Stewart Haas Racing’s move to Ford will include an expansion.
The team said Monday it’d be fielding an Xfinity Series team in 2017. While the team has expanded from two to four cars since its inception in 2009, it hasn’t fielded an Xfinity team.
“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,” SHR vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said in a statement. “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.”
Tony Stewart was asked about a feeder system for the team on Friday within the context of Jeff Gordon’s return to the Sprint Cup Series. Gordon is driving in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports for two races. Here’s what Stewart, who is retiring at the end of the season, said when he was asked if he’d return to the cockpit if his team needed a substitute driver in the future. Stewart’s comments were a nice job of disguising an announcement to come 72 hours later.
“It is something that I thought about since the talk came about Jeff getting back in the car,” Stewart said Friday. “We don’t have a feeder system. We don’t have an Xfinity team. We don’t have anybody that’s in our system to bring up if that is the case. We will talk about it at some point, but I am definitely open to that scenario if it were to happen down the road and we needed somebody, I would be open to doing what Jeff is doing this weekend.”
Here’s what he said in Monday’s statement.
“An Xfinity Series team has always been something we would consider when the time was right, and that time is now,” Stewart said. “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.”
Cole Custer, the son of Stewart-Haas Executive Joe Custer could be a candidate to drive for the Xfinity Series team in 2017. Custer is currently driving full time in the Camping World Truck Series for JR Motorsports and has driven in three Xfinity Series races in 2016 for JR Motorsports.
Stewart-Haas announced in February that it would switch to Ford for the 2017 season. It’s currently a Chevrolet team that’s aligned with Hendrick Motorsports.
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