Sharing data a bad idea
Competitive spirit lost when teams work together
Sharing is caring, we like to tell our little ones.
That’s a noble philosophy, except the big ones aren’t always willing to play nice.
That leads us to a domestic spat in the datasharing arrangement between Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports. SHR is switching from Chevrolet to Ford in 2017. But with the divorce papers not final yet, the strain on the relationship is evident.
“Just to be selfishly speaking on the Hendrick Motorsports/StewartHaas relationship — we didn’t get their data,” said Jimmie Johnson, a star of team Hendrick. “We didn’t share their data. They had ours. So it was a fantastic situation for them. They had our best stuff and then they have a huge engineering staff and they can take Hendrick’s best equipment and refine it and make it better.”
Not surprisingly, HMS executives went into damage-control mode last weekend. General manager Doug Duchardt said the information flow ceased in both directions shortly after SHR announced that it was leaving the Chevrolet camp to go with Ford’s Roush-Yates engines next season.
“That got shut off, I think, before Daytona,” Duchardt said. “That has been straightforward between Stewart-Haas and us, and (SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli) and I worked through that.”
Fair enough. But still, it leads to a bigger question. Why is everyone so chummy-chummy in the first place? The sport is in cost-cutting mode, scaling back from the heyday. Less testing and such makes sense. But information sharing doesn’t make nearly as much sense.
Why would you want to sleep with the enemy from a competitive standpoint?
Back in the day, multicar teams were sharing data among themselves but kept everything in house. We now live in an age of computers and electronic fuel injection, making it much easier to cobble together information.
“I’d rather not have that,” Dale Earnhardt Jr., who drives for Hendrick Motorsports, said in 2012 when electronic fuel injection started becoming a thing. “It would be a bene- fit to be able to see all that. But I think it’s a slippery slope.”
Part of the problem is that the competitive landscape has changed. SHR signed Kevin Harvick, who won a Cup title in 2014, and then Kurt Busch, a former Cup champ.
“You know before Rodney Childers and Kevin Harvick were at StewartHaas, it worked pretty good for us,” Johnson said. “We had a bunch of income for the company and didn’t have to worry about racing for wins or championships against the Stewart-Haas equipment. But those guys changed the game, and bringing in Kurt Busch and Tony himself, you start questioning the relationship and if it really is the right thing.
“They really had all the rights to our stuff; we didn’t have the rights to theirs.”
Talladega Superspeedway Sunday, 2 p.m. TV: NBC Sports Network Jimmie Johnson (48) and Kevin Harvick compete on the track, but their teams have been collaborating off it.