Car owner Roger Penske confirms Ford will have new body in 2019


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Team Penske car owner Roger Penske confirmed after Sunday’s Clash that Ford will have a new body in 2019.

Asked about the challenges of having the oldest body among the manufacturers (Toyota updated its Camry last year and Chevrolet is using the Camaro ZL1 this year), Penske said the team will have help next year.

“We can’t really use that as an excuse,” Penske said of having the oldest body this year. “There’s no reason to. I think we thought the same thing coming out of St. Petersburg last year in IndyCar that we might not have the power Honda had and we won 10 races. I keep reminding the team that. We’ve got to race all year. We’ll have a new body next year.”

Brad Keselowski, who has been vocal since last year about the advantage Toyota had and expressed concern at Miami about Chevrolet’s new body, was asked about Penske’s comment.

“They don’t tell me those kind of things because they know I’ve got a little bit of a big mouth and they don’t trust me, which is probably smart,” Keselowski said after his win in the Clash. “If (Penske) says it, I would say go with him. He’s always pretty trustworthy.”

In a statement to NBC Sports, Mark Rushbrook, Global Director, Ford Performance Motorsports, said: “This is racing, and we are always working on actions to improve performance and that includes engine, body, aero, everything on the car. We will make an announcement on any future body actions when we are ready.”

Toyota won 16 of 36 points races last year with the new Camry body, including 14 of the final 19 races and the championship with Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing.

 and on Facebook


NASCAR Chairman Brian France upbeat Monster Energy will remain beyond 2018

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
1 Comment

NASCAR Chairman Brian France expressed optimism Tuesday that Monster Energy will remain as series sponsor after this season and said that the Cup Series could use one more manufacturer.

France made his comments on “SiriusXM Speedway” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Monster Energy, which completed its first year as series sponsor in 2017, was to have informed NASCAR by Dec. 31 if it would remain beyond the 2018 season. NASCAR President Brent Dewar said last month that the sanctioning body agreed to extend that deadline

“They have had a really good run with us, and we’ve had a good run with them, and my hope and feeling is that that’s going to continue,’’ France said Tuesday. “They’ve been good partners. They’re bringing a lot to the sport. They’ve got a lot on their plate and so do we. We’re working with them to make sure that we have as long an agreement as we can. I think we will. I think it’s working that good for everybody. I’m real pleased with it.’’

Asked by “SiriusXM Speedway” host Dave Moody if there is a deadline on when Monster Energy must inform NASCAR of its decision, France said:

“There’s always that, but we just look at our partners differently. We work though everything. Everything to us is long term, whatever that means in a given relationship. My sense is that it has really worked for everybody. It’s also new. They’ve only been here, my goodness, just completed the first year. They’re working out some things and that’s understandable. It’s all good, actually really good with those guys. Love those guys.’’

Last month, Rodney Sacks, chairman and chief executive officer of Monster Beverage Corp., said during an investor meeting that the company was “evaluating” its future with NASCAR.

Sacks was asked in that meeting about the return on its investments, including NASCAR.

“I think that we have been quite successful,’’ Sacks said. “I think we have got a lot more visibility, a lot more recognition for the brand through the NASCAR sponsorship. It’s very extensive. It’s on TV. It’s appearing on the talk shows. We look at the metrics that the NASCAR folks give us and it certainly does seem to have been enhanced. Now to what degree, that we don’t know.

“Certainly we do believe we have been able to increase penetration but again it takes some time. I think we really started in NASCAR at the beginning of the year — very, very quick decision to go into NASCAR (and) it took us a little bit of time to get up to speed and get our activation going. We think we’ll see lot clearer benefits and more benefits coming from that relationship this year.’’

As for manufacturers, France said he felt there was room for one more in the Cup Series to join Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota.

“There’s a lot of work going on on that. Clearly we believe that the sport could not only absorb but welcome another manufacturer. These are tricky things to do. They’re very difficult to pull off. We’re just going to work toward that goal. I believe over time we’re the best opportunity not only in North America, maybe the world in terms of motorsports. We’re going to be aggressive in talking to other manufacturers as we go down the road.’’

Why just one more manufacturer?

“I think there is a limit,’’ France told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “There’s only so many key teams that a manufacturer can get their hands on and that takes time,’’ he said. “They want to have good performance and the right team alignments. Most importantly, they want to align themselves to the right teams and sometimes the teams aren’t available to do that.

“Using the Toyota approach that they had, that took them a long time to be competitive. I think the next manufacturer would probably like to shorten that timeline a little bit and be more competitive quicker. We will get another manufacturer, but it’s one step at a time.’’

 and on Facebook

Ford teams hoping new inspection process helps keep teams close

Getty Images
1 Comment

The engines had barely cooled after last season’s finale in Miami when a warning about the 2018 season was issued and what Ford teams might face.

“I would assume that Chevrolet will be allowed to design a car the same way that Toyota was for this one, but Ford doesn’t have any current plans for that. If that’s the case, we’re going to take a drubbing next year, so we’ll have to see,’’ Brad Keselowski said then.

Chevrolet debuts the Camaro ZL1 this season, a year after Toyota dominated with its updated Camry. Toyota won 14 of the last 19 races, including eight of 10 playoff races and the championship with Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing.

The newer models from Chevrolet and Toyota have raised concerns for some Ford drivers. Some say, they have to work harder to compete. Others note that NASCAR’s new inspection process could help keep one manufacturer from pulling ahead.

“If the new Hawkeye system is put in place and implemented for 2018 fully, not partially, fully, it would certainly level the playing field for Ford by enforcing the rules,’’ Brad Keselowski said of the new inspection station.

The new camera-based inspection station that has been called the Hawkeye system will encompass the grid station, laser inspection station, template module station and weights from last year. The new system will scrutinize the car in a way it hasn’t before.

“You just have to play the cards you’re dealt and we’ll see how that goes,’’ said Ricky Stenhouse Jr. “I think the Hawkeye system could maybe cut some deficit down for us that Toyota had built into their cars based off the old inspection system. We’ll just see how it goes.’’

Ryan Blaney said: “Even though we don’t have a new car coming out we have to work that much harder. The mindset hasn’t changed in the shop. We are always looking for ways to improve our cars, whether mechanical or aero. Yeah, there was a push maybe from other years where maybe we were more strong and you don’t feel like you have to lay catch-up a much but honestly we have a little catch-up to make on (Truex’s team) and other cars that were so dominant last year.’’

Even with Ford’s struggles last year, the manufacturer placed two cars in the championship race in Miami — Chevrolet had none, which a Chevy executive called “unacceptable.’’ Also, Kevin Harvick won at Texas last fall, providing hope that the Fords can compete with the other car makes.

Harvick said his team will have to continue to work hard maintain his level of excellence (14 Cup wins since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014).

“We have a car that is designed for a huge spoiler in the back and is the oldest car on the race track compared to the other manufacturers,’’ Harvick said. “It took us a little bit to get things situated last year with the balance. We could face those balance issues again this year that we might have to work through as we go into the year just because of the way they are going to inspect the cars with the Hawkeye system.

“With the new splitter rules you are looking at a few hundred pounds of downforce taken off the cars. There are no rule changes but everything had to be cut off in every shop.

“We worked through those issues last year. It took us a bit but we might have to work at them again.”

 and on Facebook

ThorSport Racing partners with Ford in Truck Series

Getty Images
1 Comment

ThorSport Racing has partnered with Ford in a multi-year deal in the Camping World Truck Series, the team announced Monday.

The team’s announcement comes a week after it revealed the mutual decision to part ways with Toyota.

“With 23 years in the NCWTS, we look forward to our new partnership with Ford Performance in NASCAR,” team owner Duke Thorson said in a press release. “Our pursuit of wins and championships remains at the forefront of our objectives.”

ThorSport, based in Sandusky, Ohio, had been paired with the Toyota for six years, winning two titles with Matt Crafton.

“We’re excited that ThorSport Racing has decided to switch to a F-Series truck for the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports in a press release. “ThorSport is a proven championship-level team in the series, and we look forward to providing them the aero and simulation technical support that will ensure they remain at the top level of the Truck Series.”

In 2017, Brad Keselowski Racing fielded the only two full-time Ford entries in the series. That team shut down following the end of the season.

Crafton will be returning to ThorSport for his 17th season – and 14th consecutive – with the team. The rest of the team’s driver lineup will be announced at a later date.

The Truck Series season begins Feb. 16th at Daytona International Speedway.

 and on Facebook

New car buoys hopes for Chevrolet to avoid ‘unacceptable’ Cup result last year

Photo: Chevrolet
Leave a comment

A Chevrolet executive calls it “unacceptable” that the manufacturer did not have a car racing for the Cup championship last year at Homestead-Miami Speedway but says he expects Chevrolet to have “at least a car or two” in the title race this season with the new Camaro ZL1

Pat Suhy, Chevrolet’s NASCAR Group Manager, made the comments Sunday after a luncheon at the National Motorsports Press Association Convention.

Chevrolet had no Cup car finish higher than fifth (Chase Elliott) last year and did not score a win in the 10-race playoffs — Toyota won eight races and Ford two. Toyota won the championship with Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing.

“If you look at the car count and just do a ratio of the car count, we were (seven) out of 16 going into the playoffs last year and to not have one make it in the final round was not good,’’ Suhy said.

“I expect us to have at least a car or two in the Final Four this year. There’s no reason we shouldn’t.’’

Suhy and others at Chevrolet are buoyed by the Camaro ZL1 and look to repeat the success Toyota had last season (16 wins in 36 races) with its updated Camry.

Suhy said a key to the Camaro ZL1 is that Chevrolet engineers found ways to move more downforce from the front to the rear of the car.

“As teams make more downforce, they tend to make more and more front downforce, they don’t gain rear downforce as much,’’ Suhy said. “With the old car, as they made more and more front downforce, it got more and more aero loose, so it got harder to keep the car from being too loose and unstable going into the turns.’’

Suhy said that while there were some Chevrolets that were strong last season — Kyle Larson won four races to lead the manufacturer — many teams had a challenge with the setup.

“I would say the loose to relative looseness of the car didn’t feel as comfortable getting into the corners,’’ Suhy said of last year’s car. “So I think a lot of it is really about driver comfort and how they feel going 210 mph down the frontstretch at Michigan and lifting and turning left and having the confidence that the car is actually going to turn left and not lose the front end. I think those are the things this car will help feel more settled, more stable and less twitchy.’’

Any new car can have its struggles. Despite its dominance last year, Toyota won only two of the first 17 races before winning 14 of the final 19.

“I think some of the things that we’ve done with our car and what we’ve done since it was approved, working together with our teams and with the teams working separately, I’d like to think that we’re not going to struggle that badly that early,’’ Suhy said. “I guess we’ll see. We’re prepared. If we do struggle, it’s not because of the fundamental design of the car, it’s really just a matter of more time development needed. We’re ready to address that if needed.’’

Chevrolet enters this new era without its NASCAR program manager. Alba Colon joined Hendrick Motorsports earlier this month to oversee the team’s competition systems group. She was among those from Chevrolet at the track most weekends who worked with the teams.

Suhy said he’s temporarily filling Colon’s job, along with his other duties, until a replacement can be found. Suhy said the team that developed the car remains and that Kevin Bayless, Chevrolet Racing NASCAR Chassis and Aerodynamics Program Manager, will play a greater role. Bayless will be at the organizational test Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Each Cup organization is allowed to have one team test. 

 and on Facebook