Brad Keselowski gave Ford its fourth straight NASCAR win on Sunday, marking the first time Ford has won four consecutive Sprint Cup Series races since 2001. The win is the eighth of the season for Ford Racing, the most for the manufacturer since winning 11 times in 2008.
@Ford Online discussed the success at NASCAR and other Ford Racing news with Jamie Allison, director, Ford Racing.
Ford has been having a very good year at NASCAR.
Oh goodness yes. The fans are happy. In competition, obviously we are thrilled with the fact that we’ve won 4 races in a row and 8 out of 18 races. That’s more races than we won all of last year. We are carrying momentum as we approach the Chase. Beyond competition, our fan outreach and engagement is growing, fueled by our on-track success, activation with our teams and drivers coupled by our new digital social media promotion of #FordAlwaysRacing … all aimed at showcasing our vehicles and endearing higher Ford affinity among the 70 million NASCAR fans.
We have four drivers from three different teams who have won in NASCAR?
The Chase is made up of 16 drivers, and we have four drivers who are almost guaranteed to make the Chase: Carl Edwards with Roush Fenway Racing has won two races; Brad Keselowski has 3 wins with Penske Racing; Joey Logano, also with Penske, has won two races; and Aric Almirola with Richard Petty Motorsports has won one race. Our factory-supported full-time Ford teams have all won.
What’s the benefit of having that level of diversity?
Our Ford Racing principle is founded on the One Ford spirit and collaboration. When one Ford team wins, all the teams win. And it shows the strength of our program when it’s not just a single team succeeding. All of the teams have important elements in common. They have the same Fusion body, the same FR9 engine from RYE, and they have access to the same technical tools from Ford. Our Ford teams have a chance to win races not just on the strength of the individual team but on the strength of the foundation of the program.
Ford is doing so much better at NASCAR this year versus last. What do you think accounts for the change?
Last year we added a new team, Penske Racing. Also, NASCAR introduced the new Gen6 vehicle platform. Normally whenever there is even a singular rules change it creates a disruption in the teams’ competitiveness. Last year we had two major changes. We were getting adjusted to the new NASCAR Gen6 – in terms of aero, down force and drag – especially in the draft, and we were integrating a new team.
This year, NASCAR fine-tuned the Gen6 racing package with added downforce and elimination of ride hight rule. Ford teams’ preparedness for those changes along with the integration of Penske is yielding on-track success. Like all great teams, with great effort and due time we’re able to excel.
What are your thoughts as you look forward to the second half of the year with NASCAR?
We’ve got our foot on the pedal and the pedal smashed all the way to the floor. We are on a mission to win races, contend for the Championship and claim our first Manufacturer’s Championship in NASCAR in over 10 years. Because we’re guaranteed to be in the Chase with four drivers, the remaining seven races provide an opportunity to get other Ford drivers into the Chase, and we are well positioned to do so. Marcos Ambrose can certainly win Watkins Glen. Greg Biffle is a threat at any track. And Ricky Stenhouse is running stronger lately and only needs one win to get in, and he’s very capable of pulling that off.
So our mission is to get the remaining Ford drivers into the Chase. For the teams already in the Chase, this is now an opportunity for preparation, which means testing especially at Chase tracks and extensive chassis and engine development so that we’re prepared for success when we charge into the playoffs.
We’ve also had a lot of wins on a variety of tracks?
We’ve won on all types of tracks. Short track, intermediate tracks, super speedways, and road courses have all been notched by Ford drivers. It speaks to the foundation and the strength of the Ford Racing program when you have different Ford teams all capable of earning wins and succeeding across all forms of tracks. All the teams share the same body, the same engine and access to the same set of Ford technical tools. And at the end of the day, we have great teams and great drivers in fast Ford Fusions. Beyond chassis and race car set-up and engine performance, the Chase and Championship will come down to flawless execution on the track, in pit lane and making the right calls during the race when opportunities present themselves.
We opened a new Technical Support Center in May. What will that bring to Ford Racing and to Ford performance vehicles?
The hallmark of success in motorsports with regards to competition, especially from a manufacturer’s perspective, is founded on the arrays of analytical and technical tools, engineering resources, and support that can be extended to the teams. And we are very blessed at Ford with a commitment at the highest level of the Ford family and from Mark Fields and Joe Hinrichs who are engaged and active supporters. Operationally, Jim Farley and Raj Nair and all the leadership within Marketing, Sales and Service as well as Product Development are unified in the vision and mission of Ford Racing and driving our racing program execution to a level of excellence on the track. Ford is committed to ensuring our outreach to the fans is fully maximized to showcase our technology and our products to race fans who have demonstrated higher affinity for Ford throughout the purchase funnel from Favorable Opinion to Consideration and Shopping Intention.
The Technical Support Center is a facility for Ford Racing technical support and for racing teams to develop and test their race cars. It will also eventually support the development of Ford performance vehicles. The Center’s full-motion platform simulator allows race teams to optimize and validate their setups for individual track configurations ahead of an upcoming race weekend.
Let’s talk about the success of the EcoBoost sports car in the IMSA TUDOR Championship. Is it true that 70 percent of that engine is common with the engine in the Taurus SHO?
We have a great deal of technology transfer between racing and production technology in IMSA. This is an example where we wanted to showcase EcoBoost in racing, our engine technology that is found in almost all Ford vehicles around the world. The 3.5L EcoBoost in IMSA Daytona Prototypes offers a balance of fuel economy with lower displacement – versus a big V-8 – and performance through turbo-charging. And there is no better place to showcase that than in endurance sports car racing, which is the case with IMSA. It shows that our EcoBoost technology has the robustness to power a Daytona racing prototype. The blocks and the heads are identical to the production engine. They are literally lifted from a Taurus SHO. Some of the other engine components are production based as well. So you have EcoBoost now powering a car that in prior years had used a V-8 and yet we’re able to accomplish the same level of performance and improve fuel mileage over the course of a race. We garnered two milestone wins for the company. We won the 12 Hours of Sebring and followed that up at Long Beach. The last time we had two overall wins in endurance sports car racing at the factory level was in 1968-69. We believe we’ll be poised for even greater success down the road.
How about Global Rallycross?
You know, we are living in a time where a new generation is growing up around us for whom the traditional form of motorsports is not as relevant as it once was to our generation. Today’s generation is growing up with this sense of instant gratification, the access to social media, and the desire to share information and engage in social media platforms with others globally. The traditional forms of motorsports are not as applicable to all those attributes. Rallycross lends itself well to social media. It’s based on bite-sized events and heats that are literally minutes in length rather than hours. There is a lot of excitement within the heats – like jumps, bumping, hitting and rolling – and it’s still racing. So it’s a very action-packed form of racing and on top of that it showcases our exciting, fun-to-drive global small vehicles, such as the Ford Fiesta ST. In addition, Rallycross is being piloted by heroes of this generation like Ken Block who is one of the most celebrated action sports icons for all the content (including Gymkhana) he posts that showcases the thrill of enjoying cars at the limits – in this case in Rallycross form.
Many people are wondering what is going on with NHRA? What can you tell us?
Although Ford Motor Company will no longer be involved in sponsored professional nitro-class racing after this season, NHRA and Ford – especially Mustang – are inseparable because one of the most natural forms of Mustang racing is drag racing. And we have a ground swell of support from fans as well as sportsmen who have raced Mustangs throughout the last 50 years. We have a thriving performance business that caters to drag racers with an array of ready-to-race cars like our Cobra Jet. We also offer race parts and contingency rewards for them to enjoy their Ford on the track. So our participation in NHRA among the sportsmen is unaffected. It’s just that our participation at the professional level with sponsorship needed to be reconciled in line with our limited resources to support our high priorities for global platforms and production relevancy. When the decision was made and the teams were told that we would no longer be involved in NHRA from a sponsorship standpoint, we made a commitment that we would do all we could to help them win championships before the contract ended. John Force won the championship last year and his team is in the lead to win the championship this year.
How is Ford Racing evolving as a result of the amazing growth in social media?
"Digital First" is Ford’s mantra in Marketing. So it is in everyday life with our fans. Increasingly digital social media is the primary lens and the primary fan engagement platform. All racing series and driver stars are seeing that with their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. At Ford Racing, we have seen an explosive growth in the engagement and adoption of our social platforms. We started the year on Facebook with about 880,000 followers. We are now at over 2.4 million followers. That’s a three-fold increase in just six months (for reference Team Chevy is at 700,000 and Toyota Racing is at 100,000). On Twitter, we’re approaching 100,000 followers. YouTube video views are up over 6 million. So we have a full array of metrics that tell us that through social media we are satiating the appetite of a huge number of fans from around the world who have joined and reached out to us. And we keep feeding them content through our stars, our racing assets and our platforms. Over time, these platforms allow us to connect with consumers about the availability of new products as well as overall news around Ford.
I credit that engagement success to three factors. First, we are One Ford Racing globally. We’ve nurtured a truly global network of connection of all Ford Racing digital racing assets. So whether it’s V8 Supercar in Australia or Rallycross in Europe or any form of racing in Asia or South America or in the U.S., you can enjoy it all through same Ford Racing page on Facebook. Second, we’re meeting consumer and fan demand by creating exciting content that is viral and sharable. And third, motorsports is first a SPORT… so on-track success is vital. It shines our brand and translates into higher fan affinity for Ford.
Aric Almirola registered the first win of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career when he won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on the Fourth of July weekend.
Carl Edwards has two wins this season and is virtually assured of a spot in the 16-driver field that will compete in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Brad Keselowski won his third race of the season on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and clinched a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Carl Edwards registered the first win of his road course career when he drove the No. 99 Fusion to victory at Sonoma Raceway in June.