Ford drivers have dominated recent races at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, winning five consecutive restrictor plate events.
Having captured the victory in the first two plate races of 2017 with Kurt Busch at Daytona and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at Talladega provides confidence and puts the pressure on the Ford drivers to remain undefeated this season heading back to Daytona.
Ford bolstered its lineup for 2017 by adding Stewart-Haas Racing, providing a total of 13 full-time teams. Among them are some of the best plate racers in the sport with Team Penske leading the way.
They have emerged as two restrictor plate racing aces and earned this position by consistently running up front rather than laying back until the finish neared. Once in the lead, the teammates are able to control the draft, and lead a majority of the event.
Keselowski demonstrated this approach last July, pacing the field for 115 laps en route to victory. It marked the most circuits the winner at Daytona has led since Tony Stewart was out front for 151 in July 2005.
These results have attested to the increased role of teamwork at plate tracks in recent years.
Whether it’s synching up the timing of green flag pit stops or providing drafting help to move to the front, teamwork has become a critical strategic element for restrictor plate racing.
Manufacturer teammates working together has become the most recent trend during plate races. Toyota first perfected this approach in the 2016 DAYTONA 500 as their cars ran together at the front of the pack for most of the event and came home with the top three positions.
Now with additional Ford’s on-track in 2017, implementing a similar game plan could allow the manufacturer to continue thriving in restrictor plate races.
A strong qualifying effort placed six Ford’s in the top-10 for Saturday night. Most importantly, five drivers will start nose-to-tail in the bottom lane from the second row back which could provide an early drafting advantage.
Mistakes during green flag pit stops and a crash while drafting together hurt Toyota’s ability to replicate their success with this strategy in February.
However, execution on pit road and the Ford competitors working together could lead to another win, and further affirm their position as the top restrictor plate racing manufacturer.
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