FORD PERFORMANCE NASCAR: DAYTONA 2 ADVANCE
Ford heads back to Daytona this week having won seven Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, including two of the last three after Ryan Blaney (Pocono) and Kevin Harvick (Sonoma) captured their first events with the manufacturer. Daytona is the place where Kurt Busch won the season-opening Daytona 500 in the debut of Stewart-Haas Racing with Ford, and Brad Keselowski is the defending Coke Zero 400 champion.
The 2017 season is shaping up as one of the most balanced in recent memory for Ford as every organization has played a role in the first half success. Here are some notes to illustrate the fact:
Ford has had four different organizations win a Cup race this season – Stewart-Haas, Team Penske, Roush Fenway and Wood Brothers Racing. The last time that happened was 1998 when Roush Fenway Racing, Robert Yates Racing, Team Penske and Rudd Performance Motorsports all went to Victory Lane.
Of the 13 full-time Ford teams that compete on a full-time basis, 12 have posted at least one Top-10 finish in 2017.
Ford is coming off a sweep of the top three spots in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway as Kevin Harvick posted his first win with Ford, followed by Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer in second and Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski in third. The last time Ford finished 1-2-3 in the series was on March 16, 2014 at Bristol Motor Speedway when Carl Edwards took the checkered flag ahead of Roush Fenway’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2nd) and Richard Petty Motorsports’ Aric Almirola (3rd).
Harvick became the sixth different Ford driver to win a MENCS race this season, joining Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The last time Ford had that many different winners in a single season was in 2005 when Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch and Dale Jarrett combined for 16 season victories.
Even though Sunday represented Harvicks 36th career MENCS victory, it was his first with Ford. That makes him the 83rd driver to win a series race with the manufacturer and the third first-timer in a row following Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Talladega) and Ryan Blaney (Pocono).
The 1-2 sweep by Harvick and Bowyer marked the second time this season Ford has had teammates from the same organization finish first and second. The other occasion came at Richmond in March when Logano and Keselowski achieved the feat.
Ford has now won seven MENCS races this season, which is only one less than all of 2016 and equal to 2015.
COMPARING 2017 WITH 2016 (AFTER 16 RACES)
Wins (2017): 7 by Team Penske (3), Stewart-Haas (1), Roush Fenway (1), Wood Brothers (1)
Wins (2016): 3 by Team Penske (3)
Poles (2017): 7 by Stewart-Haas (3), Team Penske (2), Wood Brothers (1), Roush Fenway (1)
Poles (2016): 3 by Team Penske
(Note: There were 11 qualifying sessions through the first 16 weekends in both 2016 and 2017)
Top-5 Finishes (2017): 35
Top-5 Finishes (2016): 15
Top-10 Finishes (2017): 64
Top-10 Finishes (2016): 31
FIRECRACKER GOES TO FIREBALL
When Daytona International Speedway hosted the very first Firecracker 400 in 1963, the first man across the finsh line was Fireball Roberts, who led a Ford Motor Co. sweep of the top five spots. Roberts passed Fred Lorenzen on the final lap to win the race with Marvin Panch third. All three of those drivers were in Fords while fourth-place finisher Darel Dieringer was in a Mercury. Ned Jarrett rounded out the top five in his Ford. This marked the fifth overall event in July for the speedway, which opened in 1959, but the first four were 250-mile features. The fans got their money’s worth on this day as the race featured 39 lead changes between six drivers, but the best was saved for the end as Roberts and Lorenzen waged a major battle that saw them exchange the lead four times in the final five laps before Roberts earned his third July win at Daytona.
A FIRST FOR THE BIFF
Greg Biffle made his rookie season a memorable one when he registered his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in the July race at Daytona International Speedway in 2003. Making only his 23rd career start, Biffle played the fuel-mileage game to perfection while his closest pursuer, Bobby Labonte, ran out on the final lap. In a race that saw the last 81 laps go green, Biffle assumed the lead on lap 140 and held it for the final 21 laps. Jeff Burton finished second and Ricky Rudd third as Ford swept the top three spots.
RAGAN RECOVERS FROM 500 SETBACK
Only five months after suffering heartbreak in the Daytona 500, David Ragan bounced back to win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in the July event at Daytona International Speedway. Ragan, who was leading the 500 on a green-white-checker restart, was assessed a penalty by NASCAR after getting ahead of Trevor Bayne and then changing lanes before the start-finish line. The penalty cost him a chance at victory, but he made up for that in July as he passed Ryan Newman with eight laps to go and held off Matt Kenseth on the final lap to win for car owner Jack Roush.
ALMIROLA TAKES THE KING BACK TO VICTORY LANE
The first victory of Aric Almirola’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career came two years ago in the 400-mile race at Daytona. The win, which came after rain forced a halt to the event after 112 laps, came 30 years after his car owner, Richard Petty, won his record 200th series race in the same event. Almirola had held the lead for seven laps and 14 of the previous 15 circuits when the rain began falling. NASCAR waited 56 minutes before calling the race official. The win marked the first for the famous No. 43 since 1999 and the first time it had been to victory lane with Ford since The King’s only season with the manufacturer in 1969 when he won nine times.
JUNIOR AND CALE DOUBLE DOWN
Junior Johnson and Cale Yarborough hold the distinction of being the only two men who have won at Daytona International Speedway in a Ford as both driver AND owner. Johnson won a qualifying race at the speedway in 1965, but had on his owner’s hat when Lee Roy Yarbrough won twice in 1969 and Jimmy Spencer in 1994. Yarborough won the Firecracker 400 in 1967 as a driver and watched John Andretti take his Ford to victory lane in 1997.
FORD DAYTONA JULY RACE WINNERS
1963 – Fireball Roberts
1965 – A.J. Foyt
1967 – Cale Yarborough
1969 – LeeRoy Yarbrough
1970 – Donnie Allison
1983 – Buddy Baker
1988 – Bill Elliott
1989 – Davey Allison
1991 – Bill Elliott
1994 – Jimmy Spencer
1997 – John Andretti
1999 – Dale Jarrett
2000 – Jeff Burton
2003 – Greg Biffle
2007 – Jamie McMurray
2011 – David Ragan
2014 – Aric Almirola
2016 – Brad Keselowski