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It was a busy weekend for Jamie Allison, but not an unusual one.
The director for Ford’s North America Motorsports program, Allison took in the April 6 GRAND-AM competition at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., as well as the STP 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event in Martinsville, Va., the following day. Afterward, he headed to the Charlotte area to take part in April 8 team meetings with various Cup organizations.
“You don’t run motorsports sitting behind a desk,” Allison said prior to the start of the STP 500. “Motorsports happens at the track, it happens with our teams and at Ford Racing that’s where we belong.”
Six races into the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Ford teams have one win (Carl Edwards at Phoenix) and three drivers inside the top 10 in points. Brad Keselowski (Penske Racing) sits in the No. 2 spot while Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle and Edwards are sixth and seventh, respectively.
"The depth is there and we see it across all of our teams."
-- Jamie Allison, Director, Ford's North America Motorsports program
Joey Logano, Keselowski’s teammate, fell out of the top 10 at Martinsville, but is 11th as the series heads to this weekend’s event at Texas Motor Speedway.
Given the changes that faced the automaker this year -– NASCAR’s rollout of the new Generation-6 car and the addition of Penske to the fold -- Allison said he is pleased with the early-season results.
Through the first five races, Allison said, a Ford team was either first or second on the final restart of the race. It was a streak that didn’t end until Martinsville.
“So on the final restart … we have been in contention or won the race,” Allison said. “You can’t ask for more than that. The depth is there and we see it across all of our teams.”
The new car, built to bridge the gap between race track and dealership, has been a success thus far on both fronts, he said. March sales figures for the Fusion topped 30,000, a record for the model.
“Being in contention to win, leading laps, running up front, fans take notice,” he said.
• Six Cup organizations affiliated with Ford field a total of 12 teams -- Roush Fenway Racing, Penske, Richard Petty Motorsports, Wood Brothers Racing, Germain Racing and Front Row Motorsports.
Penske joined the Ford effort prior to 2013, a move that Allison said he hopes will help the automaker capture the NASCAR manufacturers’ championship, something it last accomplished in 2002.
“It’s been many years since we’ve been able to garner that lofty championship,” he said. “Which is important for a company, it’s a prize point. The way the program is set up … you need strong, capable, championship-caliber teams. And we think we have them.”
“These are athletes in the heat of battle,” Allison said, “… trying to perform at the highest level. And at those moments, many things can happen. And sometimes it ends up with a little bit of controversy.
“In this case I think Joey is handling it absolutely like a champ. It’s something that a lot of drivers go through on their ascent to the top and this is something that stays at the driver level and team level. We as a manufacturer don’t get involved in these controversies.”
• The new Fusion is the only entry in Cup that uses an actual grille on the front of the race car rather than a decal, a move that had some unintended consequences at Martinsville.
Early in the race, contact with Bobby Labonte dislodged the grille from Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s car; later, on a Lap 297-restart, the front grille from Keselowski’s Ford went airborne following contact with Kyle Busch.
Ford and NASCAR officials chalked up the lost pieces to contact that normally occurs during the beating and banging of a short-track race.
“We talked with NASCAR about what happened on Sunday, and there are no major concerns at this point,” Ford’s Pat DiMarco said. “The mounting of the grille is team specific, but (the teams are) continuously learning about this new car and adapt accordingly when issues arise.”
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