By admin | March 1, 2008
Ford Needs More Depth to Stay Competitive
By Richard Allen
There have been two Sprint Cup races so far in 2008. The two races have shown Ford Motor Company’s potential for success and disaster in NASCAR’s top series.
Ford drivers have the potential to win any race. They showed that at the end of 2007 when Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle combined to capture four victories in the final 13 races. However, the problem with the three top Ford drivers is that there are only three of them. Ford has found itself in a position of being out gunned every time the green flag drops.
Last week in California blue oval drivers showed their potential for success. Edwards, Kenseth and Biffle led laps and looked strong. Edwards eventually pulled away to a convincing victory. That type of scenario could play out on any given race day.
However, the season opening Daytona 500 showed the potential of those cars for failure. Kenseth and Biffle had just drafted their way to the front and looked poised to challenge for the win when the worst possible scenario for Ford fans played out. Kenseth was taken out in a late race crash, and what’s worse, the crash was started by his teammate, David Ragan.
Edwards car never seemed to come to life in that race. Biffle wound up as the highest finisher among Ford drivers in 10th place. All of the brand’s other teams were mired deep in the field.
That is precisely the problem for the company that has recently seen itself drop to the number three selling manufacturer in America. They have their eggs in too few baskets.
They essentially have their eggs in one basket, that of Roush-Fenway Racing. RFR maintains five Sprint Cup teams, a number that will soon have to be reduced to four. Of those five teams only the three of Kenseth, Edwards and Biffle appear to have the ability to contend on a weekly basis. Ragan has never seemed comfortable in the Sprint Cup series. Jamie McMurray has shown flashes of brilliance, like his win last July in Daytona, but has been far from a model of consistency.
To complicate matters, two of Ford’s long time standard barriers find themselves on the brink of ruin.
Once powerful Yates Racing, which has brought Ford a championship and numerous victories, is currently campaigning two cars, one of which is partially sponsored and the other is not sponsored at all. The organization’s last win was in 2005 at Talladega when Dale Jarrett was ruled to be in the lead after a late race caution fell.
Another former powerhouse for the blue oval brand, Wood Brothers Racing, has brought itself to the brink of extinction by holding on to its glorious past for too long. The company remained in its Stuart, Virginia shop long after all other competitive teams had based themselves in the Charlotte area. Also, the Woods have stuck to the single car approach rather than go the multi car route with virtually everyone else.
Each of the other manufacturers have far more depth in the Sprint Cup garage than Ford. Chevrolet has powerful Hendrick Motorsports as its top team, but Richard Childress Racing and Dale Earnhardt, Inc. field competitive cars as well.
Dodge boasts Daytona 500 front runner, Penske South Racing as well as Gillett-Evernham Motorsports and Ganassi Racing. And, emerging giant Toyota has new found strength with Joe Gibbs Racing which they added to their stable of Michael Waltrip Racing, Team Red Bull and Bill Davis Racing.
Ford has the real potential of fielding only four cars in the very near future. The once proud racing force that has offered formidable opposition to all that General Motors and Chrysler could throw at them since the 1960’s has lost ground to the competition.
Perhaps Jack Roush has seen that the organization he has aligned himself with for many years is falling behind. When Toyota announced its intentions to race in the Sprint Cup division of NASCAR Roush boasted that he would hand them their head on a platter.
However, in a recent interview he commented that, “If Toyota is spending more money, and I’m given to believe they are, then they have an advantage.” Those do not sound like the words of someone who is about to start removing heads.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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