As dominant as Stewart-Haas Racing has been this Cup season, some of the highest praise for the organization is coming from within the Ford umbrella.
Team Penske executive vice president Walt Czarnecki made it a point to compliment the Stewart-Haas Racing organization during Friday’s team owner news conference. Penske returned to the Blue Oval in 2013. SHR is closing out its second season with Ford.
“Having them come into the Ford camp was a huge plus for everybody who runs the Ford oval,” said Czarnecki. “I think Tony [Stewart] and Gene [Haas] and everybody over there helped us elevate our game, and I think that under the corporate aegis of Ford Motor Company, they got us working together, and I think, frankly, it’s one of the reasons we’re here today.
“We’re still competitors, and we make that very clear, but I think in some ways we might have been able to help SHR, and I think in some ways they’ve been able to assist us, so I want to make sure that we recognize that point, our friends in Dearborn for doing that.”
Penske drivers Joey Logano, who is competing for the title this weekend, Brad Keselowski, and Ryan Blaney have won six races this season. The organization also made the Championship 4 last season but finished last among the title contenders.
When SHR left Chevy for Ford in 2017, it quickly adapted to its new manufacturer, with Kurt Busch’s win in the season-opening Daytona 500 and two wins from Kevin Harvick (Sonoma and Texas). Harvick’s earned spot in the title round showed the organization had the potential to be lethal. That has been very apparent this year as all four SHR cars have won a race and made up half of the Round of 8.
This year SHR is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Stewart and Haas formed what was then a two-car operation with Stewart and Ryan Newman in 2009. Stewart won the championship in 2011 (his third as a driver), and Harvick delivered a title in 2014. Harvick could be the driver to capture title number three Sunday night.
In the 1,112 NASCAR Cup Series races SHR has run, the company has won 51 times. Hearing Czarnecki’s words and reflecting on the journey was “humbling,” Stewart said.
“Obviously 10 years ago we were a two-car team [and] we didn’t know where we would end up 10 years later,” Stewart said. “Then we knew what we wanted to do and what our goal was, but still with that and the technology is so great and changes so fast in our sport, you can never predict where everything is going to end up. You have to do the work. You have to have the right people in place, and the rest of it has to work itself out.
“It’s very humbling. Roger Penske is probably the greatest car owner the world has ever seen in motorsports as far as all the spectrums of racing that they cover. That’s a huge compliment, and it’s fun. It’s been, like Walt mentioned, amazing to work with Ford. It has helped us take our program to a level that it’s never seen before, and the Penske side and the partnerships that we have together, I mean, we help raise the bar for ourselves amongst each other, and that transfers on the weekends to the rest of the competition.
“We’re proud of that partnership with Ford. We’re proud of the working relationship we have with Penske and Roush and the other Ford organizations. Together we continue just to press each other harder to make our programs better.”