Rick Hendrick surprised by Stewart-Haas move to Ford but no changes or cuts planned

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HAMPTON, Ga. – Though Stewart-Haas Racing’s move to Ford in 2017 was somewhat unexpected to engine and chassis supplier Hendrick Motorsports, team owner Rick Hendrick says his company won’t be scrambling.

It kind of caught me by surprise, but in way, I’m not surprised that someone like Ford or another manufacturer would go after them,” Hendrick said Sunday before the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “We just planned we’re going to do everything we can to help them win this year and finish out the year, and then we’ll move on.

“As far as our company goes, we’ve been pretty much taxed to keep up with all the customers we have. I think what we’re going to do now is turn our efforts inward and do more R&D and give us a chance to do more research and development than we’ve been doing in the last couple of years because our guys have been flat-out. We’re going to take a little bit of a breather, and I’m not going to lay off anybody or get rid of any people. All of my folks got jobs because we’ve got plenty to do.”

In announcing the move Wednesday, Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart alluded to the team’s relationship with Hendrick changing in its final season.

Hendrick said it would be a natural byproduct of SHR building its own chassis starting next season.

“I think they’ll be working on stuff they don’t want us to see because they’ll have to start their own chassis shop,” Hendrick said. “We’ve been gentlemen about it, we’re all friends, we all understand the dynamics of what’s going on. And so we’ll do the chassis as much as they want, but at some point, they’ll be doing their own stuff.

“I think as we have worked in the past, knowing what was going on down the road, we shared more. I still think we’ll work together but not at the same capacity that we have been and with as much stuff as we’ve been sharing because when they unplug from us, they’ve got to start getting their stuff ready, too.”

Hendrick said he didn’t anticipate a need for his organization to fill the perceived funding gap left by SHR’s departure. It’s been estimated that the deal for supplying engines and chassis for four cars annually would be worth several millions to Hendrick.

“We’ve got plenty of work,” said Hendrick, whose team supplies engines to Ganassi Racing and chassis and engines to HScott Motorsports and other teams. “We do a lot of Chevrolet work, we do a lot of R&D for the engines you see in crates. We put all that aside to do what we’ve been doing with the Stewart-Haas crowd. For us, our guys have been working seven days a week to keep up and it gives us a chance to kind of throttle back a little bit.

“We all got together as soon as they told us and we knew it was coming, (and) we look at all the things we can do more of, from the chassis shop to the engine shop. We’re just going to try and make what we have better.

“(Funding) comes from a lot of places. We’ve added new sponsors this year and we have an R&D deal with Chevrolet. All those things will improve and take the place of those deals going away.”

Besides Ganassi and HScott in Sprint Cup, Hendrick also supplies engines for JR Motorsports’ Xfinity and Truck teams, Athenian Motorsports’ Xfinity and Truck teams for John Wes Townley and Ganassi’s Xfinity team. Chevrolet is the only manufactuer with two engine builders for Sprint Cup. Richard Childress Racing’s ECR Engines is the other.

Despite SHR severing the racing partnership, Hendrick will continue to maintain a business relationship with Gene Haas, whose machine tools company supplies the equipment to build Hendrick’s engines and parts.

“They’ve done a good job, we’ve been partners for a long, long time,” Hendrick said. “We’re still one of the sponsors on the equipment, so that’s not going to change. So we’re good friends and I wish ’em the best, and we’ll just move on.”