is coming. Could this be an entree into an attempt to take over F1, much like they did the ALMS? Makes more sense than a viable race team.