The new Next Gen was supposed to rile up this NASCAR Cup Series garage and boy has it ever. Between the penalties and NASCAR trying to police the garage more and how much of a struggle that its been to figure this car out, 2 of the 3 manufacturers haven’t been happy so far.
Toyota has struggling mightily on road courses. They feel like they’re at their best on intermediate tracks. Ford though feels like they’re just a step behind both their Chevrolet and Toyota counterparts.
It didn’t start off that way. It started off with Ford and Chevy leading the charge instead.
Ford won the Busch Light Clash at the LA Coliseum. They won the Daytona 500 in placing 3 cars in the top 4 of the finishing order for the annual season opener. They won the 4th race at Phoenix with Chase Briscoe. That’s 2 wins in the 1st 4 races run. Chevrolet won the other 2.
Toyota was the manufacturer that was struggling out of the gates. Was it the Camry holding them back? The 2nd month of the season is to where Toyota has since passed the Ford’s though and both looking up at the bowties.
Chevrolet has won 11 of the last 18 points paying races run on the season. Toyota has won 5 of the other 7. Ford meanwhile has taken just 2 wins in that process. That’s a problem. 2 wins in 18 races is the equivalent to half of a season. To win half of the races in the first month to the year to 2 in the last 18 isn’t what they expected.
“Four wins is not enough. It’s not acceptable. We need to get more wins,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports this week. “We need to have drivers further up the standings and hopefully at least four if not more drivers into the playoffs.”
Right now, only Joey Logano, Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric are locked into the postseason on wins. Ryan Blaney is the top driver in the wildcard standings. But that’s it. That’s all that’s locked in. There’s a very real chance it may just be the entire Team Penske camp and only 1 driver from Stewart-Haas fighting for a championship among the blue ovals beginning next month.
“It’s certainly going to be hard with where we are with only four regular season races left, so it’s been a struggle with the new car, the new package with getting our head around it and how to set it up properly going to the track and optimizing i,” Rushbrook continued.”
“We’ve seen a lot of success with speed at different tracks where we have understood it, but we still didn’t bring the win home. So, there’s a lot of work to do, but that’s racing,” Rushbrook said.
“We always need to make all elements of the car better, the engine, the aerodynamics, the chassis, the setup, the tire model, our simulator model, and that’s what we’re working on. We have a lot of meetings and advancements with our teams to try and do better every week.”
The unexpected nature of this Next Gen race car is to what’s causing this. No one can really find any momentum to really separate themselves from the pack. Ford drivers just aren’t winning to allow them to at least have a postseason berth to fall back on.
Rushbrook says that they’ve had different strengths across different cars at the different tracks but nothing as a collective group.
” I think that’s part of the struggle is this car is so sensitive that even when one team is taking four cars or two cars to the track with very small differences, you’ll see one near the top of the board and two or three or four down at the other end of the board,” Rushbrook said.
“So, that’s part of it and just understanding how sensitive it is and making sure we can really find the optimum spot for these cars to run.”
He notes that if he takes his Ford hat off and trades it in for a fan hat, this is some of the best racing this sport has ever seen. So it’s doing it’s job. You don’t know week to week who’s going to vie for a win or not. The problem he has, is there’s not a lot of Ford drivers up front attempting to win and that’s something he doesn’t take lightly and that he’s trying to change.