Categories
Trucks

DGR-Crosley, Ford Partnership A Win For All

On Wednesday, Dec. 12 it was announced that DGR-Crosley will be switching manufacturers from Toyota to Ford in 2020.

The move came after a successful 2019 season where the team recorded wins in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, ARCA Menards Series East, and the ARCA Menards Series. So, after all the success, the decision may seem like a strange one; however, when you look at the situation at hand, this was probably the best time to do it for all parties involved.

For one, when it came to trucks, DGR was always going to be the number two option for Toyota’s development system behind Kyle Busch Motorsports. Not to forget the amount of Toyota teams in the various lower-tier series as well.

Now, this was not a horrible thing for the team, but this new opportunity allows them to take a bigger role as a driver development group. With that in mind, don’t be surprised if this team gets even better next season with its newfound manufacturer support.

This brings us to Ford.

A group that really didn’t have a pipeline system into the lower series like the one Chevrolet has with GMS Racing, and Toyota has with KBM. They know have that with DGR, which really cannot be understated.

While a full driver lineup as yet to be announced, there are a bunch of qualities options at the table that the team could add or resign, that would be good additions for the Ford camp also.

For one there is Todd Gilliand, who is a free agent and has that obvious connection with DGR, that could be somebody scooped up. Yes, he did not have the best of seasons with KBM in 2019, but he did show potential and did win a race with the team.

Then there is somebody like a Tanner Gray, who is young and won in his first season in the East Series last year with a history of success attached to his name.

And finally, there’s the appeal to other drivers who may be stuck in the Toyota pipeline that may not have a clear vision upwards. Someone like a Hailie Deegan, who is currently a free agent, has a history with DGR and been rumored to be joining the team.

The announcement may already be creating waves, and the manufacture sent out a media advisory that they will be announcing a new development driver to their program on Tuesday, December 17.

Not to forget that if DGR is successfully able to devise a pipeline for Ford, it may raise the likelihood of a team like Team Penske or Stewart-Haas Racing of maybe investing in DGR to invest in the future of their own race teams.

While all of this may be looking into a crystal ball one thing is for certain, this is move is a win for all parties involved.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Ford Teams Look to Recapture Michigan Magic

Once upon a time, Michigan International Speedway was Ford Motor Co.’s playground, and in today’s Pure Michigan 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, the Blue Oval Boys will be looking to dominate again.

When the 2-mile MIS oval opened in 1969, Ford and Mercury cars won 12 of the first 15 Cup races up through 1976, when David Pearson and the Wood Brothers Racing team swept both events.

In 1985 and ’86, Bill Elliott won four straight in the powerhouse No. 9 Ford Thunderbirds fielded by Harry Melling.

Fords won the second MIS race of 1990 (Mark Martin), both ’91 races (Davey Allison and Dale Jarrett) and the first race of ’92, again with Allison.

Fords would go on to sweep at MIS again in 1994, ’96, ’97 and ’02.

The most recent Ford sweep at MIS came in 2013, with Greg Biffle and Joey Logano coming up big.

Will the Ford teams step up again today?

There’s a good chance they will.

Michigan native Brad Keselowski will start on the pole in his Team Penske Ford, flanked by teammate Joey Logano, with Kevin Harvick third in a Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

For Keselowski, winning at MIS would be a dream come true,

“Any success you have at your home track is right there with having success in the biggest races of the year like Daytona for the 500 and the championship,” Keselowski said.  “It’s a big deal for any driver, not just myself.  Of course, this is my home track and to be able to have any kind of success here just really feels so darn good and I just hope we can keep it up this weekend.”

Logano, on the other hand, is in dire need of a victory in one of the next four races or else he’ll miss NASCAR’s playoffs.

“I love the pressure.  I’m all right with pressure.  It’s good,” said Logano.  “I’d rather be in, but the pressure part is OK.  You’ve got to get used to that, but that’s what this sport is, especially during the playoffs.  We just have to turn into playoff mode a little bit earlier than everybody else to get in, but so far so good.”

As far as challengers to the Fords today, there are several of the usual suspects to watch out for: Cup points leader Martin Truex Jr. and is dominant Furniture Row Racing Toyota, two-time defending Michigan winner Kyle Larson in a Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, and the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Chase Elliott, who has finished second in each of his three MIS starts.

Expect a wide-open race and, as always at Michigan, fuel mileage could factor into who wins.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Ford Looks to Continue Plate Track Dominance

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.

Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have accounted for six of the last 12 victories at Daytona and Talladega.

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. 

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @HeyJasonSchultz

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

Loyalty Only Goes So Far, and Other Manufacture Musings

The 2017 NASCAR season is almost officially underway, and with the new season comes a lot of changes.

Perhaps the biggest change is the manufacturer switch Stewart-Haas Racing made from Chevrolet to Ford in the off-season. For many diehard fans, it will take some getting used to seeing a team which had run Chevrolets change over to Fords.

In what came as a shock when it was announced that Stewart-Haas Racing would be leaving Chevrolet, it shows the role manufacturers play in gaining the slightest competitive edge.

Loyalty only goes so far.

It’s easy to be loyal when things are going well, and the results are showing on the racetrack. But as soon as there is an opportunity to gain an edge under a different banner with a different badge on the front of the car, teams and drivers are hard-pressed to look away.

Just because things have been one way for so long, does not mean they are not subject to change. In recent years, it has been uncommon, though not unheard of to make a manufacturer switch.

Joe Gibbs Racing left Chevrolet after 2007 to head up Toyota’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series efforts 2008. Since the switch, they have garnered one championship with Kyle Busch in 2015.

Team Penske won the Cup title in 2012 with Brad Keselowski in a Dodge, in what was the last year of a Dodge team at the Cup level before they hopped over to Ford beginning in 2013. Team Penske is yet to win a title since making their manufacturer change.

Furniture Row Racing switched from Chevrolet to Toyota beginning in 2016 with Martin Truex Jr., who is now joined by Erik Jones. Since switching to Toyota, Furniture Row Racing has forged a close working relationship with Toyota stablemates, Joe Gibbs Racing, and are now frontrunners nearly every week, though they have yet to win a title.

As much as fans wish their favorite driver would stick to one manufacturer for the duration of their career, it hardly ever happens. In fact, it’s a rarity when a driver remains with one brand.
Even the biggest stars of NASCAR, past and present, who have been linked to one manufacturer, drove for different manufacturers at different points in their respective careers.

Dale Earnhardt’s name is synonymous with Chevrolet, yet he began his career in a Dodge Charger. He even ran two seasons in a Ford Thunderbird in the early ‘80s.

Richard Petty had a majority of his success under the Mopar banner, driving Plymouths and Dodges, but even he was not loyal to one brand his entire career. In fact, like Dale Earnhardt, he raced for all of Michigan’s Big Three automakers. After beginning his career running Mopars, he switched to Ford in 1969, but later he ran for General Motors in a Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Buick, and retired in a Pontiac.

Tony Stewart’s career began in a Pontiac and then Chevrolet when the Pontiac division of General Motors disbanded. In 2008, he ran his lone season in a Toyota before he formed Stewart-Haas Racing running Chevrolets, and now though he is out of the driver’s seat, his team will pilot Fords.

Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth both left Fords at Roush Fenway Racing for the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing.

Among the short list of active drivers who have remained steadfast to one manufacturer are Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who have run their entire Cup careers in Chevrolets. The now-retired Jeff Gordon ran a Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports in every Cup start he made – but it’s worth noting he ran a Ford in the XFINITY Series prior before joining Hendrick Motorsports at the Cup level.

Hendrick Motorsports has remained faithful to the Chevrolet brand, while Roush Fenway Racing has been with Ford since their inception in 1988. Wood Brothers Racing has had a strong partnership with Ford Motorcraft and have only housed Fords and for a time, Mercury, which falls under the Ford umbrella.

As for Dodge, which NASCAR has been without since 2013, there is hope.

Dodge has been on the record as wanting to throw their hat back into the ring. If Dodge were to rejoin the fray, all three of America’s Big Three automakers would be back on the track, which is exciting to a lot of the sport’s core fans.

Ray Evernham, who helped usher in Dodge’s return to NASCAR in 2001, has been vocal about a potential return to the sport, stating, “Dodge has a long history in the sport and I’m sure they’d like nothing more than to be able to come back and add to that history. I’m hoping it happens.”

As a fan, do you still care who drives what car and manufacturer, or are those days long gone? Let the staff at POPULAR SPEED know your opinion by tweeting @POPULARSPEED. We would love to hear from you and continue the conversation.

Shane Carlson is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL SHANE AT shane.carlson@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @ShaneCarlson4

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Logano Talks New Race Format, Aero Package, Manufacturer Battle Vs. SHR

PHOENIX — Since joining Team Penske before the 2013 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series campaign, Joey Logano has won 15 races and has come frustratingly close to winning his first championship twice.

New season, new changes, same approach

The Middletown, Conn. native is now entering his ninth full season of Cup competition in 2017 and is primed for that elusive championship. But with the new format that separates the races into three stages, how will he approach each Sunday?

“Our team will adapt, and we’ll approach races the same way we always do to win and maximize our day,” Logano told POPULAR SPEED. “Not maximizing our day will be a different obviously with the way the segments are going to be.”

He also noted how the new aerodynamic package plays a part as well. Spoiler heights are being reduced 1⅛ inches from 2016, so cars will have even less downforce this season.

“We have to be open to change this year and open to trying different things to evolve from a strategy standpoint and from a setup standpoint,” he said.

Penske has been the strongest Ford team since the inception of the elimination-style playoff system in 2014 with 25 wins. Logano was a Championship 4 driver in its first year and again in 2016.

Penske vs. SHR?

With Stewart-Haas Racing making a change from Chevrolet to Ford, there will be a battle to be the manufacturer’s top organization.

Logano said of SHR’s switch, “If I look at the way Brad [Keselowski] and I work together as teammates, we want to beat each other, but we also learn a lot from each other. We know that we need to share information to be successful. I think Ford realizes that and it will be a relationship similar to driver and driver as team relationships.”

Both Penske and SHR will use Roush-Yates Engines in 2017 and beyond, so data sharing will be inevitable.

“Obviously, we want to keep our secrets, and they’ll want to keep their secrets, but there will be some things that will be open to sharing and trading things off,” he said.

Logano and sponsor Shell-Pennzoil are both signed through 2018.

Your prediction?

Will Logano be one of the four championship contenders at Homestead-Miami Speedway this year? Will Penske remain Ford’s fastest team or will SHR rise to the top?

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.