By Michelle Lesener and Sharon Burton
Technical alliances in NASCAR allow teams to get equipment and technical support from another team, which is great for many of the smaller teams. But does it also help the team providing technical support and limit the competitive nature of the sport?
Stewart-Haas Racing/SHR is one of those teams involved in a technical alliance with another team – Hendrick Motorsports/HMS. Their partnership allows SHR to get engines and technical support from the longer established, premier team of HMS within the Sprint Cup Series. At the same time, many are applauding team owner Rick Hendrick for his achievement of having all four of his HMS cars in the Chase this season.
Alliances are seen – and this one in particular – as a way to circumvent NASCAR’s four-car limit for team owners. Viewing Stewart-Haas as a satellite team or extension of Hendrick Motorsports actually means the Hendrick organization technically has five cars competing in the Chase field this year. That’s nearly half of the twelve Chase contenders.
It also means, the Hendrick organization has a technical association in the last six championships, with Jimmie Johnson’s consecutive five titles, followed by Tony Stewart’s championship run last year.
Last year, prior to the first race in the Chase, two-time champion – with Joe Gibbs Racing – Tony Stewart said that he and his relatively new SHR team didn’t belong in the Chase, because they were not performing at a Chase competition level. However, once the Chase began, Stewart and his team surprised everyone, including himself, by hitting a hot streak. Tony Stewart’s team pulled off an almost unheard of feat, by winning half of the ten Chase races. The #14 team notched back to back wins in the first two races of the Chase at Chicago and Loudon, before winning an additional three on their way to winning Stewart’s third championship at Homestead. It’s certainly possible the SHR-HMS technical alliance had a huge impact in Stewart’s championship title run.
This year, going into the chase, Stewart notched three wins before Richmond but barely held onto tenth place. Stewart’s wins did allow him to take advantage of the Chase-seeding bonus points he earned within the first 26 races of the season and gave Hendrick a fifth technical competitor in the Chase.
Next year, SHR teammates, Stewart and Newman will continue their technical alliance and run alongside, HMS teammates, Johnson, Gordon, Earnhardt Jr and Kahne for the Sprint Cup title. Adding Danica Patrick to the Stewart Haas Racing team in 2013, means that Hendrick’s technical alliance provides for a total of seven cars competing among the 43- car field in the Sprint Cup Series.
Friday, November 2nd, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing/EGR announced they are switching to Hendrick engines for the 2013 season. With this new information, since this article was originally published, that means that for the 2013 season, Hendrick technical alliances will increase by two more drivers with EGR’s Juan Montoya and Jamie McMurray in the Sprint Cup Series. There will now be nine cars running Hendrick engines and sharing information, among the 43-car field on any given race weekend – that’s 20.9% of the total racing field.
Clearly, there is a Hendrick dominance within NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series with their technical association to the last six Sprint Cup titles. With HMS driver Jimmie Johnson once again at the top of the Chase points, and competing for his sixth title, there’s the potential for the Hendrick organization to see their seventh consecutive win for the championship…again!
Is it time for NASCAR to limit technical alliances in order to give greater opportunity for other teams to compete against the Hendrick organization powerhouse?
Updated November 2, 2012 at 2:00pm CDT