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.
Tire....Rubs Cause Problems at Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— Bringing a new tire to compete at Daytona International Speedway proved it’s challenges for drivers.
Goodyear brought a new tire compound that was supposed to provide more grip for drivers. The tire provided grip for stability, not speed. However, there were numerous tire issues during the weekend.
On Thursday during the opening minutes of NASCAR Xfinity Series practice, Spencer Gallagher had a tire go down in the middle of the draft, sending himself and Cole Custer to a backup up car.
In the Coke Zero 400, five drivers reported tire issues. The most vocal was Kevin Harvick, who stated over his radio that the tires were “crap.”
Tire issues were the main cause of some of the cautions on the track. However, the problem was not because of issues with the tire, but because of fender rubs.
Because of the nature of drafting, the fenders were pushed in from the beating and banging in the draft. Despite claims from driver’s about the tires, Goodyear saw no issues with the tire they brought to the track.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— David Ragan came so close to scoring the victory at Daytona International Speedway in the Coke Zero 400, but was shuffled back to the sixth position on a late-race restart in NASCAR OT.
Ragan was leading the race when the race restarted on lap 162, but Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. had the dominate car and shuffled Ragan out of the lead.
His sixth place finish at Daytona was his best finish since a fifth place finish at the Martinsville Spring race in 2015.
Despite a sixth place finish, Ragan admits he didn’t have the speed when he was out front:
“Our car didn’t have speed up front. Our car drove really good which allowed me to stay in the throttle and really push cars. We had a little damage to our right front fender too. It just didn’t go as it needed to,” said Ragan.
Despite being on the front row on the final restart, Ragan estimated the run by Ty Dillon, but underestimated the charge from Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Michael McDowell.
“I really thought that if we could clear the 13 (Ty DIllon), we would be in good shape. I didn’t know the 17 and 95 had that good of a run. My car wasn’t good on the bottom either. It liked to run that middle and top. I just didn’t want to let anybody get on my outside.
Despite his recent records at Daytona, Ragan was pleased about his run:
“If it was Thursday and you said ‘Hey, we will give you a sixth place finish,’ I would probably would have took that coming to Daytona. My record hasn’t been that great the last several years. I have been caught up in wrecks. I haven’t been able to finish these races clean. To be that close its bittersweet, but I can handle it,” said Ragan.
Ragan understands defeat. In 2011, Ragan lost the Daytona 500 on a late race restart to Trevor Bayne. Ragan will think about it but believe losing this race is nothing.
“I lost the Daytona 500 down here. Losing the Coke Zero 400 that ain’t nothing. I will think about it tonight and tomorrow a little bit. I can think about it and smile.”
Ragan currently sits 28th in the Cup series points standings, 438 points behind Kyle Laron, but 41 points ahead of Aric Almirola, who sits 30th in points.
Stenhouse Jr. Wins Longest Coke Zero 400
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— For the second time in a row at a restrictor-plate event, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was victorious in the Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway.
“Wow, these guys. I kept my Talladega car and told them to build a new one. They build the Fifth Third Ford that was really fast. We won the Firecracker 400! This is awesome! I have been coming here since 2008. I actually came in 2006 one time with Bobby Hamilton Jr. and it is cool to put it in victory lane and get our second win this year. I love it! Thank you to the fans for coming out here. Everyone at NASCAR. What a great weekend. America. 1776. We are the champs!,” said Stenhouse Jr. post race.
It only took Stenhouse Jr. seven races to win his second career Cup race. This was Stenhouse Jr.’s seventh top-10 of 2017. This marks the 137th victory for Jack Roush at the Cup level. This marks Ford’s eighth Cup win of 2017.
Clint Bowyer finished second after contending for most of the race at the front of the field
“Wow, what a night. A fun race. Our Mobil 1 Ford was strong. I got shuffled out on that second stage and that bummed me out. I wanted those stage points. It wasn’t that big a deal because I knew that we had a hot rod to get back up front. Man, it’s just every man for himself. You’re beating and banging Both sides are ground off my car. Good night. This bridesmaid deal sucks. I want to win. We’re in this business to win. That’s what Tony and Gene pay me to do. I’m proud of everyone on the Mobil 1 Ford team,” said Bowyer.
Paul Menard was “Mr. Where did he come from?” tonight at Daytona. Menard was able to finish third at Daytona.
"We really didn't want to hang out in the back, but we got involved in a wreck really early and once you get back there, it is really hard to get back up to the front. I was just waiting for something to happen at the end of those stages. We weren't in the top-15 so I just bailed out of the pack for the stages. I had a really good handling car from yesterday in the draft practice,” said Menard. “All weekend long it handled really well. I knew it would race really well tonight. Bowyer gave me a hell of a push that last lap. I wasn't very good at leading, being the first guy in a line. With Ricky (Stenhouse) breaking the air, I couldn't run off to the start/finish line. We just have to keep doing this. If you run in the top--five you put yourself in position for wins. We definitely had a shot tonight, I just couldn't get a run off of turn four even with Bowyer pushing me. I just didn't have the run I had the lap before. I thought we had a chance to win this one, just couldn't get the run."
There were 33 lead changes among 16 different drivers. The caution flag flew for a record 14 times for 51 laps, while the red flag was displayed once. The average speed was 123.986 mph. This became the longest Coke Zero 400 at three hours, 17 minutes, and 12 seconds. The margin of victory was 0.213 seconds.
Kyle Larson leads Martin Truex, Jr. by 18 points in the standings.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is a trip to Kentucky Speedway for the Quaker State 400. The race will be broadcasted on NBCSN and Performance Racing Network beginning at 7:30 p.m. EDT on July 8th.
Earnhardt Jr Scores Daytona Pole
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start from the pole in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway in his final full-rime season.
"I have to give Hendrick Motorsports a lot of credit, particularly for me personally it has been the No. 24 (Chase Elliott) bunch. We've been kind of pushing each other over the last several years in qualifying at Talladega and Daytona. It's been a healthy competition,” said Earnhardt Jr. “That's why we win poles and qualify so well at some of these race tracks is a healthy competition within the company. Greg and all the guys deserve all the credit for the car. I don't do anything in qualifying except hold the wheel and make sure I don't hit the apron. The car does everything. A lot of credit to the power and the body man back at the shop. All that stuff is so critical and they did a great job today."
This is Earnhardt Jr’s second pole at Daytona. This is his 14th career pole.
In the first round of qualifying, Earnhardt Jr. was fastest at 190.852 mph. Chase Elliott was second fastest at 190.751 mph. Joey Logan was third fastest at 190.283 mph. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was fourth fastest at 190.186 mph. Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-five at 190.174 mph. All drivers will race on Saturday night. Notable drivers who did not make the second round of qualifying include Matt Kenseth (P13), Kurt Busch (P15), Kyle Busch (P16), Kyle Larson (P21), and Martin Truex Jr. (P25).
In the final round of qualifying, Earnhardt Jr posted the pole winning speed at 190.973 mph. Elliott will start second with his speed of 190.795 mph. Brad Keselowski will start third with his speed of 190.287 mph. Kahne will start fourth with his speed of 190.050 mph. Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five with his speed of 190.046 mph. Stenhouse Jr, Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Blaney, and Danica Patrick round out the top-10.
The Coke Zero 400 from Daytona will be broadcasted on Motor Racing Network and NBC beginning at 7:30 p.m. EDT.