Monday, May 23

Ford Performance NASCAR: Mark Rushbrook and Doug Yates Looking Forward to 2022 Season

MARK RUSHBROOK, Global Director, Ford Performance Motorsports – THE RACE SEASON IS OFF TO A GOOD START FOR FORD IN THE WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP, RIGHT?  “Yeah, it was fantastic.  The WRC Rally 1 cars are all new this year.  They’re going electrified with hybrid and the new formula for the chassis and everything, so we have a new Puma hybrid that debuted a week ago and was revealed.  The first event was this weekend, WRC Monte Carlo, which is the big one in the rally world.  We had Sebastien Loeb in the car, a nine-time champion, and he brought back the win with a brand new car.  It was very competitive being first place with Loeb, third place with Craig Breen and sixth place with Gus Greensmith, so we are really happy with that new car and competition over there.”

 

DOUG YATES, CEO, Roush Yates Engines – THINGS ARE PICKING UP NOW WITH THE CLASH IN TWO WEEKS AND THEN DAYTONA.  HOW IS YOUR ORGANIZATION SET FOR THE START OF THE 2022 SEASON?  “I’m excited about the Next Gen car debut.  It’s a whole new era for the sport and we’re proud to be a part of that.  We’re looking forward to Daytona and the Clash.  There are a lot of great things going on for our sport, racing at the L.A. Coliseum is something I think is gonna be really awesome.  I’m gonna be there and I think that’s something pretty neat.  I remember being a little kid and going out to Riverside with my dad to start the season many, many years ago and so getting back to some of that, but that will be a good way to kick it off and I’m looking forward to getting to Daytona.  That’s obviously my favorite racetrack and hopefully we can go down there and back up our win that we had with Michael McDowell last year and start the season off strong.  But a lot of work.  Everybody at the shop and the teams have been working hard and we’re ready to get going.  I’m sure everybody at the shop is ready for us to get out of the shop.”

 

WHEN NASCAR WAS TRYING TO DECIDE BETWEEN THE 550 AND THE 670 THERE WERE QUESTIONS ON WHETHER THE ENGINE BUILDERS COULD DO THE 670 FOR THE WHOLE SEASON.  ARE YOU GUYS IN A BIND AT ALL FOR THE CLASH AND VEGAS?  ARE YOU IN GOOD SHAPE AND WHAT WAS THE CAUSE OF THE ANGST?  “The engine specification changed quite a bit.  Obviously, the camshaft is tailored for more power going from the 500 to 670, so we had to finalize on that camshaft and order the parts and do the durability work.  So, that last Charlotte test when we finally decided that we were gonna go 670 across the board, that was the very first durability cycle that we really understood.  So we took the data from the Charlotte test, built up an engine with those parts and ran a durability test.  We actually had a failure and had to go back and make some adjustments to the camshaft to calm it down a little bit.  We broke something on the exhaust side, so we had to go back and re-work the camshaft and then order the parts to build all those engines, which, the main change for us was the valves.  So the valve sizes have changed and we had to call our suppliers and say, ‘Hey, can you change these parts for us and get them here in time to build these engines?’  So there was that amongst a couple other key parts, so it was really a change in the design of the parts and to get that supply chain ratcheted back up to build these engines.  Some of those are very tight.  We’re tight on some lead time items, but we’re gonna be fine.  We talked with the other engine builders – TRD and Hendrick – and at first they pushed back a little bit and I think if that’s the path we’re gonna go, I think we all agree we’d rather just start there and go.  By the way, I think the test looked a lot better with the 670 package, in my opinion.  I think the drivers really like it, so I think it’s the right thing to do for the sport and the engine guys just have to make sure we can deliver, and I think we’re on track.”

 

MARK RUSHBROOK CONTINUED – CAN YOU TAKE A PASSENGER CAR TRANSAXLE AND PUT IT IN THE NEXT GEN CUP CAR?  “Physically, there are some similarities in the internals of it, but in terms of the physicals to take out of one of our street cars to put into this Next Gen car, I don’t think we’d want to actually do that.”

 

ARE YOU GOOD AS FAR AS WHERE THE SUPPLY CHAIN IS NOW AS FAR AS WHAT THE FORD TEAMS NEED FOR THE FIRST MONTH OF THE SEASON?  “I think that’s a fair way to put it.  Race teams always want to be prepared and ahead on everything.  That’s part of what they need to do and have everything in stock that they need to do when they need to do it, but I think at this point, everybody has a plan with the supply parts that are all coming through to be able to support these races at the beginning of the season.”

 

WHAT DOES THE CLASH MEAN FOR FORD, ESPECIALLY WITH THE TALK FOR THE POTENTIAL OF NEW FANS BEING AT THE TRACK?  IS THERE ANYTHING MORE YOU’RE DOING FOR THAT EVENT TO GET YOUR MESSAGING OUT?  “We’re excited for the Clash weekend for a lot of different weekends.  Obviously, the first one is the debut of the Next Gen car in racing competition, and there’s a point of pride that we want to go there and be competitive and win in the heat races and the LCQ’s and get the win in the main event, for sure.  That means a lot for us as a brand and for our drivers, but I think for the sport it may be even bigger in terms of going to a new market like that and a new place for a track with a new format.  That’s what we love about what NASCAR has been doing recently, that they are willing to experiment and try some new things to see if it works or doesn’t work.  I expect that we’re gonna learn a lot this weekend.  We’re gonna be able to talk to a lot of people or tell our story to a lot of people that maybe we normally wouldn’t with schedules and formats that we’ve seen in the past, so we are definitely doing some special things, some different things to take advantage of that opportunity.  That revolved around our full lineup of cars, but also especially electrification.  We’re racing combustion engine vehicles on the track, but we’ll have some specific displays there to tell our electrification story as well.”

 

THIS EVENT IS A WEEK BEFORE THE SUPER BOWL AND EVEN THOUGH IT’S NOT TIED IN TO THE SUPER BOWL IT IS CLOSE.  DOES THAT MATTER?  AND WOULD IT BE GOOD TO LOOK AT A SIMILAR TIE-IN THE NEXT TWO YEARS IN PHOENIX AND VEGAS?  “I think independent of the Super Bowl this is the right thing to do and we’re really looking forward to it, and I think that just adds to it that it’s back-to-back with the Super Bowl in the same market.  If there’s an opportunity to do that again in the future, we certainly would be interested in that.”

 

DOUG YATES CONTINUED – BRAD KESELOWSKI IS KIND OF A DISRUPTER IN A WAY, SIMILAR TO JACK ROUSH.  DO YOU SEE THAT AS WELL AND IS BRAD MAKING AN IMPACT AT RFK ALREADY?  “That’s a great parallel.  I know both of them really well, starting with Jack and racing against my dad all these years and finally coming together to form Roush Yates in 2004 and spending time with him.  He’s an engineer.  He’s an outside the box thinker, very competitive, one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever seen, always looking for an advantage.  When Brad went over there being very similar.  Brad is a guy that’s always thinking outside the box.  He’s always asking the tough question and always looking ahead.  I think the two of them are gonna make a great combination.  Jack was really ready for somebody to come in and lead their company to the next level and Brad can do that.  The thing about racing is you always have to have confidence that the guy holding the steering wheel can get it done and that’s where they’re at now.  They have a championship level driver with Brad and Jack and Roush Fenway will give them the resources to get that program where they need to be.  It’s an exciting time.  Roush Fenway is a partner in Roush Yates racing, so I’m excited and happy for those guys.  I think they’re gonna put some wins on the board and really make some progress.  Things take time, but I think they’ll make some progress and make Edsel and Mark proud of everything they’re gonna do this year.”

 

WHY ARE YOU GOING TO THE CLASH?  “I usually don’t go west very often, but there are a couple things.  One, the Next Gen car is something I’m really excited about.  I think it’s a big step forward for the sport.  I’m excited about racing at the L.A. Coliseum.  I think just as a fan of the sport, I think what Ben Kennedy and Jim France are doing there is really exciting so I just want to go there and show my support, but I also want to be there.  I think you asked the question to Mark, we want to be the first ones to win with the Next Gen car.  When fuel injection came out in 2012, we won the Daytona 500 with Matt Kenseth.  That’s something obviously I take a lot of pride in and we’d like to score that win with the Next Gen car, but it’s just an exciting time for the sport.  I think they’ve done a lot of great things and beyond all that, I’ve sat at home for about two years and I’m ready to get back to the racetrack.”

 

THE OPENINGS ON THE FRONT END OF THE NEW CAR.  WHAT ARE YOU SEEING AS FAR AS TEMPERATURES GO?  WHAT DOES THAT MEAN IF THAT’S THE CASE?  “With any car you have to find out the sensitivities and understand the areas to work on and we’re trying to work through those as quickly as we can.  Obviously, for this car the air, NASCAR is not gonna allow any tape on the front end.  There will be a blocker behind the radiator which will basically control the temperatures, the air exits over the hood, but also the air induction is in the front of the car, so the blocker plate  not only controls your temperature but also controls a bit of how much air pressure goes to the engine which makes the power.  So, we are debating on how hot to run the engine in order to make the most power and have the best aero benefit. Last year, we ran as hot as we could to get the aero benefit and put as much tape on the front end and now this year we’re trying to figure out ultimately what is the fastest lap time for a given temperature in the air box pressure.  So, it’s a nuance to this car that we’re working through and trying to get that right.  It’s probably not as big a deal when we go to the Clash and short tracks, but when we go to Daytona we want to make sure we optimize that to go down there and have the quickest car we can.”

 

CAN YOU GIVE A BALLPARK ON THE TEMPERATURES?  “Last year, we ran as high as 310 degrees water temperature, so really, really hot – extremely hot – and this year we may run 200 degrees water temperature, so that’s a big change.  When people first asked me what does the Next Gen car do to the engine?  I said, well the engine is pretty much the same, but now a year later just to fit the engine in the car we have a new front engine plate, new bell housing, exhaust is out each side which creates different tuning and the temperatures are different and the RPM is different, so pretty much everything has changed with the engine.  We had 200 engines here and we just delivered the Clash engine last week, but we have about 180 of them apart waiting on those decisions, so we’re pretty busy here.”

 

MARK RUSHBROOK CONTINUED – WHAT ARE YOU SEEING IN TERMS OF UNDERSTANDING THIS NEXT GEN CAR?  IS IT A FRESH SLATE FOR EVERYONE AND ARE THEY COMFORTABLE WITH IT YET?  “I don’t know that we’re comfortable with it yet.  It’s an all-new car and the teams, with our support, have been racing the Gen 6 cars for so long and knew them pretty well.  Even when there changes made from year to year in the rules a lot of the same principles applied in terms of what to do or where to optimize, but now everything is new and similar to what Doug just went through, it’s optimizing all of those different variables.  There are still a lot of knobs to turn on these vehicles in all part of it, whether it’s engine, aero or chassis, and it’s getting comfortable with turning those knobs and making sure we’ve truly optimized it.  It’s really testing our people to think differently than they have in the past, not just rely on the same principles and also want our tools – to be able to use them for that optimization, especially with our simulator.  It’s getting a lot of use right now.”

 

DO YOU AGREE THAT EVEN THOUGH THE SEASON MIGHT BE GOING ON IF THERE ARE CHANGES THAT NEED TO BE MADE TO THE CAR YOU WOULD BE GOOD WITH THAT IF NASCAR WANTED TO TRY SOMETHING?  “That’s the great thing about this sport, the series, is everyone wants to work together to keep it a very healthy series with great racing for the fans.  I think we’ve got the right starting point for this series.  Everybody is truly behind this and we’re excited.  We’re sure it’s gonna bring some really good racing, but if in that case on some tracks maybe we learn there are things we can do better and as an industry I think everybody would work together to make any changes, if needed.  Right now, we think we’ve got the right package and we’ll see how it goes.”

 

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE OUT OF HAILIE DEEGAN THIS YEAR AND WITH PENSKE DROPPING ITS XFINITY PROGRAM, WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY WITH THAT SERIES?  “Hailie, we’re expecting a lot out of Hailie this year.  She had a good start to her truck career last year, but it was tough without practice and qualifying and getting fully comfortable with the truck.  We did see as we went back to tracks for the second time she was performing a lot better, so I think this year she’ll be a lot more comfortable in the truck.  She’s getting more simulator time.  She’ll get more track time and think she can be very competitive there, but as we started with her earlier we are working with her and she is very motivated to get into any car, any truck, racing anywhere.  We had her down at IMSA Daytona for the last three days for the Roar in the Mustang GT4.  She’ll be back there Thursday and Friday practicing, qualifying and racing in that four-hour race partnered with Chase Briscoe, and she’s gonna be doing a lot of other things beyond that and outside of trucks.  So, I think she’s gonna get a lot more seat time and get more experience and looking for that performance to continue improving.  As far as Xfinity and specifically if that’s around Hailie’s career as well.  If she performs in trucks this year, we would expect that she would go into Xfinity for 2023.  You’re right, we do have a reduced footprint in Xfinity this year, but that can be different next year if Hailie is ready to go up to the Xfinity level.”

 

DOUG YATES CONTINUEDHOW DO THE CHANGES FOR THIS NEXT GEN CAR STACK UP AGAINST ANYTHING ELSE YOU’VE SEEN IN YOUR CAREER?  “Probably the thing about the Next Gen car is we haven’t tested this much in recent years.  I can’t remember testing this much since the nineties.  In fact, Red Farmer used to test our car when Davey was out doing things.  I saw him at the Hall of Fame the other night and it was pretty neat, but I think just the preparation for the testing has been pretty fast and furious, especially with the different combinations of power levels.  So, if NASCAR wants to test 510 horsepower and 550 horsepower at the same track, we have to be prepared with calibrations for both of those and then you have a Charlotte test, kind of how the 670 got started was Greg Zipadelli came up and said, ‘Hey, we want more power.  What can we do?’  We were at 550 horsepower and we changed the tapered spacer and made it 670 and the guys like that.  So, really, our biggest challenge this winter is just being adaptable to all those different combinations and then now that we know what we’re gonna race with the two combinations – 510 horsepower at Daytona, Talladega and Atlanta now – and 670 everywhere else, now our real work starts so we know we can go develop durability cycles and optimize the components.  So our real work started after NASCAR said 670 the week before Christmas. It’s been a busy offseason, probably the busiest in a long time, so that’s probably been our biggest challenge and now we’re ready to really start getting ready for the season with performance development and trying to get off to a strong start.”

 

DO THE HOURS YOU’RE PUTTING IN REMIND YOU OF THE NINETIES?  “The past couple of Saturdays have, but nothing like back in 1991, that winter, my dad and I wanted to win the Daytona 500, so we went in the shop and took the clocks off the wall and for two-and-a-half months we never left – seven days a week.  That was pretty intense, but it was rewarded with a 1992 Daytona 500 with Davey Allison.  So, it’s not quite as bad as that, but I remember those days and those are fond memories.  We’re not quite as intense.  We didn’t have 200 employees like we do today at Roush Yates and the support of Ford Motor Company like we have today, so it’s a lot better in a lot of ways, but it’s been a pretty fast-paced winter.”

 

MARK RUSHBROOK CONTINUEDBESIDES NASCAR IS THERE ANYTHING IN THE PIPELINE ON THE IMSA SPORTS CAR ROUTE?  “Sports car is a place that we truly enjoy racing.  We’re really happy with the Mustang GT4s that we have now with Roush Yates power in those as well.  It’s been a good customer car, so we’re able to sell cars that are racing here in the U.S. in World Challenge as well as IMSA, and there’s one that’s been racing over in Europe that has had quite a bit of success over there.  It’s a good car for us to use for training our drivers, both in racing and in track time as well.  It’s been very successful for us.  We’re certainly not sour on sports car racing.  It’s certainly of interest for us to come back at the right time with the right car and the right class, so we’ll see what we have in the future for that.  WRC, I did want to say something relative to that, especially around the Tech Center, which many of you have been to in North Carolina.  We’ve always said that gets used for all of our global programs and that WRC Puma, even though most of the rally events are in Europe and our team, M-Sport, is in the UK, we used our Tech Center very heavily both in the simulator world and aero world with the scale tunnel, running at PTG and our computational fluid dynamics tools as well, so the same tools that we use in NASCAR and analytical tools as well as physically there in the Tech Center were used for WRC Puma and also used in Australia we unveiled a Gen 3 Mustang in December that will be racing in 2023, so the same thing.  It was used in the same facility with the same people to develop those global race cars.”

 

AT WHAT POINT DOES IT MAKE SENSE FROM FORD’S POINT OF VIEW THAT NASCAR HAVE SOME SORT OF HYBRID COMPONENT SINCE THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE SELLING ON THE STREET?  “Hybrid in rally makes so much sense because they’re out driving on obviously closed off roads, real roads that are closed off, a point-to-point rally, so there is a lot of hard acceleration and a lot of hard braking, so a lot of opportunity to recover the energy and then deploy it as you come out of the corner, and that’s worked really well in those cars and the performance in maintaining a spectacle because you still have the sound, the smell of a combustion engine, but also the electric application to improve performance further, and also tell a pretty cool story.  As they drove through the service park it was full electric, so it was a quiet car going through downtown Monaco, but then a loud, beautiful sounding car out on the rally stages.  NASCAR is obviously a different format.  We’ve said for a long time that a hybrid on a track like Daytona, the oval, just doesn’t make any sense because the point of hybrid is regeneration of the energy under braking and then deploy it under acceleration.  With the format of the big ovals like that or the intermediate tracks, it just doesn’t make sense to put hybrids, so maybe at some point, whether it’s on a short track or a road course would be the right opportunity.  I think our world is accelerating so quickly to full electric that that is something that the industry needs to talk about, and I don’t think it’s replacing the combustion engine.  I think that needs to stay here for quite some time, a long time.  Hopefully, that’s good for you to hear, Doug, because that’s what fans want.  They want the sounds, the smells.  It’s a spectacle, but can the sport in some way bring in some other element with electrification?  I think that’s what we need to talk through as an industry to continue to be relevant, but continue to have that great spectacle.”

 

SO ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT A LITTLE PART OF ELECTRIFICATION BUT ALSO STAYING WITH THE INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE.  CAN YOU EXPLAIN A LITTLE BIT MORE?  “I think our position is Cup can be ICE without hybrid for quite some time – to be the spectacle of this sport – but if there is a way to bring in full electric, so just vehicles with full electric only, no combustion engine, just electric, if there’s a way that could be brought into the sport to supplement what we have with ICE in Cup, I think that’s a great opportunity for manufacturers to bring fans to the track for the ICE spectacle but for us to be able to tell some electrification stories.  We’re going to be doing that on our own at the Clash as I said earlier.  We’ll be racing those ICE cars on track, but we’re gonna have a display with electrification to tell that story to those fans.  We need to be able to tell that, too.”

 

CAN YOU CLARIFY HOW THE CONVERSATION WITH YOU AND GREG ZIPADELLI HAD AT THE TEST?  DID HE GO THROUGH NASCAR OR JUST TALK WITH YOU ABOUT IT?  “I think the second day of that test at the oval, NASCAR said, ‘Hey, we’re open to you guys trying a few things you really want to try.’  So, John Probst and the guys were on board with that.  We had the 670 power level already prepared for the short tracks, so we had that tapered spacer and calibration ready, and I think Kevin Harvick wanted to try something different.  I think he was bored and ready to do something different, so that led to something that maybe we should try as a sport and maybe this will be more interesting than the 550 package at the test.  That’s kind of how it developed, but NASCAR was fully onboard and supportive of that at the end of the second day just trying to make sure everybody exhausted that test and it turned out that way.”  

 

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