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Stewart-Haas Racing leaving Chevrolet for Ford in 2017
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Stewart-Haas Racing will move to Ford beginning next season in a surprising defection from Chevrolet.

The team has fielded Chevrolets since its 2002 inception and co-owner Tony Stewart has driven for General Motors in all but one of his 18 NASCAR seasons. Kevin Harvick has never raced anything in the Cup Series except Chevrolet. Stewart and Harvick both won championships for SHR driving Chevys.

"I am proud of our association with Chevrolet as they helped build our organization into the team it is today," Stewart said in a statement Wednesday.

"This new partnership with Ford allows us to strengthen our position in the sport and ensure the long-term stability and success for everyone who is a part of Stewart-Haas Racing."

SHR will get its engines from Roush Yates in the new deal. It currently receives engines, chassis and technical support from Hendrick Motorsports, and Rick Hendrick was a huge supporter of Haas' efforts to build a championship NASCAR team.

"Motorsports is an extremely challenging environment where in order to maintain success you have to constantly innovate. It's true in NASCAR and it's true in business," co-owner Gene Haas said. "We've enjoyed great success with Chevrolet, but this opportunity with Ford allows us to evolve while continuing to compete at the highest levels of the sport."

The move to Ford brings Harvick, Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick and Clint Bowyer, who is replacing Stewart at the end of this year, into the blue oval group. Busch won a title for Ford in 2004 when he drove for Jack Roush.

Ford's current lineup includes Team Penske, Roush Fenway Racing, Wood Brothers Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and Front Row Motorsports.

"We have said very clearly that we are not in NASCAR just to race, but to win races and championships," said Dave Pericak, global director of Ford Performance. "We believe the addition of Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017 will give our program a major boost in terms of being in contention for both drivers' and manufacturers' championships every year.

"We believe that our NASCAR engineering experience and tools match up very well with the expertise and personnel that Stewart-Haas Racing has in house right now, and that we will both benefit from this partnership going forward."