the morning drive

Ford executive intervened in Daytona squabble among drivers

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The global director of Ford Performance said the manufacturer intervened between Ford drivers after the Daytona 500, which saw a Toyota driver celebrate the win and Ford drivers fume at each other afterward.

Shortly after Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500, Ford driver Joey Logano exited his car on pit road and confronted fellow Ford driver Michael McDowell about McDowell not pushing him on the final lap. McDowell was upset with how he had been treated by Ford drivers earlier in the race. 

Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance, told “The Morning Drive” Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Ford got involved with those issues afterward. 

“I will say that we frequently get involved,” he said. “We don’t always get involved, but certainly after Daytona, like I said, we’re a family and every family has issues. For sure we had our issues at Daytona, can’t deny that. But as a family, we talked through those issues, tried to understand what led to those issues and then how can we fix that and make it even better going forward.

“We were disappointed with the result at Daytona, I think every single one of our drivers and our company. I think a lot of that frustration played out postrace because we had fast cars, and we weren’t able to capitalize on it, so I think a lot of those emotions came to the front. But we’ve talked through them, and I think most of those wounds are healed, or I at least hope they are, and looking forward to continuing those relationships that we have.”

Ford preaches a “One Ford” mantra with its teams to emphasize the importance of working together.

Asked on “The Morning Drive” who intervenes from Ford in such situations, Rushbrook said: “A lot of that is me. The great thing with Edsel Ford (great-grandson of Ford founder Henry Ford), we call him ‘The Godfather of Ford Racing.’ He will sit down with the drivers when they’re at the track. When Edsel Ford speaks, I think it carries a lot of weight and the drivers listen and they put a lot of value into that.

“But Edsel is not at the track every weekend so a lot of that will fall to me or Pat DiMarco (NASCAR Program Supervisor, Ford Performance), and we have open relationships with our drivers, crew chiefs and competition directors. If we see an issue, we’re going to talk to them about it and understand what is going on and the best way to go forward. It’s a family. We talk through it and find a way to keep going.”

This week things were better for Ford, which celebrated the first Cup win for the Mustang with Brad Keselowski winning at Atlanta.

“That was really great to see,” Rushbrook said. “So much hard work has gone into that program for well over a year and a half and to see it come together like that with five Mustangs in the top 10 and Brad pushing through the flu that he was fighting and get it to victory lane, that was awesome.”

NASCAR America: Martin Truex Jr.’s recent performance fuels Silly Season questions

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In the last four races, Martin Truex Jr. seems to be losing ground to Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch in the playoff battle.

On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, Pete Pistone, SiriusXM’s co-host of “The Morning Drive,” pointed to Truex’s recent performance and how it may be part of a bigger concern in the team.

Truex’s last four races have resulted in three results of 14th or worse.

“To be fair, some of that is circumstantial,” Pistone said. “Two weeks ago at Bristol he had a really fast race car. He was in contention to win the race and he got in the incident with Kyle Busch, but there just seems to be something off there.”

The reason behind the dip in performance might not all be bad luck. Truex is part of this year’s Silly Season rumors after 5-Hour Energy announced it will not return as a sponsor in 2019.

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. laments timing of 5-Hour Energy’s decision not to return 

Truex’s contract is up at the end of the season and that inevitably led to speculation about his future.

“You can’t help but wonder with all the things that are swirling around this team … where that team is going to wind up, where Martin Truex Jr. might be going next year – if some of that is getting in the way and taking a little bit of the eye off the ball there,” Pistone said.

The relationship between Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn has been one of the secrets to the success of the No. 78 team, but that bond can get strained if one of them believes a breakup is pending.

“A crew chief and a driver, it’s like being brothers, it’s like being married, it’s like being cousins – it’s everything,” Kyle Petty said. “And once one party decides the grass may be greener, the other guy … will turn their back on you in a heartbeat because they feel hurt.”

For more, watch the video above.

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Kevin Harvick on inconsistent pit guns: ‘It’s becoming a safety issue’

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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Kevin Harvick heightened talk about pit guns Tuesday night by saying the inconsistent equipment was creating “a safety issue.”

Harvick made his comments on his “Happy Hours’’ show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, Harvick said the pit guns were “pathetic” and “embarrassing to the sport” after pit gun issues led to loose wheels.

He had more say on his radio show Tuesday night.

“I think in theory, I think the pit gun idea is a good idea,’’ Harvick said. “I just don’t think at this particular point it’s being executed to the point where it’s fair for the race teams and safe. It’s becoming a safety issue.

“We saw five loose wheels on the run that I had a loose wheel on on Sunday. Five cars had loose wheels on that particular run. That is way outside the norm of what we do on a weekly basis. As a driver, I’m very uncomfortable in the car because I don’t know whether, is it a loose wheel, then you see some tire issues creep up during the race. Is it a loose wheel, is it a tire coming apart? In your mind you’re running through these things (thinking) ‘What the hell do I do?’

“If it was the first week where something has happened, it would be like, ‘Oh maybe we just made some mistakes, maybe it could be this or maybe it could be that.’ But there’s so much doubt about what you have as a gun. On Saturday (in the Xfinity race at Texas) it was a rear tire issue. On Sunday, it flipped. The rear tire changer had no problems. His gun turned probably 2,000, 3,000 RPMs more because the front guy drew the short straw on Sunday. It’s kind of Russian Roulette at this particular point.’’

In the first 10 minutes of the discussion of the pit guns, Harvick used the word safety or a form of it eight times.

On Monday, Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, addressed the pit gun issue on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“Everybody is always quick to blame the gun, not saying that it may not have been a gun problem, but we have to look at everything before we can flat out say we had a gun problem,’’ Miller said. “That’s what we do.

“The program has had a few more hitches in it than, obviously, we wished it would, but we’re making progress with it. We’ll continue to do that and continue to evaluate and continue to try to get better every week and make sure that we dig into whatever problems happen up and down pit road and get them rectified.

“Everything in motorsports is a development process and this is no different. It’s unfortunate that it’s caused some people some problems but development is what it is. We’ll continue to keep it ramped up and get it right.’’

Harvick also cut through the banter Tuesday on what teams voted for and what teams did not vote to go with standard pit guns as a cost-cutting measure before the season.

“For me, I’m in the I don’t care who voted for it, I don’t care what team you’re on, I don’t care what the situation is at this particular point, I want to be safe inside the race car, and I want my wheels to be tight,’’ said Harvick, who has won three of the first seven Cup races of the season. “This is the same type of situation that we went through with the three lug nuts. Is it safe or is it not safe?

“Right now, if you have a good gun, you’re going to have tight wheels. If you don’t have a good gun, and as the race goes on it seems like the guns get progressively worse, they don’t work as well as they do at the beginning of the race. For me, I just want to be safe in the car.’’

Harvick alluded to April 2016 when his boss, Tony Stewart, complained about NASCAR not requiring teams to tighten all five lug nuts on each wheel.

Stewart said then about the lug nut issue: “For all the work and everything, all the bulletins and all the new stuff we have to do to superspeedway cars and all these other things they want us to do for safety, we can’t even make sure we put five lug nuts on the wheel.

“It’s not even mandatory anymore. I mean, you don’t have to have but one on there if you don’t want. It’s however many you think you can get away with. So we’re putting the drivers in jeopardy to get track position. It’s not bit anybody yet, but I guarantee you that envelope is going to keep getting pushed until somebody gets hurt.’’

NASCAR fined Stewart $35,000 a day later for his comments and mandated that teams must secure all five lug nuts less than a week later.

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NASCAR America teaming up with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

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Wednesday will mark the beginning of a new relationship between NASCAR America and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Every Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. ET, a NASCAR on NBC personality will appear on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive,” which is hosted by Pete Pistone and Mike Bagley.

Analyst Steve Letarte will be the first guest.

Pistone will also make regular appearances on NASCAR America.

Pistone joined NASCAR America Tuesday night to preview the new relationship and the storylines heading into the second half of the NASCAR season.

The main theme of the discussion was the building frustration for Joe Gibbs Racing, which is winless through 16 races. Though the driver getting the most attention has been Kyle Busch, there’s three other drivers who are looking to win, including Denny Hamlin.

“We had his crew chief Mike Wheeler on the ‘Morning Drive’ last week and the frustration, you can feel it there,” Pistone said. “They also felt a bit optimistic, especially going to Sonoma because he runs so well there, he ran so well and almost won the race last year until Tony Stewart got him on the last lap. … I still think there’s optimism there in the 11 camp, they’re finding the speed they’ve been missing so far in the first half of the year. The next race at Daytona could be the place you see Denny Hamlin bust down the door to victory lane.”

Watch the above video for more from Pete Pistone.