Friday 5th: Ford boss reaffirms his commitment to motorsports

The executive who oversees Ford’s racing program said the company is “committed to motorsports” even as the manufacturer faces economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports, said motorsport is still important to the manufacturer, but admitted that “The scrutiny to make sure we get the return on every dollar is probably higher than ever, or at least in the last five years.

“So that’s part of the discussions that we have internally with our motorsports management team and the governing board that we have with our racing partners, but Ford is a motorsports company founded with Henry Ford (winning a career in 1901) and finally forming the company over 100 years ago. It is part of who we are today, so we are here to be in motorsport. We are committed to motorsports. “

Ford announced during an earnings call in April that it lost $ 2 billion in the first quarter of the year. Before taxes and after adjusting for one-off items, Ford lost $ 632 million. The projections at the time were that the number could exceed $ 5 billion in the second quarter. Still, Ford stated in April that it had $ 35 billion in cash.

“Rest assured, everyone at Ford is fully focused on both today and our future,” said Jim Hackett, president and CEO of Ford Motor Co., during the April earnings call. “We believe that it remains brilliant and is a great source of motivation for us as we serve that future and of course address all of these immediate needs.”

On the track, Ford has been a leader this season, winning seven of the 13 Cup races. Ryan Blaney’s win Monday at Talladega gave each Team Penske Cup driver at least one series victory this season.

Ford’s wins this season are Kevin Harvick (two), Brad Keselowski (two), Joey Logano (two) and Blaney (one). Seven Ford drivers are in the 16 playoff spots in the middle of the regular season: Harvick, Keselowski, Logano, Blaney, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Matt DiBenedetto.

“The season is going very well so far,” said Rushbrook. “Certainly the four races before the break we had with our two wins from those four races and just continuing that momentum even a little bit better for our winning percentage as we’ve come back from that break.”

2. Lack of practice

Although running without practice appeases some fans, it creates challenges for some teams.

Chris Buescher, who is in his first season at Roush Fenway Racing and has a new crew chief at Luke Lambert, said the lack of practice has impacted his team.

Buescher said the team knew “that it was going to be very difficult to start returning to a new team with a new team leader and not having the ability to do any tests, and then, after just four races, to eliminate all our practice.

“That has made us extremely difficult as a team trying to develop chemistry and unite, so we have had a pretty serious disadvantage, and I am really proud of what we have been able to do in the past few weeks. We have made great strides that are really helping us to be more competitive. ”

Chris Buescher is 19th in points in the middle of the regular season. (Photo by Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

With the regular season at the midpoint, Buescher enters the races this weekend at Pocono Raceway 19 in qualifying. He has 40 points from what would be the last place in the playoffs, which is in the hands of rookie Tyler Reddick.

Buescher opened the season by scoring four consecutive top-20 results, which included a third place finish at the Daytona 500 Miles. Those races had practice.

When the sport resumed in May after a 71-day break due to the coronavirus pandemic, the practices were discontinued. In all nine races since then, Buescher has had three top-20 finishes, including a sixth place on Monday at Talladega.

Cup teams are not scheduled to practice at upcoming races in Pocono, Indianapolis, Kentucky, the All-Star Race in Bristol and Kansas. Weekend schedules for upcoming races in Texas and New Hampshire have not been revealed.

With 13 races remaining until the playoffs begin in September, Buescher and his team are expected to show better results despite having no practice time.

“I feel like we should improve our game every week right now,” he said. “I think we have received many of the elementary things that we had to learn as a group and be new with Luke Lambert at the head of group 17, for me not being able to enter the store and being much more practical with everything has been very difficult.

“It’s something I’ve always enjoyed and I’m proud to be able to know exactly what’s underneath our race cars, what’s going on and how we are going to be better.” With this distance, it has become difficult, so where we are we definitely have a chance to make it (to the playoffs) yet. We just have to clean up. We have to continue to make progress in what we have been able to do in the past few weeks. “

3. Looking to the future

While the Cup competes on Saturday and Sunday at Pocono Raceway, it is not expected to be the only double weekend for this season.

NASCAR has not announced its schedule beyond August 2, but Michigan International Speedway and Dover International Speedway are expected to host doubleheads after both tracks have postponed previous races due to the pandemic.

Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates Engines, said this week that he would be more concerned with engines at Dover.

“I’m a little more nervous about a double game at Dover than the other tracks,” Yates said. “Dover is a long race, no matter what happens, and it’s also a race where a lot of RPM spins on a green track and as lap times decrease, RPM decreases, so when we go there to qualify or When we used to qualify, we would meet 9500 RPM on Friday in qualifying, but during the race you have around 9000 RPM, so it’s a great swing. Conditions change a lot, so I think Dover is the one that makes me nervous and obviously We will do our homework and prepare, but it is something to keep in mind and it is a different track. “

As for running two races this weekend at Pocono and the impact on the engines? Yates said it shouldn’t be a problem.

“When Pocono was originally introduced, we were going to have practice and qualification and then two 350-mile runs, which would have taken us over 700 (miles),” Yates said. “… So if we had to go more than 700 miles, we would have to change the springs after Race 1 before the second race. Now that we are not going to have practice or qualification, we are going to run both races without changing the valve springs. We’ve done a pretty extensive checklist, so we’ll probably end up changing the oil and checking the filters, going over a few things that you would normally do after a race event. ”

4. More of the same?

The Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have combined to win each of Pocono’s last five races.

Kyle Busch has won three of the last five races there. Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. each have a victory during that time. Erik Jones has finished in the top five in each of the last three races there, including second place in the most recent race there last season.

In the last six Pocono races, the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have had five wins, 11 in the top five and 18 in the top 10. They have also combined to lead 51% of all laps in those races. Joe Gibbs Racing has 14 career wins at Pocono. The only track on which JGR has won the most races is at Richmond. JGR has 16 Cup victories there.

5. Leading the way …

Ryan Blaney has scored the most Cup points since the series resumed in May. He has scored 342 points, picking up a victory and six results in the top five in those nine races. After Blaney in points scored since the season resumed is Martin Truex Jr. (328 points), Kevin Harvick (326), Brad Keselowski (323) and Denny Hamlin (317).

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