Ford teams battling different issues heading into 2014

Ford teams battling different issues heading into 2014

Bob Pockrass Sporting News

Penske and Roush Fenway Racing didn’t have the seasons they had hoped for, and it would make sense that the two major Ford-supported racing teams would work together to try to figure out how to make their cars go faster.

Except there’s only so much they can do together. They are competitors. And it appears their problems are different enough between the two organizations that it might be more an organizational thing rather than a manufacturer issue.

What they know is they combined to win only five races in 2013, and Ford was a distant third in the manufacturer championship. In 20 of the 36 races, the top Ford did not beat the top Chevrolet nor the top Toyota. Ford lured Penske from Dodge in order to be more competitive overall and make a run at the manufacturer title.

“We talk a lot, and our strengths and weaknesses as programs are complete opposites, which is something that has been a topic for us to cover throughout the whole year,” said 2012 Cup champion Brad Keselowski, who finished 14th in the standings a year after earning Penske Racing its first Cup title.

“If you look at Martinsville and some of those flat short tracks, where we have been very, very competitive — I think that’s the Roush weak point. You look at some of our weak points, which would be the repaved tracks like Kansas and Michigan.”

Three Ford drivers did make the Chase with Joey Logano (Penske) eighth, Greg Biffle (Roush Fenway) ninth and Carl Edwards (Roush Fenway) 13th. Edwards had two wins, while Logano, Biffle, Keselowski and Front Row Motorsports’ David Ragan earned one apiece.

“Our weaknesses (between the two organizations) are definitely on the other side of the coin, and that showcases to me that the Ford per se is not the problem, it’s our own individual teams’ strengths and weaknesses that we must address,” Keselowski said.

That doesn’t mean they won’t work together to try to find the solutions. The Fords next season will have an adjusted nose piece that is not caved in as much in the lower front grille.

That indentation allowed too much trash to collect on the grille, which if left on too long would cook the engine. That often meant the Fords were running less tape on the nose of the cars (more tape creates more front downforce) because of worries of trash and dirt and other debris covering the grille would overheat the engine.

“We caught a lot of garbage on it this year,” said Logano. “Together, we developed what wanted to do there (with the grille).”

The cars also will change a little bit with the new aerodynamic and/or horsepower rules implemented for 2014.

“I’m looking at this as an opportunity to get on a level playing field,” Biffle said. “It’s been well documented that as an organization, Roush Fenway, we have been a little behind this year. … I’m hoping this rule change package gives another kind of another reset, gives us a chance to try new things and maybe we get to the punch a little quicker than the competition does.”

In 2012, Roush Fenway drivers combined for five wins, 29 top-fives and 53 top-10s. In 2013, the Roush Fenway drivers earned three wins, 14 top-fives and 32 top-10s.

“We weren’t consistent enough,” Biffle said. “We didn’t have enough speed. We weren’t competitive enough and it’s frustrating. You want to throw the helmet down and kick the door. … You’ve got to keep your head up, you’ve got to work hard and you’ve got to come back the next week and say, ‘What can we do to be better?’ ”

They will talk about that with people from Penske when it’s appropriate.

“I hope we do (work more together),” Biffle said. “It looks like they’re a little bit better than we are. They have got a little more consistent speed every week.

“Hopefully we can work a little closer with those guys and try and create a little bit of an alliance there.”

Logano said he feels like they have a good relationship established in one season.

“I feel like we worked pretty close already this year,” Logano said. “Ford wants us to, and I think we have. … We’re still competitors. We’re competing against 42 cars out there.

“But if there are projects where we can work together to maybe make something new, make it quicker, get it on the racecar sooner, develop stuff, that’s