By admin | July 27, 2009
By Richard Allen
Ford is to debut its new FR9 engine sometime during the 2009 season. The drivers of the brand need that engine to be introduced as soon as possible.
The Dearborn, Michigan auto maker looked as if it were going to dominate the season early on. Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 and the next race in California. Since then, there has not been nearly so much to get excited about for fans of the blue ovals.
Ford drivers do not appear to have enough speed to keep up with the competition. That seems particularly true when up against Joe Gibbs Racingâ€™s Toyotas and Hendrick Motorsportsâ€™ Chevrolets.
During Sundayâ€™s Brickyard 400, one Ford driver was especially critical of his power plant. â€œThis motorâ€™s a joke,â€ the driver said. â€œIâ€™ve just got no power.â€
That driver went on to add, â€œThe car is loose, but Iâ€™ve had looser cars and gone forward.â€
Doug Yates, who is heading up the development of the FR9, originally said the engine should be race ready by the second half of the 2009 season. Well, that time has come and the Ford teams should be using the new power plant soon.
The FR9 is being hailed as the first racing specific engine in Fordâ€™s history. It is supposed to be an entirely new design and approach rather than simply a redesign of the old piece.
Rumor has had it that the Wood Brothers team with driver Bill Elliott have already been using the new engine. Those rumors even suggest that the use of the piece by that team may date back much further than was ever anticipated.
Obviously, Ford drivers could use the extra horsepower it is believed the FR9 will provide on race day. However, the real benefit may come from having more power on qualifying day.
Qualifying has become so crucial in NASCAR for two reasons.
First, track position is critical. It is so difficult to pass, which makes starting near the front of the field important. For the most part, Ford teams have struggled on qualifying day and have thus found themselves fighting an uphill battle from the drop of the green flag.
Another factor that makes qualifying such an important part of todayâ€™s racing is pit selection. More passing occurs in the pits than on the track, so having a good stall can be the difference in winning and losing.
Ford drivers have often complained this season that their cars do not handle well. Every team has that problem with the Car of Tomorrow, but it could be that Ford drivers are feeling it the most because they always seem to be in â€˜dirty airâ€™.
Roush Fenway Racing has indicated that they do not intend to rush their championship contending drivers into the new engine. In fact, they may be the ones who need it most. Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth are currently 11th and 12th respectively in the Sprint Cup standings. Playing it too conservatively with the new motor could cost these drivers because they may be lacking the power they need to secure a place in the Chase for the Championship.
Ford has only won two races this season and by no means do they have any driver who currently looks like a serious championship contender. They need the new FR9 to come available very soon if they are to have any chance at changing that.
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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