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Ford intent on finding performance, more wins

June 11, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

Automaker ready for offseason addition of Penske team to pay dividends

The addition of Penske Racing to the Ford camp for 2013 was part of a push by the automaker to deliver a manufacturer’s championship to the Detroit-based company.
 
But with Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano winless through the first 14 races, the move has yet to produce much in the way of tangible results.
 
That’s not to lay fault at the feet of the Penske organization, as Roush Fenway Racing, the anchor of Ford’s NASCAR platform, has had its share of struggles this season as well.

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Ford teams have just two wins -- Carl Edwards (Roush Fenway Racing) at Phoenix and David Ragan (Front Row Motorsports) at Talladega – and three drivers in the top 10 in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series points standings. Edwards is second, Keselowski ninth and Greg Biffle (RFR) climbed back to 10th this past weekend after spending four weeks on the outside looking in.

In the battle for the manufacturer’s title, Ford trails both Chevrolet and Toyota.

Jamie Allison, director of Ford Racing, said June 11 that there have been “moments in time” this season “when we were in contention to win races.” But those wins have failed to materialize, he said and “overall … we have not had the performance that we had expected coming out of the gate this year.”

Allison said Ford officials met with teams owners Roger Penske, Jack Roush and key team personnel June 10 in an effort to identify “projects based on the analysis we have done and based on the gap that exists and the opportunities in front of us.

“I know there is not a lot of patience by the fans or by us and there is not a lot of patience by the teams,” he said. “Everybody expects immediate results and that is our expectation. … We will address the issues we have identified and advance our program more cohesively.”

Ford’s current situation might be unexpected but isn’t unusual. A year ago, Ford drivers had two wins and held two spots in the top 10 after 14 races. In 2011, three wins and two spots in the top 10; in 2010, three drivers in the top 10 with no wins.

A Ford driver hasn’t won the Cup title since 2004 (Kurt Busch) and its last manufacturer’s championship came in 2002.

Penske Racing, previously aligned with Dodge, made the switch to Ford following the 2012 season -- and a Cup championship for Keselowski.

It was unreasonable to expect that there wouldn’t be a period of adjustment, Allison said, but “we absolutely made the right strategic move by strengthening the caliber of championship-capable teams and drivers … into the lineup that we have.

“You can’t just have an addition to a family and expect everything to operate as it did before. We really do need to just give it a little bit of time to allow for the blended, broader family to come together a little more cohesively and get comfortable with each other and then allow for more synergy coming out of working together. It just takes a little time.”

In spite of the slow start, there have been highlights for Ford teams this season. Besides the two victories on the Cup side, Ford drivers also have a pair of wins in Nationwide competition, where Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. holds down the No. 2 points position.

With the Cup series headed to Michigan International Speedway this weekend for the Quicken Loans 400, Ford teams will be seeking a second milestone in as many weeks.

Trevor Bayne’s Nationwide victory at Iowa Speedway June 9 gave Ford its 200th career win in NNS competition. And Ford teams have won 999 races across all three programs -- Cup, Nationwide and the Camping World Truck Series. Snagging win No. 1,000 in the company’s backyard is clearly something officials would enjoy celebrating.

“It is less about bragging rights and more about wanting to showcase the best of what we are made of in front of all the people who follow us, support us and cheer for us,” Allison said.