Smithfield to Stewart-Haas in 2018

Russell LaBounty/NKPPhoto

By Caleb Whisler, Staff Writer

After a six-year tenure with Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM), Smithfield Foods announced on Tuesday morning that they would be joining forces with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in 2018.

“We’re very proud to have Smithfield Foods join the Stewart-Haas Racing family,” said Brett Frood, president of SHR. “Smithfield has activated heavily and successfully within the sport, and we’re honored to be a part of the brand’s forward initiatives and strategy. Although we’re not ready to announce the full details of the program, we look forward to this new endeavor while remaining focused on the upcoming playoffs and putting forth the best effort possible to win more races and contend for another championship.”

Smithfield has been with RPM and Aric Almirola since the 2012 season. They have collected one win in the 2014 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. This leaves RPM without a primary sponsor for the 2018 season.

“The decision to leave Richard Petty Motorsports and join Stewart-Haas Racing was difficult but we feel this move will improve our competitiveness on the track and strengthen our position as a leading consumer packaged goods company,” Smithfield stated on a Facebook post.

RPM owner Richard Petty later released a statement on the move.

“We have had numerous discussions with Smithfield Foods regarding the extension of our relationship dating as far back as February,” Petty said. “Over the past few months, Smithfield had continually told me they wanted to be with us, and I recently shook hands on a deal to extend our relationship. I come from a time when we did major deals with sponsors like STP on a handshake. I’m sad to see this is where we are now.

“This decision is very unexpected, and we are extremely disappointed in this late and abrupt change of direction. Losing a sponsor of this magnitude in September is a significant set-back to Richard Petty Motorsports, but Andy (Murstein) and I are committed to moving forward with the No. 43 team. We have a lot of great partners who have expressed their continued support, and our fans will rally around the No. 43. We’ve been around since 1949, and we’ll be around a lot longer.”

Smithfield’s president and chief executive officer, Kenneth M. Sullivan, disputed the claims of Petty about a handshake deal.

“We are extremely disappointed that Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) has chosen to disparage Smithfield – its lead sponsor – after five years and tens of millions of dollars of unwavering financial support, despite years of subpar performance on the track. RPM’s claims of a ‘handshake deal’ to extend our sponsorship are unequivocally and patently false. Smithfield’s numerous discussions with RPM over the past several months focused exclusively around one issue: RPM’s inability to deliver on the track and the organization’s repeated failure to present a plan to address its lack of competiveness. Smithfield is a performance driven company and we demand performance from the people we do business with. For that reason – and that reason alone – Smithfield decided not to renew its contract with RPM when it expires at the end of this year. It is very unfortunate and disheartening that RPM has chosen to disseminate false statements regarding our communications to NASCAR fans who we have supported wholeheartedly with more than a $100 million investment in the sport over the last several years.”

RPM also announced that Almirola would not return to the organization in 2018.

Stewart-Haas Racing and Smithfield have yet to announce the details of the agreement. When it is announced, it will feature “a driver who will be added” to the SHR lineup in 2018.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *