DAYTONA -- The addition of Richard Petty Motorsports helped fortify an already strong lineup of racers who will give Ford Motor Co. the best chance at a Daytona 500 victory since well last year, when Matt Kenseth scored a dramatic triumph in a rain-shortened race.
All told, this time there will be 13 Ford Fusions entered in the field for Sunday's Daytona 500, the biggest, richest and most prestigious stock-car race in the world. Fastest of those 13 so far during Daytona Speedweeks has been the No. 9 Budweiser-sponsored RPM Fusion driven by Kasey Kahne.
This is RPM's first season campaigning Fords since Richard Petty himself drove a Ford Torino in 1969. And Kahne has put his Fusion to good use, finishing second in last Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout exhibition race and then winning the second of two Gatorade Duel at Daytona qualifying races on Thursday.
Kahne will start fourth on Sunday, and he's excited about his prospects of delivering a Daytona 500 victory in his first year with Ford.
The team is really good. The team is always good, says Kahne. Those guys have been through a lot in the last couple of years and they just keep working right away and giving me great race cars. Theyre pumped, theyre excited and so am I. Its nice to work with such a good team.
Ford's flagship team, Roush Fenway Racing, will be a force to be reckoned with as well, just as they are every season.
Last year, 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Matt Kenseth gave Roush Fenway its first Daytona 500 victory, and his No. 26 Crown Royal Fusion has been fast again in practice and preliminary races at the speedway. Kenseth will start the Daytona 500 from 24th place, with teammates David Ragan (19th), Greg Biffle (23rd) and Carl Edwards (27th).
Edwards, whose wife is scheduled to give birth to the couple's first child next Wednesday, is excited about his chances on Sunday. The Missouri native, who won a series-high nine Sprint Cup races in 2008, says he be looking to his Ford teammates to hook up together in the Daytona draft on Sunday.
I feel more strongly about my teammates and my ability to work with them this time than I have in a long time and thats who Im gonna look to work with as my teammates, says Edwards.
And Edwards is happy to have Kahne and RPM among the Blue Oval Boys. Our Aflac Ford Fusion seems pretty good, not quite as good as Kasey Kahnes Ford Fusion, though, so Im really glad we have him as a teammate to go lean on, says Edwards.
All told, RPM will field four Fusions for Kahne (starting 4th), Elliott Sadler (12th), AJ Allmendinger (15th) and Paul Menard (32nd).
Also in the field are three Ford Fusions out of the new Front Row Motorsports with Yates Racing squad. Their drivers are John Andretti (33rd), Travis Kvapil (35th) and Robert Richardson (37th). Add into the mix the legendary Wood Brothers Racing team with former series champion Bill Elliott (40th) and Boris Said (38th) in another new team, Latitude 43 Motor Sports, and it makes for a potent mix of Ford power.
Oh, and a special 2011 Ford Mustang GT will be the Daytona 500 Pace Car, the first Mustang to ever see such duty during a Daytona 500.
So expect to see some great things on Sunday. Most of all, expect to see Fords out front of the Daytona 500.