This past week the performance arm of the Ford Motor Company unveiled the Mustang that will be used in competition by its teams on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2019. The announcement, made at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, was well timed with the series heading to the heart of American auto industry for the Consumer Energy 400 at the Michigan International Speedway.
Former MENCS champion and current co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing(a Ford team) Tony Stewart drove the new Mustang onto the stage where it was greeted by a host of Ford drivers, owners and other dignitaries. Needless to say, the vibe was a positive one with all the pomp and circumstance associated with such an announcement. But now that the ceremonies are over, do the teams that race Ford machines have any cause for concern regarding a change away from the Fusion, which has provided them with nine wins in the 22 MENCS races contested so far during the 2018 season?
Ford has used the Mustang in the NASCAR Xfinity Series since 2011.
Stewart-Haas Racing team member and Ford driver Clint Bowyer appeared on the NASCAR RaceDay show on FS1 prior to Sunday’s running of the Cup Series event in Michigan and was asked by former NASCAR champion and show co-host Bobby Labonte if Ford teams were indeed worried about the change considering the struggles by Chevrolet teams following their recent switch.
Chevrolet began using the Camaro as its MENCS car at the beginning of the 2018 season and has posted less than stellar results. After winning the season opening Daytona 500 with driver Austin Dillon and his Richard Childress Racing team, the ‘Bowtie’ brand did not find victory lane again until Chase Elliott won last Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen race on the road course at Watkins Glen International.
To this point, Chevrolet has yet to win on one of the so-called downforce tracks and Ford hopes to avoid those same types of troubles when they make a change.
“Obviously watching Chevrolets, yeah,” Bowyer admitted in the interview. “That played into a lot of conversations that we had. We were like ‘Hey, can we learn from their mistakes? Is there a reason why they’re struggling? Is there a reason why we’re better?'”
Bowyer believes that at least part of the reason for Ford’s improved results has to do with the sanctioning body’s move over the off-season to equalize each of the brands.
“I think it was that NASCAR really honed in and pulled the reins in on all the manufacturers and it helped Fords out a lot when they did that,” the driver who has scored two MENCS wins in 2018 explained.
“But yes, absolutely looking forward to the Mustang,” Bowyer added. “You build that to be better, you don’t build that to be worse by no means. On the front side of this, hopes are high going into this deal with the Mustang.”
Bowyer went on to explain that the Ford teams and engineers are working hard to assure that the ‘Blue Oval’ will be as good next year as they have been in 2018 on those tracks that require greater amounts of down force. The bulk of the NASCAR schedule is comprised of tracks that measure between one and two miles in length and it’s those tracks make up the high down force tracks.
Seven of the wins accumulated by Ford in 2018 have come on tracks measuring between the one and two mile marks.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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