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As Stewart-Haas Racing's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams work through the move to field Ford entries for the 2017 season, officials with engine supplier Roush Yates Engines have been just as busy trying to accommodate the addition of the four-car organization to its roster of teams.
Roush Yates Engines supplies power to seven organizations fielding a combined 13 teams in NASCAR's Monster Energy Cup Series. It also provides engines to Ford groups in NASCAR's XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series.
Now tasked with building engines for SHR, which features drivers Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick, Roush Yates CEO Doug Yates said his group is looking forward to the challenge.
SHR officials announced the move to Ford one year ago, seemingly giving both organizations plenty of time to get a head-start on the '17 program. However, SHR was still bound to Chevrolet last season, meaning no advance work with Ford could begin until the final race had been run at Homestead in November.
Yates said his company has been able to expand its headquarters, located in Mooresville, N.C., add necessary CNC equipment to address the increased workload and expand staff.
But the interaction between RYE and SHR didn't begin in earnest until the '16 season had ended. Barely two months ago.
"Our machine shop has been working six days a week, two 10-hour shifts, so pretty much around the clock making parts," Yates said. "We just have such a dedicated staff … really just going all-in to make sure that we're prepared for the season and that the transition is seamless.
"But trying to understand (the SHR) systems, trying to make sure we dot every I and cross every T as far as that is concerned, and coming to some middle ground on how Stewart-Haas was used to operating the engine, and how we are at Ford Performance, has been an interesting thing as well.
"There are things that we did different than they were used to in the past that they liked, and there are things we had to compromise on, so it's a long season and we'll continue to work with them to make sure we're getting everything we can out of the car and the engine. But it has been a lot of work."
Harvick was the SHR representative during an organizational test Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at Phoenix Raceway. Yates described it as a "good first step" with the organization, but the first of many.
"We worked on all the systems and also learned what kind of power curve, or torque curve, that Kevin … liked, so we're gathering that data," he said.
Addressing the needs of SHR is only one part of what "getting ready for the 2017 season" means to Yates and his group. A new, lower downforce aero package and changes in the way the races are run are also a concern.
"The format is probably more concern to me," Yates said, "just because it's unknown. What are we going to need to be prepared for? What is the race strategy and are we on the right end of that strategy?
"You win with advantages and that's what we're always looking for, so the pace the first part of the year is going to be faster than ever because we need to make sure we're on top of the rule changes."