ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What Happened to First On Race Day?

Updated on July 30, 2013

Ford has a long and successful history in NASCAR. They have 15 manufacturer series championships, second only to Chevrolet's 36 titles. They've been associated with some of the biggest icons in NASCAR history, including David Pearson, Bill Elliott, and Alan Kulwicki. In modern terms, they've been a part of Roush (and later Roush-Fenway) Racing for decades and have powered drivers such as Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch to series championships.

Yet Another Former Ford Champion

1992 Winston Cup Champion Alan Kulwicki
1992 Winston Cup Champion Alan Kulwicki

Toyota convert Matt Kenseth

Switching to Toyota has worked out for Matt Kenseth, with four wins already in 2013
Switching to Toyota has worked out for Matt Kenseth, with four wins already in 2013

Yet lately the blue oval group has been a far cry from “First On Race Day”. The numbers from 2013 alone paint a harsh picture of a manufacturer running far below its peers. While Shevy and Toyota have a combined 17 wins, Ford has managed only three. Only two of the top 12 in points (Carl Edwards, 3rd and Greg Biffle, 10th) carry the Ford banner and only defending series champion Brad Keselowski has a realistic chance to join them after Richmond. And it's not as if the Ford teams have lost races on luck alone. Jimmie Johnson, with almost 1100 laps led, is almost double the combined total of Edwards, Keselowski, Biffle, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Marcos Ambrose (total: 575).


Perhaps the most damning evidence of Ford's decline is the rapid ascent of Matt Kenseth among the sport's elite. He has won four races, been in contention elsewhere with 11 Top Ten finishes, and if not for TRD's engine woes would likely be atop the Sprint Cup series standings. The 2003 championship winner didn't suddenly re-discover his driving talent during the off-season. So the immediate and incredible improvement has to come from the equipment he's driving. Kenseth clearly knew what he was doing when he elected to take what many saw as a lateral move during the off-season.

Video Game or Real Life?

Kenseth likely felt his life was treading into video game territory in 2011-2
Kenseth likely felt his life was treading into video game territory in 2011-2

Ford Owner Jack Roush

Just why have sponsorship woes been more difficult for his championship-winning organization?
Just why have sponsorship woes been more difficult for his championship-winning organization?

One benefit that has aided Kenseth is sponsor stability. During his last year with Roush-Fenway, Kenseth carried a variety of sponsors on his side-boards. Trying to keep straight who he was supposed to thank post-race and not having a long-term commitment from anyone clearly left him unsettled.


That unsettled sponsorship situation is something that has plagued Roush-Fenway for several years. Despite finishing a close second to Tony Stewart in 2011, Carl Edwards has carried multiple sponsors on his car. Kenseth, a former series champion who was still competitive, had unsponsored races and saw long time partner Dewalt leave for a lesser team in Richard Petty Motorsports. Roush's iconic #6, driven by Mark Martin to numerous wins, sits unused due to a lack of sponsorship.


While certainly the economic meltdown four years ago hurt virtually all teams, no one has had the trouble Roush-Fenway has had in terms of finding sponsors. One can only speculate why RFR has had so much trouble attracting and retaining sponsors. Are the asking prices too high? Do they not provide the same return on investment that other teams provide? Is it something personal in dealing with RFR executives? Whatever the cause, the lack of funds and continuity is severely damaging Ford's premier NASCAR race team.


Ford Has Done Well At Daytona

Dale Jarrett celebrates another Daytona 500 victory driving for Ford
Dale Jarrett celebrates another Daytona 500 victory driving for Ford

The demise of Robert Yates Racing has also put a major dent into the Ford camp. Yates won 58 races as a car owner and one series championship (Dale Jarrett, 1999). The value of having a second major team running your equipment cannot be overstated as the separate organizations both competed with and, on occasion, shared information with their Ford counterparts. After Dale Jarrett (and the UPS sponsorship) left, the organization was never the same and eventually folded, its assets now a part of Richard Petty Motorsports. While the Yates engine shop continues to build powerplants for virtually all of the Ford cars, their once-vaunted horsepower is now a thing of the past.


That power was once the calling card for Ford teams in general and Yates in particular, but those engines are no longer leading the pack. The three wins by Ford this year came at Phoenix, Talladega and Michigan. The first two are rarely won by horsepower and the third saw several contenders eliminated earlier in the race and no other Fords finish in the top seven. 2012 showed a similar story with only six wins over 36 weeks, including wins at Daytona, Talladega and Watkins Glen that didn't come based on the power under the hood. Did Ford decide that engine survivability was more important than horsepower? Have the other manufacturers figured out some key engine-building process that has, of yet, eluded the Ford teams? Or is it simply a matter of the Hendrick and TRD groups having more resources to throw at the problem?

Hendrick Engine Dominance

A row of engines await delivery to customers both inside and outside the Hendrick Motorsports organization
A row of engines await delivery to customers both inside and outside the Hendrick Motorsports organization

Tony Stewart, Hendrick Teammate?

How many engine builders have a three time champion who they can call a satellite?
How many engine builders have a three time champion who they can call a satellite?

It's hard to think that it's simply a manufacturing process or secret making all of the difference. As Brad Keselowski “educated” all of us earlier this year, there are plenty of office and shop employees that change teams during the off-season. If there was a silver bullet hiding in Chevrolet's garage, it's safe to assume that the secret would've gotten out at this point. There's too much money and too much prestige on the line to not explore what your competitors are doing and you can bet a resume that includes “Hendrick Engine Shop Builder” will make its way to the top of the stack at the Ford HR office.


Resources, however, certainly can make a difference. Ideas are important. But having the resources to test out those ideas on a computer model, then to build and test the physical version, then have up to a dozen teams to try it out on the track... that's a difference. Hendrick has a huge advantage in this department. Not only do they have their own four teams (while JGR, RCR, and RFR all currently have three), they also have a host of teams who purchase their equipment and share some technical information. And while some of those teams aren't competitive, they may be willing to try out a test engine on the track for the right financial consideration. Not to mention the fact that Stewart-Haas racing, one of those buyers, has driving talent and financial resources of its own.

Penske Pair to the Rescue?

The addition of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano- and the years of experience the Penske Racing show has- will only help Ford in the long run
The addition of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano- and the years of experience the Penske Racing show has- will only help Ford in the long run

Ford also seems to have become a victim of a highly insular environment. The engines are all made at Yates. The chassis mainly come from Roush. There has been very little change within the Ford atmosphere in some time and as a result, little new innovation. So the first needed change is one that already took place this past off-season in adding Penske Racing to the stable. Ford seems to recognize the need to change as well, having “encouraged” the teams to do a better job in terms of sharing information gained in the engineering room.


If Ford is going to make a real comeback to NASCAR prominence, continued changes are going to need to be made. They need to continue to “encourage” their teams to broaden their information sharing beyond simply what's been learned in building their cars. Sharing setups, track lines, tuning etc. is a key next step. Protecting “confidential information” is all well and good but frankly none of these teams is doing well enough right now that their 'secrets' are worth the organization as a whole. No one team has managed to put it all together. But it's possible that they individually have all of the right pieces.


The only way to find out is to open the doors and put all of their cards on the table. Sure, some teams and drivers will gain more than others in this arrangement; it's unlikely that the #99 team is going to learn as much as, say, the #43 will. But it may very well be a small, almost insignificant item to that #43 team that can push Carl Edwards from top ten to race contender.

The Last Ford Champion

Yes, it's true. Kurt Busch is the last Ford driver to win a championship
Yes, it's true. Kurt Busch is the last Ford driver to win a championship

Moreover, the value of overall organizational success cannot be overstated. Success for the lower-tier teams leads to more sponsorship dollars, which leads to more opportunity to experiment and gain additional information. More information leads to technical advances for all of the teams and those technical advances can provide the one thing the Ford teams lack most; speed. They aren't going to be able to hire better drivers; Kenseth's success shows just how far behind Ford is and will discourage any big-name free agents from joining the group. They aren't going to have a new car to level the playing field; that happened in 2013 and only leveled it between Toyota and Chevrolet. The sharing will be painful, especially to the pieces in the Ford camp that have been in control for decades. But unless it happens it will be another decade before Ford has the chance to win another title.

Now it's your turn!

When will a Ford win another Sprint Cup title?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)