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.
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.
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.
"Option" Tire Brings Strategy Into All-Star Event
CONCORD, N.C-- Going into the Monster Energy All-Star Race, the talk was about the new “option” tire that Goodyear was bringing to help spice and liven up the All-Star Race. According to Goodyear, the “option” tire was supposed to fall off drastically after six to eight “at-speed” laps. However, the option tires balanced out with the primary tires during the short 20 lap segments.
Before the first stage began, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott ran the “option” tires in an effort to gain track position. Suarez started from the 19th position, but was the only driver to make the most gains using the option tires in the day time. Suarez gained eight positions in the opening stage.
Although Suarez gained the most positions with the tires, many drivers only saw a gain of one to two positions using the “option” tires.
With the option tires, came a strategy NASCAR could not have imagined.
Between the second and third stages, Mike Bugarewicz, crew chief for Clint Bowyer, put on two “Prime” tires and two “option” tires on the car. On the radio, Ryan Blaney was furious about what had transpired with Bowyer. Per NASCAR, the move was totally legal. The move was legal because the team had put on the four “sticker” sets of the “option” tire before leaving two on the race car. Bowyer was able to get off pit road in the first position, but once the race restarted, he quickly fell to the back.
“It was a good try. Track position is key and you try to do something to get track position and you don’t have the upper hand. They’re better than you on that deal. I think if we would have had tires and started up front, we’d have been hard to handle tonight,” said Bowyer, after he was eliminated. “We were a good car all night long, it’s just this format and the way the race is. You can’t complain about it because it is what it is. It’s the All-Star Race and everybody wants to be a part of it, it’s just unfortunate that your hands are tied.”
Brad Keselowski tried to play a similar move in the break between the second and third stage. However, the move he made was deemed illegal. When Paul Wolfe and the No. 2 team put the “option” tires on, they came back down pit road to put the “prime” tire back on the car after two laps under the caution. NASCAR told the team that they would be unable to use the “option” tire. Keselowski had to run the race on his last set of primary tires. The team missed two lug nuts when the placed the “option” tires on.
“Definitely a tough finish tonight for the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford. We had loose lug nuts after the second stage and having to come back down pit road to tighten those definitely altered our strategy. We just have to regroup this coming week and be better for the 600,” Keselowski stated post-race.
After the race, drivers assessed the “option” tire based on a longer run compared to a short run.
“They weren't bad. I mean, the trend of handling from my car was the same on the yellows versus the greens. I didn't see a huge shift in trends over the run and balance change. So it just had a bit more grip and went faster for a short period of time. I think it ended up in the same spot as the yellows did,” said Jimmie Johnson, who finished third on Saturday night.
The run that I was the leader, Jimmie was on the options, I felt like he closed on me to about the six‑ to eight‑lap mark, then I started pulling back away. The run that I was on the green tire, there was a lot of us on the green tire. I was kind of at the speed that they were at,” said Kyle Larson, who finished second. “We were catching Jimmie, who was on the regular tire. I don't know. Everybody's cars drive differently and stuff. I felt like the handling of it stayed pretty good, though, throughout the 20 laps. I don't know how the lap time looked 'cause I was battling people, so I wasn't really looking at my dash to see what I was running. Yeah, so I don't know.”
Although the initial test of the option tire was not up to par, it could potentially be used in points-paying events after more research and development.
Bowyer, Blaney, Suarez Win Open Stages; Elliott Fan Vote Winner
CONCORD, N.C— Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney, and Daniel Suarez will transfer into the Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway based on their victories in the stages.
After starting from the pole position, Bowyer led all 20 laps in the opening stage. He had a 3.653 second lead over Blaney at the start-finish line.
In the second stage, Blaney led the field to the green to led all 20 laps. Blaney beat Chase Elliott by 0.203 seconds.
In the final 10 lap stage, Landon Cassill was the race leader, but was punted by Elliott before the first turn. Daniel Suarez assumed the race lead, but Elliott was pass Suarez with four laps remaining. The caution flew as Erik Jones went through the grass in an effort to pass Suarez and Elliott. Suarez won the final stage by 1.039 seconds over Austin Dillon
The winner of the fan vote was Chase Elliott.
The Monster Energy All-Star Race is set to go green shortly after 8:00 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network.