If there is a battle of the manufacturers, Ford is bringing up the rear in the NASCAR Cup Series as the calendar turns to August.
Three drivers have combined for four Ford wins through 22 races, which started with rookie Austin Cindric’s triumph in the Daytona 500. Chase Briscoe followed suit with his first career Cup Series win three weeks later at Phoenix.
But Ford hasn’t been to victory lane since Joey Logano won the inaugural Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway on June 5. Logano also won at Darlington in May. He is the highest Ford driver on the playoff grid at fourth.
Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports, is well aware of the numbers. Four of his drivers should be in the postseason, while a fifth, Ryan Blaney, is fighting for his playoff life at 15th without a win.
“Four wins is not enough. It’s not acceptable,” said Rushbrook. “We need to get more wins. We need to have drivers further up the standings and hopefully at least four if not more drivers into the playoffs. It’s certainly going to be hard with where we are with only four regular-season races left. 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 it.
“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. 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.”
Chevrolet has 13 wins and Toyota has five. There have been other chances for Ford drivers — Blaney, in a precarious position on the playoff grid, is second in the overall championship standings. He won the non-points All-Star Race and has been one of the most consistent drivers in the series, with over 400 laps led (the most of any Ford driver) and an average finish of 13.7.
Three Ford drivers are inside the top 10 in the championship standings. Kevin Harvick is 10th, but Harvick has been winless since September 2020 and is below the playoff grid cutline. Harvick’s crew chief, Rodney Childers, has also admitted adjusting to the new car has been challenging. Behind Harvick below the cutline is another ford and Stewart-Haas Racing driver, Aric Almirola.
The difficulty in trying to sort out the OEM struggles is that Rushbrook says it’s been different among the teams.
“We’ve had different strengths across different cars at the different tracks,” said Rushbrook. “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. 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.”