FORD PERFORMANCE NASCAR: KENTUCKY NOTES
The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season continues to be a strong one for Ford after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. The victory is Ford’s eighth of the season, which is most among manufacturers, and matches its total from 2016. Ford will look for its third win in four years at this weekend’s stop – Kentucky Speedway – where Brad Keselowski is the defending champion.
FORD IN 2017
Ford has now matched its win total from 2016 with eight after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. captured Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Ford is coming off a sweep of the top two spots at Daytona as Clint Bowyer followed Stenhouse across the finish line in second-place. That marked Bowyer’s second straight runner-up effort after Kevin Harvick won at Sonoma two weeks ago. As a result, it gives Ford consecutive 1-2 finishes for the first time since 2002 (Richmond 2 and Loudon 2).
If Ford is able to finish first and second on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, it will mark the first time since 1997 it has done that in three straight MENCS races. (Richmond, Atlanta, Darlington). That 1-2 streak eventually reached four after Jeff Burton won his first series race and Dale Jarrett finished second in the inaugural Cup event at Texas Motor Speedway.
Ford has had four different organizations win a Cup race this season – Stewart-Haas, Team Penske, Roush Fenway and Wood Brothers Racing. The last time that happened was 1998 when Roush Fenway Racing, Robert Yates Racing, Team Penske and Rudd Performance Motorsports all went to Victory Lane.
Of the 13 full-time Ford teams that compete on a full-time basis, 12 have posted at least one Top-10 finish in 2017.
Harvick became the sixth different Ford driver to win a MENCS race this season with his victory in Sonoma, joining Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The last time Ford had that many different winners in a single season was in 2005 when Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch and Dale Jarrett combined for 16 season victories.
The last time Ford had seven different winners in the same year was 1997 (Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd, Ernie Irvan and John Andretti).
COMPARING 2017 WITH 2016 (AFTER 17 RACES)
Wins (2017): 8 by Team Penske (3), Stewart-Haas (2), Roush Fenway (2), Wood Brothers (1)
Wins (2016): 4 by Team Penske (4)
Poles (2017): 7 by Stewart-Haas (3), Team Penske (2), Wood Brothers (1), Roush Fenway (1)
Poles (2016): 4 by Team Penske (3), Roush Fenway (1)
(Note: There were 11 qualifying sessions through the first 17 weekends in both 2016 and 2017)
Top-5 Finishes (2017): 37
Top-5 Finishes (2016): 19
Top-10 Finishes (2017): 67
Top-10 Finishes (2016): 36
KESELOWSKI LOVES KENTUCKY
There’s no denying that Kentucky Speedway has been one of the best tracks for Brad Keselowski, who has three MENCS wins, including two in the last three years with Ford. Included in that streak is a win in his championship season of 2012, and a track-record 199 laps led in his 2014 victory. His average finish in six career Kentucky starts is 8.2, best for any track on the circuit. The only place where Keselowski has won more is Talladega Superspeedway, where he has four career triumphs.
FUSION FUEL MILEAGE
Keselowski stretched his fuel the final 72 laps and held off Carl Edwards to win last year’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. After grabbing the lead on lap 200 of the 267-lap event, Keselowski went into full conservation mode 20 laps from the finish and briefly lost the lead to Matt Kenseth with seven laps to go. Kenseth, however, was forced to pit road one lap later after running out of gas, and Keselowski regained the lead. With Carl Edwards bearing down on him, Keselowski radioed to crew chief Paul Wolfe that he was out of gas with two laps remaining, but his No. 2 Miller Lite Fusion continued plugging along and made it across the finish line 0.175 seconds ahead of Edwards. The win was Keselowski’s fourth of the season and second straight after taking the checkered flag at Daytona International Speedway. In addition, Keselowski officially became the first driver to clinch a spot in the Chase.
BATTLING BACK IN 2014
Ford got its first MENCS victory at Kentucky Speedway in 2014 when Brad Keselowski dominated most of the event. After he and teammate Joey Logano combined to lead the first 216 laps, Keselowski found himself with some ground to make up thanks to an ill-timed caution. Kyle Busch inherited the lead with 49 laps to go after being on pit road when Aric Almirola hit the wall. He stayed out while Keselowski and the other leaders pitted a couple of laps later. Keselowski came out of the pits sixth and immediately began moving toward the front. He eventually passed Busch with 20 laps to go and was never threatened from that point forward. As dominating as he was on the track, Keselowski created just as much buzz afterwards when he cut his hand shaking a champagne bottle in victory lane. The incident resulted in a delay of post-race photos as he went to the care center for what ended up being four stitches.
JACK BACK IN KENTUCKY
Jack Roush graduated in 1964 from Berea College in Berea, KY, which is approximately 100 miles south of Kentucky Speedway. Roush, who earned a degree in mathematics, immediately took a job with Ford after graduating and has been associated with the company ever since. Roush Fenway Racing has 137 all-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins, but Kentucky Speedway is one of only three tracks where he has yet to reach Victory Lane (Chicagoland, Indianapolis).
FORD KENTUCKY MENCS RACE WINNERS
2014 – Brad Keselowski
2016 – Brad Keselowski