In a year full of surprising announcements for Stewart-Haas Racing, the team dropped yet another bomb on the NASCAR world when they announced on Monday they would expand into the XFINITY Series next season.
The two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship winning team plans on entering one full-time team next season with a driver and sponsor to be announced prior to the end of the 2016 season.
Team executives said the decision to expand into the XFINITY Series was to boost the team’s prowess.
“In order to maintain the competitiveness that has earned SHR two championships since our debut in 2009, we needed an outlet to develop drivers and team personnel for the Sprint Cup Series,” said Greg Zipadelli, Vice-President of competition at SHR. “People make the difference between winning and losing. An XFINITY Series team gives us added depth that will allow us to promote from within whenever necessary.”
Back in February, SHR made the announcement they would be switching to Ford in 2017, the first of shocking announcements for the team.
“An XFINITY Series team has always been something we would consider when the time was right, and that time is now,” said Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation. “Staying successful in this sport means staying ahead of the curve, and having an XFINITY Series team provides an in-house driver development program and a new channel for personnel to make a positive impact with our race team.”
“This is a natural progression of SHR’s growth and one that allows us to be more self-sufficient,” Haas said. “If you look at all the teams that are successful in Sprint Cup, they have a direct connection to the XFINITY Series where drivers, engineers, mechanics and pit crew members are developed. We’re an established team with a strong infrastructure that is ready for this endeavor.”
Though a driver announcement has yet to be made, Haas Automation development drivers Cole Custer and Nick Drake will likely be included in the decision process, along with Stewart-Haas Racing’s current Sprint Cup driver lineup.