Ford Performance executive bullish on Stewart-Haas 2017 chances

Dave Pericak’s title is Global Director, Ford Performance – so you can understand his excitement about the manufacturer adding Stewart-Haas Racing to the fold for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

SHR is making the switch to Ford after having run Chevrolets since its formation as a company in 2009.

“It’s going to be exciting this year to include Stewart-Haas in the lineup of Fords on the track and to level the playing field a bit – have more bullets in the gun, so to speak,” Pericak said in a conference call with reporters earlier this week. “We want to go out there and use everything we’ve learned from aerodynamics, our engine technology and some of the other things we’ve done with the teams – some of the tools that we’ve created and our simulator and everything else and bring it all together so that you can see more Fords running up front.”

Pericak admitted that he’s especially pleased to be adding SHR driver and 2014 Cup champion Kevin Harvick to the Ford camp. But he was quick to say that he’s happy to have all four SHR drivers making the switch, which includes Harvick teammates Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick.

“Having the entire Stewart-Haas driver lineup is going to be fantastic,” Pericak said. “Specifically on Kevin, he obviously is one of the best drivers out on the track, so to have him in the fold here and to have the ability to leverage all of his experience on many of the tracks, and with Stewart-Haas, it’s really important. He’s kind of like the leader, if you will, over there from a driver perspective and he’s respected by the rest of the drivers.”

Pericak said Harvick was very involved in the talks that led to the SHR manufacturer switch from Chevy to Ford. And he expects Harvick to maintain that leadership role as SHR and Ford both make the transition together in 2017.

“When we decided to partner up with Stewart-Haas, he was one that was brought in early in the discussion to make sure that we understood his perspective on things,” Pericak said. “I think it’s invaluable to have someone like Kevin, a championship-level driver, to add to the efforts that we have going on here.

“To get him into our simulator, to get him to help as we work on avoiding those bumps in the road that you’re asking about.  Kevin is just an absolute, unbelievable resource, a great guy to work with, so we’re really excited to have him and he’s going to help raise the chinning bar for everybody.”

While there no doubt will be some growing pains as the season that will begin with the Feb. 26 Daytona 500 (live on FOX) progresses, Pericak said he hopes to limit them as much as possible.

“The bumps in the road, I would say that we’re doing everything in our power to try to minimize those,” he said. “I feel pretty good coming out of the Phoenix test (last wek) as to where we are and our ability to hit the ground running with Stewart-Haas. … Our role as Ford Performance is to bring all of our resources to bear for Stewart-Haas as they make the transition and make sure we’re giving them every opportunity to be successful — whether it’s the engineers that I have within my team, whether it’s the facilities that we have at Ford.

“Of the tools that we use, it’s our duty to make sure that we are servicing them in every way possible, so that they can hit that track and be successful, and I feel very confident that you will see that. Of course, we’re making a big transition here, so I’m sure we are going have a few minor bumps along the way. But I don’t see anything that’s going to stop us from being competitive right out of the gate. You’ll see improvement, obviously, throughout the year, but we are 100 percent dedicated in putting all of our energy and resources as far as making that transition smooth.”