By admin | October 9, 2010
By Richard Allen
Coming into this season there was at least a bit of reason for enthusiasm among those who cheer for the cars sporting the blue oval emblem of the Ford Motor Company on their grill space. That company was developing a new engine dubbed the ‘FR9’ which many hoped would provide the teams using it with a bit of an advantage over the competition.
So far in 2010 that has not proven to be the case. Coming into last week’s race in Kansas, Ford teams only had one win to their credit and that was achieved in great part due to pit strategy by Greg Biffle’s team in Pocono.
However, things began to look up for the auto maker last weekend in Kansas. Ford teams did quite well in qualifying as Richard Petty Motorsports teammates Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard shared the front row. And most importantly, Biffle claimed his second win of the season at the end of the 400 mile distance.
According to those in the know regarding the FR9, the engine does not necessarily produce significantly more horsepower than its predecessor but its weight is distributed differently which gives the motor a lower center of gravity. And, the power plant’s cooling system is engineered in a way which allows it to run cooler without the need for as much air being allowed in through the car’s grill.
Both the lower center of gravity and the ability to run cooler can have a drastic impact on the handling characteristics of the car. The advantages of a lower center of gravity are obvious. The lower the weight the more the car will be down into the track. The fact that the engine runs cooler without so much air coming through the grill means the openings at the front of the car can be closed off which will allow for more front down force.
Although both of these things are advantages, teams still have to adjust to them and figure out how to best make use of them. With last week’s results in both qualifying and the race it appears as though the Ford teams are starting to get a feel for their cars on one type of track in particular.
Fans have long referred to the D-shaped 1.5-mile venues as cookie cutters, meaning that there are a number of tracks which look essentially the same as if they were stamped out by engineers using a similar mold. Often times, many group the two 2-mile D-shaped tracks of Michigan and California into the same bunch because it looks as if ‘the baker’ simply used a slightly larger cookie cutter to produce the same shape.
This week in California the Ford teams seem to have picked up where they left off in Kansas. Four of the ‘blue ovals’ will line up in the top-7 positions on the starting grid. RPM teammates Elliott Sadler and Kasey Kahne will start 2nd and 5th respectively while Roush Fenway Racing’s Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle will go from the 3rd and 7th spots.
Perhaps after a long year with very few trips to victory lane the Ford teams have finally found the recipe for success on one particular type of track. So for those who live and die with the fortunes of the Ford drivers- cookies anyone?
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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