What Drives Ford Performance at Restrictor-Plate Events?
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— With the win in the Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford Performance has won six of the last races at either Daytona or Talladega.
For many teams, beating any of the Ford drivers at a restrictor plate event is crucial. Brad Keselowski, Stenhouse Jr., and Clint Bowyer discussed the power of Ford Performance this weekend at Daytona. That success is also attributed to the power of Roush-Yates Engines.
“I think that every year we see seem to see different cars and teams and manufacturers have strengths and weaknesses. I think we’re starting to see at this point and time in the season where the Fords have distinct strengths and weaknesses. Probably more that we’ve seen in the last four or five years with the manufacturers. The Fords right now are the best cars on the speedway tracks for a number of reasons. One of which is the power in their engines is very strong a the higher rpms. And with the current gear rules and current engine packages at Daytona and Talladega, the engines sustain higher rpm for the duration of running in the pack,” said Keselowski. “And I think with the bodies, the Ford body on the Gen 6 car lends itself to well to the restrictor plate tracks with having high-efficiencies with respect to its drag characteristics. I would agree that the Fords have some strengths right now on the restrictor plate tracks and probably behind on the other race tracks. Like anything, if your golf game is good on the greens and not good on the driving range you have to make the putts. So the Fords are doing a good job at that. I would like to see it be a little more balanced out with our strengths and weaknesses but with the current landscape that’s where it is right now.”
“Let me just say this: Those Roush Yates engines are phenomenal. Doug does such a great job, puts a lot of emphasis on this plate stuff, takes a lot of pride in it, and he should. Those things run amazing. They take a beating out there. At the end of that thing, I was overheating, blowing water, doing all the things that you know are going to happen when we get like that. I mean, I was pushing him all the way down the back straightaway all the way through 3 and 4. It was just kind of one of those deals,” said Bowyer in his post-race media availability. “We were up against the wall, and I was shoving, and the water temperature was pegged and blowing water. But it's just -- those things are phenomenal. It's amazing any of these engines make it through this stuff. I'm just blown away if you really think about it and look at the mechanics of what those on in them things each and every week, you're looking back at last week, all the rpms and everything that turns, I'm just proud to have that Roush Yates power under our hood.”
“I think it's really strong. I think obviously qualifying showed that our Ford Performance cars are really strong, and I think I kind of echo what Brad said maybe on the broadcast before the race is the high RPM tracks we feel really, really good at. I feel like that's why we run the top of the racetracks, a lot of the racetracks we go to, and the engine package, the bodies, everything is just working really well for the speedways,” said Stenhouse Jr. “And then we work well together. We all practice together, and it was nice to be able to use your Ford teammates throughout the race to keep us up front, and even -- all the Fords, David Ragan's car was fast there. He's a good speedway racer. So we feel like we've still got work to do on other racetracks, but it's nice to capitalize on -- when you have the opportunity to, and that's what it's all about. The fastest cars don't always win at speedways, but it's nice that we've been able to capitalize on that for Ford, for Roush Yates, and particularly for Roush Fenway.
With the dominance of Ford Performance at restrictor-plate tracks, can anybody stop them when Cup heads to Talladega in October? That is a question that will be interesting to watch.
Harvick Scores First Career Cup Win At Sonoma
In a game of saving fuel and varying strategies on pit road, Kevin Harvick scored the victory in the Toyota Save Mart 350 from Sonoma Raceway.
“I am so excited. I think as you look at it, getting our first win with Ford, this has been a great journey for us as an organization and team. Kurt winning the Daytona 500 and we have run well. Everybody from Bush, Jimmy John’s and Mobil 1, Outback, Hunt Brothers and everybody,” said Harvick. “It is a great day. It finally all came together and we were able to not have any cautions there at the end. Rodney had great strategy and I was able to take care of the car and get out front. I felt like the 78 was the car we had to race and then he had problems and from there we were in control.”
This is Harvick’s first victory of 2017 and his first victory at Sonoma Raceway. Harvick also won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series race from Sonoma the day before. This is Harvick’s 36th career victory. This is Ford’s 656th win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
After a spin earlier in the race and a late race charge, Clint Bowyer finished in the second position.
“You get there back in traffic and you’re so much faster than them you have to check up to save a mistake. You run over them and you don’t mean to; you get frustrated and get a little bit farther behind and a little bit farther behind. I saw the 42 check up and I get into him and I was thinking, ‘Well, we’ll both survive this’. And then all of a sudden the 47 was coming through him and I smoked him and hurt the left front,” said Bowyer. “We were fast all weekend. With clean air and an long run, that’s always my strong suit. We got the long run, we just hard to start dead last to get it.”
After pitting from the lead for fresh tires and fuel with 22 laps remaining, Brad Keselowski was able to finish in the third position.
“The Freightliner Ford was really good today. We didn’t have the qualifying fun we wanted. We had amazing race pace. That’s a credit to everyone at Team Penske. It felt really good. I just wish I could run this race again I think I might have had better car than driver today and I learned a lot. Just an amazing fun day,” said Keselowski
Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-10.
There were 13 different lead changes among 10 different drivers. Martin Truex, Jr. led the most laps at 25. The caution flag flew six times for 12 laps.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is a return trip to Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400. The race will be on Saturday, July 1st on Motor Racing Network and NBC beginning at 7:30 p.m. EDT.
NXS: Keselowski Victorious at Pocono
After a late race charge and a last lap, Brad Keselowski was the victor in the Pocono Green 250 from Pocono Raceway.
“Hell of a race. Really happy for the 22 team. It's been a while. I think it's been well documented that they haven't been in victory lane. Discount Tire has been a part of this program for a long time. They deserve it. Without them I probably wouldn't have a career in NASCAR. They're on the car today...SKF...proud of them guys. It's good for Ford and everybody. It feels good for me, the team. They deserve it,” said Keselowski post-race.
This is Keselowski’s first victory in 2017. This is his 35th career victory in 245 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts.
On the final restart with 17 laps to go, Keselowski was the race leader, but dropped all the way back to 12th after Elliott Sadler pushed his tires in the air. Keselowski dropped all the way to 12th. Once he regained the momentum, Keselowski worked his way back through the field. Keselowski was able to pass Kyle Larson in the first run on the last lap as Larson was battling tight conditions on corner exit. Keselowski went below Larson to gain the lead and the victory.
Allgaier was a dark horse through much of the race. However, pit strategy brought Allgaier towards the front of the field and ultimately to a second place finish after passing Larson when he lost momentum from the bump and run from Keselowski.
“We knew we had speed in out Chevy. We knew it was fast. We just needed track position. We got behind early, but when we made that call and able to cycle back through, a good restart helped, but fresh tires were what it was all about at the end. Unfortunately, we tried to make it interesting, but didn’t have the speed to pass the 22, but all in all, a good day,” said Allgaier post race.
Larson was the leader on the white flag lap, but lost momentum in the first turn to drop to third. Larson also used pit strategy to work his towards the front of the field to finish in the third position.
“I thought I was a third to fifth place car at best. The 22, by far, was better than anybody else. Disappointed I didnt get the win, but great day for everyone on the Enos team. They did a good job, good pit stops. They made the car better throughout the race. Just not good enough there at the end, but still a good run for us,” said Larson post race.
Sadler, Daniel Suarez, Brendan Gaughan Cole Custer, Ty Dillon, Daniel Hemric, and Matt Tiff rounded out the top-10.
Allgaier holds a one point lead over Sadler. Byron is third in points, 62 points behind Allgaier. Darrell Wallace Jr. sis fourth in points 88 points behind Allgaier. Hemric rounds out the top-five in points 95 points behind Allgaier.
The Xfinity Series will head to Michigan International Raceway on Saturday, June 7th. The race will be on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network shortly after 1:30 p.m. EDT.
Day Ends Early For Elliott, Keselowski
CONCORD, N.C.— The days for Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski ended early in the Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte Motor Speedway. Both drivers finished the race 38th and 39th respectively.
As Jeffrey Earnhardt was coming off the fourth turn on lap 21 something broke in the rear end of the car. The object that broke went into the front end of Elliott’s car causing a fire. Keselowski was coming from behind and rammed into the back of Elliott, due to “oil” on the track.
“Somebody broke and there was just oil everywhere and I couldn’t turn. I ran into the back of Chase. Somebody broke in front of him and then he ran over what they broke and then he broke, so there were two cars broke in front of me and just oil everywhere,” said Keselowski. “You couldn’t stop and turn. You couldn’t do anything. It’s a real bummer four our team. We had a really fast Miller Lite Ford and I think we had a shot at winning tonight, but that’s how it goes.”
“This is so disappointing. Our NAPA Chevy was going to be all right as the night went along. But the No. 33 (Jeffrey Earnhardt) broke something, I guess, and I hit it hard and I saw some fire. And I guess I was laying down some oil all at the same time. And Brad (Keselowski) couldn’t get stopped. I hate it. It’s such a bummer. We’ll just go after it again next week,” said Chase Elliott.
Although the drivers involved claimed there was oil on the track, NASCAR officials saw no oil on the track during the caution period.
Elliott finished 38th, Keselowski finished 39th, and Earnhardt finished 40th.
Busch Talks Viability of Truck Series
CONCORD, N.C— With the announcement of the suspended operations of Red Horse Racing, Kyle Busch was adamant on Friday that things need to change in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) for it to be viable.
According to Busch, Kyle mentioned the it takes $3.2 million per season to run a fully competitive team in NCWTS, while advocating for reducing the costs.
“Our cost is 3.2. That's how much it takes to run a full operation of a truck team, and that number should be around 2, and how to get it lower, there's some engine talks I know and some body talks I know, but we're hitting it, but we're only hitting it about a half a million by doing that,” said Busch.
What is the biggest cost for teams? It is the people.
“Your biggest expense is your people, and that's where it all comes from. But as far as our model goes, it does work right now thanks to the support of Toyota, thanks to the support of the (Noah) Gragson with Switch, and the Myatt Snider’s and the Bubba Wallace's sponsors and Erik Jones' sponsors and the people like that that we've had over the course of the years that were able to make it all work.”
As Cup guys own teams in NCWTS, it is not about the money. There are many challenges for people like Busch and Brad Keselowski, who fields two teams in NCWTS.
“To really make it work and to drive your costs down, you have to have three teams, and even four teams makes it even better, but we're not to the point yet where we're ready to grow because we still need to develop our third team and make it a strong force to be reckoned with each and every week,” said Busch. “But once we get to four teams, people are mad at us because then we're too good, people can't beat us, whatever you want to say, so people are mad that we're overtaking the sport, which all we're trying to do is continue to help and build it, but there's a double‑edged sword in anything that I do anyways, so we just keep working on it, keep trying, and make it work as best we can for us."
With the 2018 schedule being released this week, people like Kevin Harvick have advocated that the NCWTS moves more to a “grassroots” schedule, something that the series was built on in its early inception.
"I would definitely enjoy that model of going back to those race tracks. Now again, how you accomplish that and how you get that done, that's for people a hell of a lot smarter than me to figure out, but I would certainly enjoy seeing the Truck Series go back to Tucson, or even around here, go to Motor Mile, go to some of these short tracks that you can put 10, 15, 20,000 people in the stands for an exciting truck race because in all honesty, that's the crowd count that you're getting at a mile‑and‑a‑half anyways, so pack the place, make it look good, and put on a good show for the fans and go back to some of the roots of short track racing that these drivers are coming up from, that the trucks came from, and Friday night shows, Saturday night shows, whatever it might be at some of these cool short tracks, and I think you'll put on a great show, you'll have the fans come out and support that. It's just how to make the model work. There's TV money involved, there's sanctioning agreements involved, there's all kind of too much behind‑the‑scenes BS that I'm not smart enough to figure out, but hopefully somebody can be smart enough to figure it out. Maybe this guy can figure that out,” said Busch.
The question was raised about if going to these smaller tracks would be a challenge and how would it work.
"Well, you just said it right there. If we make less money you're digging our grave, so the sanctioning agreements can't be for any less money, that's for sure. We actually need them to be for more. In order to cut our costs, we need to be able to make more money or compete for more money to race for more winnings. If you cut our winnings out, you might as well just say goodbye. You know, there's a problem in that fact right there, too. You know, it's just ‑‑ it's about trying to get the butts in the seats,” said Busch. “That's what matters most. If South Boston packed the place every single time and made money and NASCAR made money, the teams made money and all of us would still be going there, so there's obviously something that was missing, and I don't know what that was. But to figure that out and to be able to pack some of these short tracks and to put the trucks back on some of those standalone events, it's all about exciting moments, exciting racing, having some rooting and gouging, and it's probably worth having fights in the pits. That's what it all comes down to, and you know, we'll see if any of that happens."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also chimed in about the importance of the truck series and XFINITY series.
“Yeah, we moved our Truck team up to the Xfinity Series to make another team there. When I was in the series we went to South Boston and places like that and I miss watching those races. They were great races. I don’t know if the business model works to be able to go back and undo everything we’ve done, but I’d rather tune-in and watch them run the beach or the fairgrounds. Man! I’d love to go run a Xfinity race at the fairgrounds, in our cars. That would be at the top of my list if it was on the schedule,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I run Richmond and Bristol. That’s the only ones I’m running this year because that’s the only short track action you can find. But, the 1.5-miles just aren’t that fun. We run too many of them for it to be fun. We rarely run the short tracks. So, you try to get as much of that as you can. Not everybody is the same. This is just me talking. I don’t know if all the drivers like short tracks that much. But, I would certainly tune-in.”
Busch believes that the interest and sponsorship are just not there for the Trucks.
"I don't know what Brad's (Keselowski) scenario is. You'll have to ask him. I do believe that I have heard that he puts money in himself. I know that I put money in myself. You know, I wouldn't say that the model is working for us. I just think that we're content with the amount of money that we are spending,” said Busch. “That makes it worth our while. There just aren't any big sponsors. There aren't any Fortune 500 companies I think besides M&M's, Mars, with Pedigree now that's joining us with Todd Gilliland with Pedigree to be on our truck, and it's just not ‑‑ there's not enough people on TV, there's not enough people in the stands. The sponsorship just doesn't come. They just don't care, and that's the most frustrating part of it.”
After qualifying on Thursday night, Harvick expounded even more on the initial comments he made on his radio show "Happy Hours" on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“I can’t walk anywhere and not have somebody talk to me about the Truck Series schedule. I think it’s something that a lot of people want to say and haven’t said, but I think it’s definitely time to look at the grassroots sides of things and I think the Truck Series is a grassroots division. If you could just for example take it somewhere like Nashville Speedway and pair it up with the All-American 400 and put the All-American 400 in Nashville back on the map with a Truck Series race with some SAFER barriers, get the city of Nashville involved and that’s just one race. I think it would be very interesting and I feel like that regionally is a big touring race. You go up to Oxford, Maine, but getting the TV to these cars and these local racers and these people and the enthusiasm that it brings to a local market, that’s what the Truck Series does," said Harvick. "When you look at Eldora and you look at the road race in Canada, you look at these one-off events and every one of them are well attended, every one of them are exciting and well attended. We need events and I think it’s a great way to reinvest from the bottom up in different facilities and you could sit here and name a bunch of them, and what better way to show them you care than by putting soft walls up at the race track somehow and some way to get the cities involved and the race track and work on getting those sanctioning fees down and get them to places where they can knock the fenders off of each other and put on a great show, much like they do at Eldora. I mean, it’s got 20-some thousand people there every time we show up and everybody loves watching on a Wednesday night.”
When asked how it works, Harvick quickly went on how TV funds most everything in today's world.
TV money is still how everyone survives. That’s the reason a lot of these race tracks take these Truck races now because the TV money went up, so there’s a reason that they want to keep them. But there are ways to make all of this work. Everybody doesn’t need to have their hand out, they need to be thinking from the bottom up and how do we make this better?," said Harvick. "You look at some of these historic, just really great short tracks across the country. I’m not saying we need to take them from Daytona or Phoenix or some of these other places, but there are some places that they don’t need to be going and I think it would be interesting to revive the Copper Classic and start the season with the Trucks out there and see the sprint cars show back up and TV is gonna be there to cover it, so now you can film all these races and put these guys on TV. All of a sudden there’s TV there and they can get better sponsorship, so there’s a lot of things that you could do and, like you say, it has to be something that everybody buys into that is worried about making money.”
What can be done? That is something NASCAR and teams are looking to fix.