Gene Haas has had quite a ride on his way to achieving the ultimate in race team ownership by being accepting into the biggest form of motorsports in the world: Formula One (F1). However, the commitment can be exhausting financially, so the first question should be: Will he stay in NASCAR?
With all the pomp and circumstance that comes with an announcement today that Gene Haas, co-owner of Stewart Haas Racing in NASCAR, that he will field an F1 team in 2015 (or possbily 2016), it’s difficult to look down the road. The accomplishment of becoming part of tiny but powerful association like Formula One, is amazing feat to say the least.
Long hard road to get here
Gene Haas is the owner of Haas Automation which is one of the largest privately owned machine tool manufacturer in the world. Based in Oxnard, California, in Southern California, the 61 year old Haas has had a somewhat rocky road along the way to wealth and race team ownership. Haas Automation is a billion dollar company but when he started his own NASCAR team in 2002, success was hard to come by. Then Haas hit the ultimate in bad luck: the IRS. A long story short, he and some of his employees were indicted for tax evasion. Haas ended up doing a small bit of prison time and had to pay back all the money the IRS said he owed.
At the end of ‘08, his NASCAR team was continuing to struggle, so he merged with Tony Stewart who was starting his own team. With a total of three cars, two years later Tony won a Cup championship. This past offseason, Haas made a big move and added a fourth team out of his pocket using Haas Automation as a sponsor with Kurt Busch driving. Early in the season, the Stewart Haas has three wins already with Busch grabbing one of those victories, putting Haas’ name in the winner’s circle for the first time.
That’s gets us to the main question. He’s seen his name in a NASCAR Sprint Cup victory stand, but with such a huge commitment to F1, might Haas continue to pay out of pocket for a Cup team when it will cost a minimum of tens of millions of dollars to operate in the open wheel organization? Sponsorship will obviously be key, but the investment needed is extensive for any decent achievements in F1. Said Haas half jokingly regarding the cost of Formula One racing:
“Every week it goes up by another billion.”
The demands of F1
Haas’ position in a select club like F1 will demand every resource available, if he is to have any success. Looking into the future as to the pitfalls and complexities that owning and operating two cars in F1 will demand, might leave Haas without the capital to carry on with his major involvement in NASCAR. Haas will be spending a large amount of capital, effort and time over the next couple of years just putting the team together and making it gel.
And what does that say about the future of Stewart Haas Racing? The team is doing well, but that in part has to do with Gene Haas hands on work recently especially when Stewart went down with his serious injuries last year.
Whether Haas maintains his financial involvement in NASCAR remains to be seen. It may even take a few years before we have any answer to our lead question, but certainly there will be lingering doubts as whether Haas will be able to continue his stay in NASCAR.