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Stewart-Haas Won’t Be Missed At Hendrick

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, October 14 2016
Jimmie Johnson said Friday that his Hendrick Motorsports team will survive the departure of alliance partner Stewart-Haas Racing next year. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

Jimmie Johnson said Friday that his Hendrick Motorsports team will survive the departure of alliance partner Stewart-Haas Racing next year. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Apparently eyes will remain desert-sand dry at Hendrick Motorsports after Stewart-Haas Racing bolts the HMS/Chevrolet fold and moves into the Ford camp next season.

So said Hendrick bell cow driver Jimmie Johnson at Kansas Speedway on Friday. The alliance between the teams, he said, has become one-sided.

sprint-logo-08SHR was founded in 2009 when Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart hooked up with team owner and businessman Gene Haas.

Success came quickly as owner/driver Stewart won four races in that first season and finished sixth in points. Teammate Ryan Newman posted five top-five finishes and finished ninth in points. Over the following years, the team’s drivers won 30 more races while Stewart won the Cup championship in 2011 and teammate Kevin Harvick the 2014 Cup championship.

Many credited the alliance with HMS and its famed engine shop for that success.

In February of this year, it was announced that SHR was moving to Ford. The announcement stunned many in the sport. Stewart had spent much of his career as a Chevy guy and his decision to leave Joe Gibbs Racing – for whom he had won two Cup championships – was, in part, a reaction to JGR moving to Toyota.

Stewart’s Chevy fans were not happy with the announcement.

“I understand some people are upset and I’ve also read comments from people who are ecstatic about it,” Stewart told reporters at the time. “You can’t overlook great opportunities.”

Just a business decision, he added.

Johnson on Friday said SHR will not be missed next year. The six-time Cup champion said the relationship had become one-sided and no longer benefits Hendrick Motorsports.

“Just to be selfishly speaking on Hendrick Motorsports the Stewart-Haas relationship we didn’t get their data,” Johnson said. “We didn’t share their data, they had ours.  So, it was a fantastic situation for them. They had our best stuff and then they have a huge engineering staff and they can take Hendrick’s best equipment and refine it and make it better.”

Late in 2014, SHR announced that it had hired long-time HMS engineerRex Stump – the person played a large part in building Jeff Gordon’s radical, NASCAR-banned T-Rex all-star race car in 1997.

Johnson also said that the relationship between the teams went further south in 2014.

“You know before Rodney Childers and Kevin Harvick were at Stewart-Haas it worked pretty good for us,” he said. “We had a bunch of income for the company, didn’t have to worry about racing for wins or championships against the Stewart-Haas equipment, but those guys changed the game and bringing Kurt Busch and Tony himself and all that is there you start questioning the relationship and if it really is the right thing, especially, with us not sharing the data.  There were some things going on that were helpful and data was moving around a little bit, but they really had all the rights to our stuff; we didn’t have the rights to theirs.”

Later on Friday, Hendrick general manager Doug Douchardt met with the media for a bit of damage control.

“This morning Jimmie made a comment in the media center about Hendrick Motorsports relationship with Stewart-Haas Racing and how that worked in the past,” Duchardt said. “I just want to clarify something that Jimmie said.  That is simply that the relationship from a data standpoint was a two-way relationship. They received our information, we received their information. That is the way it had worked from the time I have been at Hendrick Motorsports.

“That is basically it.  We received information from Stewart-Haas when we worked with them. Obviously, when they made their announcement to Ford that changed things.  But the bottom line is that as partners we exchanged data between each other.”

After SHR announced their move, Duchardt said, the data swapping stopped, though HMS continues to supply parts and equipment to Stewart’s teams, Duchardt said.

“From a technical relationship standpoint the information got cut off, but we build their engines, we build their chassis’ to their specifications,” he said. “They get certain chassis components from us that we have supplied over the years rear-end housing, lower control arms, truck arms things like that. They continue to receive those to their specifications from our shop.”

Duchardt said he met with Johnson after word of his driver’s comments reached him.

Johnson was asked if he thought that Hendrick needed to build an alliance with another team in the wake of Stewart-Haas’ departure.

Johnson said probably not.

“If (team owner) Mr. Hendrick can raise the money to not have that relationship, I think for us, selfishly it is better not to. We would always like to have some people running our engines and trying to do durability stuff on new motors that are coming out.  I would imagine having a couple of cars out there we will always have that, but a team at that high of caliber again, I believe we would look really hard before we made that decision again.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, October 14 2016
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