Ford Performance NASCAR: Ford Zoom Media Availability (Mark Rushbrook)

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Cup Series
Ford Performance Media Availability | Friday, February 5, 2021

MARK RUSHBROOK, Global Director, Ford Motorsports —

HOW DO YOU FEEL THINGS ARE SETTING UP HERE AS WE HEAD TOWARDS THE 2021 SEASON? “We are excited to go back racing. That is what we do and we are really anxious to get back on track with our trucks, Xfinity cars and Cup cars. In many ways, it does feel like Phoenix was a long time ago but it has also been a quick offseason in terms of turnaround and preparation for the teams and the cars and getting ready to go back into another full season. We are really excited. We are ready to go racing.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE SPRINT CAR PROGRAM YOU GUYS HAVE GOING WITH TONY STEWART RACING AND WHERE YOU SEE THAT CAPABLE OF GETTING TO THIS YEAR? “We have been working on that for many years and continue to make improvements and are learning something every time the car goes out on track and races. We are happy with a lot of the improvements that have been made and some really good success to start out the year with Tony (Stewart) and Donny (Schatz) and we are looking forward to continuing making improvements there. It is important to us to have that program running well and have Tony and Donny capable of competing for wins. We will keep pushing on that front and I look forward to how that season plays out.”

IN TERMS OF MANUFACTURER COMPETITION, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU GUYS TO HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF THE RIVALRY COME OVER FROM THE NASCAR SIDE WITH TOYOTA DEBUTING THEIR MOTOR THIS YEAR? “Yeah, we race to compete and to beat the best in the world, the best in the country and best in the series. We are always happy to have that competition and to push each other to be better and faster and we always look forward to the competition on the track and getting better.”

ALL THE SUCCESS YOU HAD IN THE CUP SERIES A YEAR AGO, WE HAVE A FREEZE NOW ON THE RULES HOLDING OVER TO THIS SEASON, DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS YEAR COULD BE AS SUCCESSFUL OR EVEN MORESO BECAUSE OF THAT? “2020 was a great year in terms of race wins and the competitiveness of all our different teams doing so well throughout the year. It is hard to tell what is going to happen this year because there is always some area of play and I am sure it is going to be another very competitive season in 2021 and we are looking forward to that competition and seeing our drivers and teams do well. The competition is going to be bringing the best that they have. It is going to be a tough year because we also have to be preparing for 2022 and the NextGen car. So as our teams get their test cars and are trying to race in 2021 to win every single race and to win the championship, they also need to be preparing for 2022. It is really going to push the sport through the manufacturers and teams and different stakeholders to compete and do well this year but also be ready to compete and do well next year because everybody wants to win the Daytona 500 next week and a year from now as well. It is incredible what this sport is capable of. They just need a goal and we go and get it done. It is great to be a part of this sport and be partnering with the teams that we have for that success.”

YOU MENTIONED THE NEXTGEN CAR. HOW MUCH CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT WHAT HAS GONE INTO IT AND HOW OPTIMISTIC YOU ARE ABOUT THIS CAR BEING THE NEXT STEP UP AND THE FANS REALLY WRAPPING THEIR ARMS AROUND IT? “We are excited about what is in the NextGen car in terms of architecture of the car and improving the relevancy with the independent rear end suspension and the steering system. We are futureproofing the car to enable hybrid in the future as well. We think that is important as our road car cycles changes to be able to race hybrid in this car as well. Another important element was the looks of the car. The size of the wheels, aspect ratio of the tires, the proportions on the car with overhang width. That is a big improvement that I think these cars are going to look much closer to the road cars that we sell in the showroom and that was important for us. I think NASCAR has also done a good job of listening to the stakeholders in the sport in terms of what is important for the car in terms of technology, architecture, cost controls that are being put into it while still keeping focused on what is important to all of us at the end of the day; great racing. We have cars that will look really good and I think we will have great racing that comes out of it as well. NASCAR has done a great job with the current package to have great racing through the last several seasons and we look forward to that continuing in 2021 but also in 2022 with the NextGen car. That is what the sport is all about, putting on great races for the fans and customers.”

WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOUR TEAMS ARE WITH NEXTGEN DEVELOPMENT? DO YOU FEEL AS FAR AS DEVELOPMENT AND GETTING THE PARTS AND PIECES FROM VENDORS IS GOING TO BE SUFFICIENT? “It is racing. It is motorsports. We have aggressive timelines when you are racing the same car and the continuous development that goes on and always pushing to get the best you have on the track each and every single weekend. I think the same for NextGen. Whether there was one year for the program or three years or five years, you are going to push to keep advancing it and going fast that entire time. What we have done so far with the body development and the aero program has been really good to get the submission passed and be able to move forward with now optimizing our approved surface and also the opportunity for the installation of the powertrain. A lot of great work has gone on with Doug Yates and Jamie McNaughton and the Roush Yates engine shop to not only have a great engine this weekend for Daytona but next weekend for the NextGen car with the proper installation for that. We have our first manufacturer car with the wheel force transducer being assembled right now and later in the year the teams will get their cars and have some test time on track with those cars. There is never enough time because you are always learning something. But there is also a goal. We know in February of 2022 that we will be racing this NextGen car and we will be ready for it and our teams will be ready for it.”

ARE YOU GETTING TO CHOOSE A BODY SUPPLIER OR ARE YOU STILL ALL USING ONE SUPPLIER FOR ALL THE OEM BODIES? “It is a common supplier across the three different OEMs. We have our own unique surface we have developed with help from our teams but then it will come from a common industry supplier for each component.”

SOME NEWS MADE BY ANOTHER MANUFACTURER AS FAR AS THEIR PLANS WITH ELECTRIC VEHICLES. HOW MUCH OF A PUSH TO HYBRID OR ELECTRIC HAS THERE BEEN OVER THE LAST YEAR? HAS THE URGENCY CHANGED AT ALL? “I think that as our world continues to evolve at a rapid pace, also the automotive world with the road car cycle plan of what we are going to be selling in the dealerships and what our competitors will be selling in the dealerships, that is going to just continue to accelerate. We have all been pushing hard on that front. That was part of the NextGen car, to make the architecture more relevant but also to future proof and have the ability to change powertrains going into the future. Internal Combustion Engines are still important to us today because we continue to sell the far majority of our vehicles today as combustion engines but we have a lot of hybrids that are on the road today and more and more hybrids coming. Hybrid is very relevant and we are still very interested in seeing that coming into the sport very quickly as well as full electric as we are shipping today our Mustang Mach-E’s to our customers. We have a full-electric Transit and full-electric F-150 that will soon be heading to dealerships. Electric is an important part of our company as we look towards the future and what the propulsion systems will be and that is something we need to think about as a sport. Internal combustion engine versus hybrid versus electric and what the right time is not only for hybrid but for electric. It is something we should be talking about and thinking about and planning. We won’t be racing full electric anytime soon in the Daytona 500 but as some point we think it is good for the sport to consider the option of when it does make sense to bring that in.”

WITH THORSPORT GOING BACK TO TOYOTA, WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT AS FAR AS DRIVER DEVELOPMENT GOES? “We think we have a good lineup, certainly at the Cup level and we definitely need to keep the driver development pipeline full. I think with David Gilliland Racing and also with the Front Row Motorsports program in Trucks, we have three trucks there now and an opportunity for three drivers, three drivers that we are really happy to have representing us on track in the Truck Series with Tanner Gray, Hailie Deegan and Todd Gilliland. I think that is good for us. Trucks, we are really using to develop drivers and crew chiefs and our own people internal to Ford. At the Xfinity level, we are ecstatic with what Austin Cindric has already shown he is capable of by winning the championship last year and we expect him to continue winning races this year and be in contention for the championship again this year. Ryley Herbst shows a lot of promise and we are excited to have him join the Ford family and go into Stewart-Haas Racing and see what he can do in that equipment. Also Ryan Sieg switching over into a Ford this year. We are excited about what we have in Xfinity and we think we have a good pipeline. The question then will be as those six drivers progress, what comes in behind that. That is what we are continuing to work on and identify the next talent that is ready to come into trucks next year.”

MAYBE KEELAN HARVICK IN A DECADE OR SO? “I have already talked to Kevin about that and we are ready to send a contract (laughing).”

WHAT ARE THE EXPECTATIONS FOR THE UPCOMING NEXTGEN TESTS? “We have already learned a lot about the NextGen car with the aero development program that we have done with the simulation models and using the simulator to have our drivers driving the NextGen car as well. The powertrain development side with Doug Yates and understanding that chassis and what it is. The first test, for us, where each manufacturer has a car will be a WFT, wheel force transducer, test. That will give us more specific wheel load information which will help us further refine our simulation model and ability for our teams to then start preparing for their test beyond that. That will be very important for us, the information that we learn there as well as for our teams, so that they can prepare for their tests coming up later in the year?

DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT DRIVERS OR ORGANIZATIONS YOU WANT TO SEE IN THOSE UPCOMING TESTS? “We are still talking through that, even today. We have no firm plans but we are working with our teams to have the right representation in the right cars with the right drivers on track.”

ARE YOU GUYS, THE OEM’S, PRETTY MUCH IN AGREEMENT WITH WHAT YOU WANT THE ENGINE PLATFORM TO BE INITIALLY AND HOW IT IS GOING TO EVOLVE? “With the NextGen architecture with the car we are going to be racing in 2022 we have the ability to add hybrid without changing the internal combustion engine part of it. It allows you to put an electric motor into the system to drive the transaxle in parallel to the internal combustion engine. What is most important for us is being able to learn about hybrid technology in the motorsports environment and we can do that with the NextGen chassis and the current internal combustion engine we are racing today. Beyond that, the changes to the internal combustion engine are not yet defined in terms of timing or even architecture of what it will be. That was an open discussion last year but did not get to any final point or set timeline at this point. So again, what is most important to us is the electrification with hybrid and then we will talk with the sport about what makes sense with any changes to the combustion engine.”

WHAT IS THE DYNAMIC LIKE BETWEEN THE THREE MANUFACTURERS AND YOU, JIM AND DAVID IN THE SENSE THAT YOU GUYS ARE COLLABORATING BECAUSE THIS IS YOUR SHARED PROJECT BUT YOU ARE ALSO COMPETING TOO? “It is actually really good in a lot of ways. We are, as individuals, Jim, David and myself are fierce competitors as well as the companies and teams that we represent and race for us. We want to battle fiercely on the track against each other and have the best manufacturer, best team and best driver winning the races and the championships. We also realize that we need to do this together as a sport and it is even more than Ford, Chevy and Toyota. It is the sport. It is NASCAR, the teams and we all need to work together as stakeholders to keep this sport healthy and make it a place that makes sense for all of us to continue participating. We don’t get everything we want, nor does Chevy, nor does Toyota, nor do any of the other stakeholders. It is working together to get what works for all of us. I think that is how the NextGen car was developed and similar for the discussion on hybrid and combustion engines into the future. We love competing and beating each other but we also collaborate well when we need to keep the sport going in the right direction.”

THIS WILL BE THE NINTH SEASON THAT BRAD KESELOWSKI AND JOEY LOGANO WILL BE TEAMMATES. THAT IS A FAIRLY LONG PERIOD OF TIME IN NASCAR TERMS. FROM WHAT YOU HAVE OBSERVED FROM THE FORD STANDPOINT, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE EFFORT THAT YOU SEE BRAD AND JOEY PUTTING INTO MAKING THEIR MUTUAL RELATIONSHIP WORK FOR THE BETTERMENT OF THE TEAM? “We love having Brad and Joey driving for us to represent us on track and to be as successful as they have been. Those were the two that were in the championship race, racing for the championship in a Ford. They are both fantastic individuals and fantastic drivers. They certainly compete against each other on the track but they also work together off the track as part of Team Penske to make their organization even stronger and that is something that we really appreciate with what they bring to the program and they are important for us to have them both in Team Penske, in a Ford, and we look forward to seeing that continue.”

I WATCHED JIM FARLEY’S INTERVIEW ON CNBC THIS MORNING. BY ANY CHANCE WOULD YOU SEE THIS WORLD WIDE SHORTAGE OF SEMICONDUCTOR CHIPS IMPACTING MOTORSPORTS AT ALL IN THE NEAR TERM? “In terms of competition, I do not see anything on our radar at this point that would have a direct impact on us.”

YOU HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THE ELECTRIFICATION COMPONENT, JIM FARLEY MENTIONED THIS MORNING THAT FORD IS INVESTING MORE THAN $20 BILLION IN EV RESEARCH AND CAPABILITY BY 2025. YOU SAID WE WON’T BE RACING AN ELECTRIC ENGINE IN THE DAYTONA 500 ANYTIME SOON, BUT BASED ON THE SPEED OF HOW THIS WHOLE ELECTRIFICATION VEHICLES HAS COME THE LAST FEW YEARS AND FARLEY’S COMMENT THIS MORNING, IS THE BOTTOM LINE THAT ULTIMATELY MOTORSPORTS IS GOING TO BE NO LONGER ICE, BUT WILL BE EV RACING? “I think that as we are seeing the world change and the automotive industry change and the push towards electrification with hybrid and full electric, it is definitely moving in that direction much more quickly than any of us though, even a year or two-years ago. For us, we need to be racing something on the track that is relevant and similar to our road car cycle plan with what we are selling in the dealerships and what our customers are driving on the street. We have been looking for the right full electric series to race in, as well as the right hybrid series to race in. We are glad hybrid is in the plan for NASCAR, but there are a very limited number of full electric series that exist today. What we have actually done is use our motorsports resources to go off and develop the two products you saw last year, the Mustang Mach-E 1400 and Mustang Cobra Jet 1400. Both 1400 horsepower, both full electric, both obviously at 1400 horsepower are extreme performance. We have been able to use those as assets for marketing to tell the world about our commitment to electrification but also as a testbed for learning so our motorsports engineers could learn about electric motors at 1400 horsepower, about the battery chemistry and technology to be able to supply that level of horsepower and temperature control required with the current draw at that very high level. We are already getting our motorsports teams smarter about that full electric technology and we have already transferred those learnings back to our road car engineers. They are making our future full electric vehicles even better based on what we have done with just those two demonstrators. When it comes to finding the right series, I don’t know that we need to go to a new series if at some point NASCAR can be full electric. It is just a matter of what series of the existing ones or maybe a different one. Or what the timing is. If that is two, three, five or six-years into the future. For sure electric is coming on the street and there are more and more motorsports series that will be full electric as well. I don’t think ICE is going to go away on the street anytime soon, certainly not completely. That is probably 10-15 years away. So we have a lot of time to be racing internal combustion engines and enjoying that as well as looking for how does the sport become electric with hybrid as well as the potential for full electric.”

WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE WATCHING CHASE BRISCOE ADVANCE THROUGH THE RANKS OF YOUR DRIVER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM? “It has been fantastic because when we started or restarted our driver development program, Chase was one of the first into the program. To see him grow as a driver, racing our Mustang GT4 in IMSA and in NASCAR Trucks and NASCAR Xfinity, to see him grow as a driver on the track as well as a person off the track, he is a racer and he gets it done on the track. He also carries himself very well outside of the vehicle and represents our company very well. We are excited to see the success for Chase and we see that as a representation that we are doing the right things with our driver development program. We wish him the best of luck starting his Cup rookie season and also what we have seen with Austin Cindric and his development, same thing. Through Trucks and Xfinity and he also raced in IMSA with our Mustang GT4. He has certainly been on a great growth curve both on and off the track and we are proud having him represent us in both places and we look forward to his Cup debut with a handful of races this year, including the Daytona 500, and looking forward to seeing him in a Cup full season in 2022.”

WHAT DO YOU SEE IN RYLEY HERBST MOVING FORWARD? “He showed great potential with the equipment he was in last year. It is a good benchmark that he is going into the same car that Chase Briscoe was in with basically the same team around him that Chase had. It is a great opportunity to see what he is truly capable of in that equipment and environment. We don’t expect him to go out and win his first race but we look forward to seeing him get a good baseline to start the season and then continue to go through the year. We are really excited to have him join our family and program and look forward to seeing how he develops throughout the year.

DO YOU EXPECT TO EQUAL YOUR SUCCESS FROM LAST YEAR WITH 18 CUP WINS? “We go to every race expecting to win, hoping to win. It is a very competitive sport and that is the attitude you have to have going to the track. Certainly our teams have that attitude and our drivers have that attitude. It is tough competition out there. I know we have made a lot of improvements in the offseason but I am sure the Chevrolet and Toyota teams have as well. It will be interesting to see what we have and what our competitors have throughout the season. We will have to see whether 18 is realistic or not. Certainly that was a great season for us and we would love to repeat it or better it.”

HOW BIG WAS IT FOR FORD TO GET ANOTHER CAR AND ANOTHER TEAM INTO THE XFINITY FOLD WITH SIEG? “We are excited to have Ryan as part of our family and part of our Ford program. It is always good to have more Ford cars in the race, especially in Xfinity. We are looking forward to getting to know them better and they get to know us, to see how they can perform on the track and how we can help make them better.”

HAS MR. PENSKE BEEN PUTTING THE ARM ON YOU TO BADGE AN INDYCAR ENGINE? “We love Mr. Penske and our relationship with him. What we are always looking for in our motorsports cycle plan is where is the best place for us to race, for a lot of different reasons. Some of that is technology and architecture. The future they have in IndyCar with some of the changes they are making are good changes for the sport but we don’t have anything to announce or talk about at this point?”

HAS HE ASKED YOU ABOUT IT? “There are always discussions on topics like that that go on.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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