Nate Ryan

Ford would like to race Gen 7 car in Cup by 2021 season

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CONCORD, N.C. – The global director of Ford Performance Motorsports would like to see a next generation car in the Cup Series and believes “it’s still possible to do something for 2021.”

During a media breakfast at Ford Performance’s offices in the Charlotte area, Mark Rushbrook said the reigning championship manufacturer is “definitely in support of a new Gen 7 car” and a next-generation engine and powertrain after the next car arrives.

NASCAR introduced the Gen 6, its most recent iteration of the Cup car, for the 2013 season. It replaced the Car of Tomorrow, which was phased in over the 2007-08 seasons.

The Gen 6 emphasized production roots, making the stock cars look more like their street counterparts than they had in years. Ford, which is rolling out a new Mustang to replace the Fusion this year, is seeking greater brand identity.

“The things we’re looking for are even more product relevance or technical relevance than what we have today,” Rushbrook said about the next generation. “As much as we like that we’ve made the new car look like a Mustang, we’d like the ability to do more. We’d like to see a few changes on the outside of the car. Nothing major. But a few changes underneath the car for a little bit of technical relevance.

“We want to make sure we can keep using our technical tools and learning like today. We don’t want to lose that with any changes. That’s the right step for the sport to take to get a new car in those different areas.”

Tommy Joseph, who spearheaded the development of the Mustang as an aerodynamics supervisor for Ford Performance, believes NASCAR could look at altering the roofline and greenhouse shape to more of a fastback style now that two of the three Cup models are coupes (Chevrolet runs the Camaro; Toyota has the Camry).

Joseph said he hasn’t met with NASCAR officials and manufacturers about the Gen 7 yet but is eager to start the process.

“We’re willing to help NASCAR, along with the other OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), as much as they can and as much as they allow us,” Joseph said. “It’s important everybody cooperates. It’s extremely difficult for anybody to go it alone or for NASCAR to go it alone. They need the help and support that OEMs like us can provide. And it’s important for all OEMs to agree on what’s the best for the sport in terms of car architecture, design, rules enforcement.

“As soon as they’re ready to get into the aerodynamic and technical field, we’re ready to help as much as we can. For sure, if it’s slated for 2021-22, we need to start now.”

Once the new model is finished, the powertrain and engine would be next, Rushbrook said, though Ford doesn’t necessarily want the engine to be as production-based.

“We like the way the rules are structured today because it does create a level playing field that allows you to compete directly with other manufacturers on the design of the engine,” Rushbrook said. “The concern we have with a production-based engine is everyone will have a different production engine, and that leads to Balance of Performance formulas.”

Balance of Performance formulas are used in other series such as IMSA, using regulations and restrictions to help prevent manufacturers from gaining an unfair competitive advantage.

Rushbrook said a form of the antiquated V8 pushrod engine still could be a part of the engine of the future.

“With the engine formula today, we get a lot of technical learning and relevance,” he said. “So even though we don’t use those exact same parts, we’re learning every day from our NASCAR engine program in ways that help even our 4-cylinder EcoBoost engines (in passenger cars).

“From things we learn in NASCAR, we still get that technical relevance and learning that means a lot to our company. We still sell a lot of V8s in our trucks, and we sell a lot of trucks to NASCAR fans. Right now we don’t think it needs to change.”

Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates Engines that supplies Ford teams in NASCAR, said he also would like to avoid Balance of Performance but add some production-based elements under the hood.

“The fans love the sound of V8s,” Yates said. “That’s important to (NASCAR CEO) Jim France. There’s a lot of production V8s we could take and race. We just need to work together. It’s a complex question. It’s not an easy one to solve, but it’s worth spending time and energy on it.

“I think Gen 7 car is Step 1, and the new engine and powertrain is coupled with that. But we have to continue to move the ball forward. We have to do it in a way that’s more efficient for the teams and make sure they’re healthy and help attract new teams and OEMs.”

Winners and losers from Las Vegas

Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
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WINNERS

Paul Wolfe — Great call to have Joey Logano not pit before the final restart. Of course it helped that six other cars stayed out. Still, the top two cars came down pit road and Logano, running third, stayed out and won.

Matt DiBenedettoFinishes second in his second race with the Wood Brothers.

Jimmie JohnsonScored his first top-five finish since last summer’s Daytona race.

Bubba Wallace Decision not to pit allowed him to finish sixth, giving him his best Cup finish on a 1.5-mile track.

LOSERS

Todd Gordon and Greg Ives— For every high, there is a low. Gordon apologized on the radio to Ryan Blaney for calling him to pit road while leading before the final restart. Blaney finished 11th. Ives called Bowman to pit road while running second before the final restart. Bowman finished 13th. Ives tweeted that he was “VERY frustrated with my call at the end not to game on old tires, especially in Vegas.”

19 pit crew — Martin Truex Jr.’s pit crew got him into the lead under caution after Stage 2 but he had to return to pit under that caution to tighten loose lug nuts. Said Truex after the race: “We just need to quit having mistakes on pit road.”

William ByronLined up second on the final restart but contact with Matt DiBenedetto led to a tire rub and Byron falling back before he was involved in the crash that ended race. He finished 22nd.

Ross Chastain says his finish ‘unacceptable’ in place of Newman

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He scored a 10th-place finish in the first stage and ran as high as fifth Sunday in a car he never raced before.

Ross Chastain still had a harsh evaluation of his 27th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the No. 6 Ford, which he drove in place of an injured Ryan Newman.

Chastain finished two laps down after causing the final caution on a Lap 262 spin, which he judged “unacceptable,” along with his restart performance (“guys kind of ate me alive”) as a substitute for Roush Fenway Racing.

“It’s hard to get out of the car after you have a top-10 car, and you go and run into people and pick the wrong lanes on restarts and then spin it out at the end,” Chastain said. “That’s pretty silly. Just a lot of mistakes on my end and then at the end just overdriving and for one position to be the first car a lap down. That’s unacceptable.”

Chastain had an average running position of 16.87 over the 400-mile race, which went south after he pitted under green from 15th on Lap 217 of 267. The yellow flag flew five laps later, and Chastain took a wavearound to restart 21st.

(Photo by Will Lester/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

On the restart, he made contact with Kurt Busch and pitted under green to fix a tire rub, which left him a lap down when he spun with five laps remaining.

“There were a lot of small mistakes on my end, but I learned a ton,” he said. “The car deserved a lot better finish.  Obviously, we showed that early and I just didn’t have great restarts. I just have to be better.

“RFR and everybody puts so much into these cars, and ultimately I’m the one holding the wheel.  We had such a good first stage and had so much confidence and from there I just started making mistakes.”

Chastain, who finished 10th in Sunday night’s rain-delayed Xfinity race, will be driving the No. 6 for Roush while Newman recovers from his Daytona 500 crash. In a statement from the team Sunday morning, Newman indicated he plans to drive again this season, but no timetable has been provided for his return.

Chase Briscoe wins rain-delayed Xfinity race in Las Vegas

Chase Briscoe
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Chase Briscoe won Sunday’s rain-delayed Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, beating fellow Ford driver Austin Cindric by almost three seconds to claim his third career Xfinity win.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver led 89 laps in the race, which began late Saturday afternoon but was red flagged on Lap 51 due to rain.

Briscoe and Cindric were the only Ford drivers in the field.

Ryan Sieg placed third to earn his sixth career top-five finish and his first on a 1.5-mile track.

The top five was completed by Daytona winner Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton.

“That was really a team win,” Briscoe told Fox Sports. “We were really good, then as soon as the sun went down when we were in dirty air, we just weren’t really good. In clean air, obviously there at the end we were really good. … This is something I feel we can do all year long.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

More: Click here for race results.

More: Click here for the point standings.

WHAT’S NEXT: Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway at 4 p.m. ET Feb. 29 on FS1.

Chevy drivers positive about new Camaro body after Las Vegas

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Positive reviews are in from a few Chevrolet Cup drivers after their first race on an intermediate track with the updated Camaro ZL1 1LE body, which was introduced this year in an effort to improve the manufacturer’s performance after two lackluster seasons.

Those reviews are backed by the final results for Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After the chaos created by a last-lap crash, six Chevrolets finished in the top 10. They were led by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Jimmie Johnson placing in the top five.

That followed Chase Elliott leading 70 laps and winning both stages before his one-car incident in the middle of the final stage.

In last year’s spring race on the 1.5-mile track, only two Chevys – Kurt Busch (fifth) and Elliott (ninth) – finished in the top 10. Three Chevy drivers combined to lead 23 of the race’s 267 laps.

“We’re trying to just understand this new Camaro body and the setup that needs to go with it,” said Johnson. “We’re close, but there’s still a little bit more work for us to do on our car to get the balance between the clean air and the traffic closer. But for the first try on a downforce track, the guys did a really nice job.”

Johnson earned his first top five since last July’s race at Daytona. He placed 19th in this race last year.

“It’s really rewarding to see,” Johnson said. “Last year when we left here, we had quite the opposite feeling and were pretty worried about what the year was going to hold for us. So, it’s really nice to have that change of perspective now. There’s a lot of Chevys up front, one of our Hendrick cars led for a while. So, we’re going the right way.”

Johnson’s teammate, Alex Bowman, was running in second when the final caution came out inside 10 laps to go. After his team chose to pit, Bowman placed 13th.

“This new Camaro, for its first time on a downforce track, I’m just really pleased with it so far,” Bowman said. “I think it’s going to be really good for us. Obviously, I’m bummed out to finish 13th after staring at a second place or a win. But it’s part of it; it’s how racing goes. We win as a team and lose as a team. It just didn’t go our way there at the end.”

Last year, Chevrolet only earned seven wins, with two coming on 1.5-mile tracks. Bowman claimed one of those at Chicagoland Speedway.

Added Bowman: “Compared to how we started the last two seasons, I think we’ve got something for them this year.”

One Chevrolet driver said it was “still early” for assessing the new bodies.

“I think the Hendrick cars were really good,” said Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, who placed ninth. “I felt about the same as last year. So, we just have to continue to get better.”