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Jul 08, 2014 - 04:19 PM
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Ford Racing Closes First Half of 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Season On Hot Streak
Posted by: newsla on Jul 08, 2014 - 04:14 PM
NASCAR News
Ford Racing Closes First Half of 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Season On Hot Streak


Ford Racing is in the midst of a three-race winning streak as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and it’s happened on three different styles of race tracks by three different organizations. The one consistent in all three victories has been the power of Roush Yates Engines, which now has 83 series victories since beginning operation in 2004. With the season officially at the halfway point and Ford Racing boasting seven wins by four different drivers, Roush Yates Engines CEO Doug Yates talked about the season to date and what lies ahead for his group.

 

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DOUG YATES, Chief Executive Officer, Roush Yates Engines - HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE THREE DIFFERENT ORGANIZATIONS WIN ON CONSECUTIVE WEEKS? "It just makes me feel really proud of all the hard work that everybody at Roush Yates does to prepare for these different types of tracks. To win on a road course, an intermediate, and a speedway - that covers a lot of bases and the only one left is a short track, which we won at Richmond and Bristol earlier this year - so I feel really good about our program. But most of all I’m just proud of the work that Roush Yates and Ford have collectively done to get us to work on these engines and have great power so our teams can go out and be successful."

WE’VE SEEN SOME TEAMS GO ON STREAKS EARLIER THIS YEAR LIKE THE ONE FORD IS ON RIGHT NOW, SO DO YOU SUBSCRIBE TO THE THEORY THAT THIS SPORT IS CYCLICAL? "Yeah, absolutely. Racing is a leapfrog business. You get your program really good and people are working hard to catch you and when they catch you, they jump ahead of you for a little while and that’s just the nature of the sport. It’s more competitive today than I’ve ever seen it and we’ve just got to keep the pressure on all fronts - engines, aero, chassis - and everybody work on their part of this program and we’ll have a great year. But you talk about how the sport cycles around and 30 years ago my dad built Richard Petty’s 200th race-winning engine, so I was really proud of the moment to be able to get the 43 back in victory lane at Daytona last weekend. That was something really special."

AND SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED GOOD LUCK ON YOUR SIDE, RIGHT? "Yeah, and just to emphasize what’s happened in this past three weeks. First, Carl Edwards wins his first road course race at Sonoma. Brad Keselowski has his first win from the pole at Kentucky and then Aric Almirola has his first win at Daytona, so it just speaks to the strength that Ford has in their lineup with the drivers and the teams, and I’m just really proud of what’s going on right now and looking forward to carrying it on."

HOW WOULD YOU GRADE YOUR ROUSH YATES ENGINE GROUP ON THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON? "I’m pretty critical. You go to these races and we expect to go there and sit on the pole and win the race. I think we’ve done a lot of good work, so I would probably give us an A-, and that’s really high. I think we’ve got a little work to do on the mile-and-a-half tracks to make sure we give Hendrick a run for their money, and then continue on just doing our homework. If we do our work and the teams continue doing their thing, then we’re gonna be good. But halfway through the year I would give us a B+ or A- and on my scale that’s really strong."

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON FROM AN ENGINE DEVELOPMENT STANDPOINT? "We usually try to break it down by the first 10, and the next 10, and then really start preparing for the lead-up to the Chase and then the Chase itself. We’re really pushing hard to get Greg Biffle a win, along with Marcos Ambrose and Ricky Stenhouse. I thought Daytona was an opportunity for that and felt like it could come together and it did for the 43 and it’s awesome to see those guys locked in the Chase. I applaud NASCAR because this new format is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. It’s supposed to have some wildcards and really make it exciting, but as far as breaking the season down we’re really focused on the Chase and what we have to do as an engine company to give our teams what they need to win this championship. That’s our goal and that’s the motivation right now. The Chase this year is much different than years past. It’s a different format and we’re really focused in on that today."

IF THE CHASE IS A MAJOR FOCUS NOW, HOW DOES YOUR ENGINE SHOP KEEP THINGS GOING WHILE WORKING THAT FAR AHEAD? "The way we approach it is we have a development staff of over 40 guys that are constantly working for better power, reliability, fuel economy and other things that are important to the engine operation. We break it down into intermediate track performance, road course performance, short track performance, and Daytona and Talladega. We have groups that work on each of those areas and we’re constantly bringing out new specifications, which means new-and-improved power or temperature or weight throughout the season. Obviously, we’ve got to get our guys in there and we’ve been successful doing that so far this year, but the goal is to have our best performance in those last 10 races of the year. Obviously, those improvements need to be proven out and validated. We want to run them enough so when we get to the Chase we have a proven specification with upgraded power and upgraded performance. So far this year we’ve sat on a lot of poles and a lot of front rows and I think we’re peaking at the right time. I know there was a stretch where the Hendrick guys were really strong and won five in a row, but now the Ford guys and Roush Yates have won three in a row, so it’s shaping up to be an epic Ford-Chevy battle. Hopefully it will come down to that and we’ll come out on top."

SO YOU FEEL YOUR ENGINES ARE JUST AS COMPETITIVE AS THE COMPETITION? "Yes. I think we’ve got a great package this year and we’ve had a successful year. We were disappointed the most at Michigan. I think that was the track that we came away saying it was really time to roll up our sleeves and make sure when we go back there we’ve got a better package. We heard that from some of the drivers, but we went to Kentucky and sat on the front row and led almost every lap with Brad and won the race. I think that shows that we’re in the game and we’re on the right track and will have more when it comes time for the Chase."

THREE OF A DIFFERENT KIND

June 22 - Carl Edwards (Roush Fenway Racing) posted the first road course win of his career when he took the lead on lap 85 and held off Jeff Gordon at Sonoma Raceway. The win was Ford’s first at the track since Ricky Rudd in 2002.

June 29 - Brad Keselowski (Penske Racing) had a dominant Miller Lite Fusion at Kentucky Speedway as he led 199 of a possible 267 laps. The win was Ford’s first at the intermediate track since it began hosting NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 2011.

July 6 - Aric Almirola (Richard Petty Motorsports) won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in the rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. The restrictor-plate victory came 30 years after car owner Richard Petty won his record 200th race in the same event.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES

Ford has improved statistically in every major category during the first half of 2014 compared to the same time in 2013. Here are some of the numbers:

WINS

First 18 races of 2013: 3 (Phoenix, Talladega, Michigan)

First 18 races of 2014: 7 (Las Vegas, Bristol, Texas, Richmond, Sonoma, Kentucky, Daytona)

NOTE: Ford has at least one win this season on every style of race track in which NASCAR competes - intermediate, superspeedway, short track and road course.

LAPS LED

First 18 races of 2013: 569

First 18 races of 2014: 1,531

POLES

First 18 races of 2013: 1 (Carl Edwards)

First 18 races of 2014: 5 (Brad Keselowski - 3, Joey Logano - 1, David Gilliland - 1)

FRONT ROW SWEEPS:

First 18 races of 2013: 0

First 18 races of 2014: 3 (All by Team Penske @ Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Kentucky)

NOTE: Joey Logano has qualified for the final segment of qualifying every week with the exception of Talladega and Daytona. In addition, Brad Keselowski has qualified first or second 9 times this season. Overall, Team Penske has had at least one driver start in the Top-3 in 13 of the 18 races in 2014.


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