Jamie Allison, Director of Ford Racing and Jack Roush, owner of Roush Fenway Racing were the subject of a special Ford Racing teleconference with media members in advance of Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway. As NASCAR heads to the Irish Hills of Michigan, Ford’s back yard, and a track where Ford has taken the checkered flag 31 times, the most of any manufacturer, the duo took time to talk about this important weekend coming up and much more.
JAMIE, I WILL START WITH YOU. FORD RACING HAS EXPERIENCED QUITE A TURNAROUND OVER THE LAST YEAR. SINCE THE LAST JUNE MICHIGAN RACE FORD HAS WON 10 TIMES ON THE SPRINT CUP SIDE, QUITE A REMARKABLE TURNAROUND. WHAT EXACTLY HAS BEEN THE KEY DO YOU THINK, BECAUSE THE TURNAROUND ISN’T JUST ON THE CUP SIDE OF THINGS. “Indeed, I would like to start off by talking about the fact that the old adage is true. When we win on Sunday, we see sales on Monday. Our customers are race fans and we have been winning across the spectrum of motorsports, whether it is NASCAR, GRAND-AM where we have Jack Roush Jr. who has won a couple of times for us in a Mustang, or NHRA where we are leading the Funny Car championship or in small car where we are leading in the Rally Cross championship. It is exciting to see all the great accomplishments that are taking place in Ford vehicles. I would like to specifically point attention to the fact that here we are, halfway through the year in June, and with the help of teams like Jack and with his leadership and all the One Ford teams in NASCAR, we have 10 wins this year between Cup and Nationwide, versus none last year at this point in time. What a difference a year makes and it is all because of the great team, the great preparation, and the One Ford that we have in NASCAR under the leadership of Jack and the other owners.”
JACK, YOU HEAD HOME TO A TRACK WHERE YOU HAVE WON 11 TIMES. JAMIE TOUCHED ON THE TURNAROUND OF THE FORD RACING PROGRAM, YOU HAVE SEEN IT FIRSTHAND. YOU HAVE THE POINTS LEADER IN CARL EDWARDS AND ALL FOUR OF YOUR DRIVERS ARE IN THE TOP-20 IN POINTS. YOU MUST FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOUR CHANCES COMING INTO THIS RACE THIS WEEKEND. “There is some anxiety whenever I go to Michigan because we have been so successful, it is almost like you are expected to win and if you don’t then you wind up feeling worse about that than you would for some race track where the expectations weren’t so high. I have two home race tracks that I feel like I race in front of the home crowd at. One is Charlotte because that is where all the race teams are and employee families are and many of the sponsor representatives and their affiliates are. Racing in Charlotte is big, but racing in Michigan is unique for me in that it is where my roots are as well. Roger Penske would feel the same way about the race track and he had ownership of it for awhile. Looking at the year, you look and ask when we turned the corner and got our program as right as it is today, it really happened the middle of last year. We had two things that were really holding us back. As many factors and templates and rules as NASCAR has, you really race in the margins and you race with little things like cooling system and brakes and aero function. We are in a situation happily today where we don’t have a weakness. The FR9 engine that Ford was primarily responsible for is doing an awesome job. Prior to middle of last year the FR9 engine wasn’t on board and the engine we had, based on NASCAR’s expansion of the considerations for manufacturers had gotten a new set of parameters that were more advantageous that the existing Ford parameters. We were last to get our new engine to the NASVCAR parameters. That has helped us with the deficit we had. We also had some third party vendors giving us software support that had misdirected us in the early part of last year. It took until mid year to get that quantified and get that reversed. With Ford’s help, we got our software on our simulations where they needed to be and there was a lot of direction and input from Ford that got us on track there. With the new Ford engine, that took care of the two things we were lacking on. In terms of what we had in 2009 and 2010 prior to mid year, we had all the same people with the same skill sets and the same great drivers and commitment from Ford that we had always had. We had a couple of weaknesses we were able to sure up. As I look at the success we had in 2011 and what it means going forward, we have never been in a better situation in terms of support and what that means going forward.”
JACK, WHEN THE SLINGSHOT PASS FIRST DEVELOPED, WERE YOU A PROPONENT OF IT AND DOES IT SEEM TO BE MAKING A COMEBACK DUE TO THE TANDEM RACING STYLE? “The slingshot pass certainly makes it more exciting for the fans because you have a dramatic change in the speed of the cars as you are going through that. I think the things we can do to hold the fans interest and put their heart in their throats sometimes is a really good thing as long as there isn’t a risk of human injury involved. If you have a great engine and a great aero package you can certainly use the slingshot pass to your advantage more than otherwise. With this new car, it is not new today, but with the car of tomorrow which is the car of today, it makes a bigger hole through the air, creates more turbulence behind it and creates some different aero phenomenon’s than we had in recent pass. The car acts more like the cars of the 60’s and 70’s when the slingshot pass was in vogue before.”
DID YOU LIKE IT AT FIRST WHEN IT FIRST STARTED? “It is okay. It is one of those things that you have to adapt to. Either the cars are going to be slippery beyond reason and that creates one set of challenges and opportunities or it is like pushing a barn door and a tractor trailer through the air, which is what these cars are like. In that case you have different aero characteristics to adapt to and race around. I know a lot of times drivers have said they could sniff the wind and where the currents would be beneficial. I think that is a misconception. It is the case that some drivers wind up being better at finding out how to put themselves in the right place at the right time to affect those passes.”
YOU MENTIONED LAST YEAR THAT YOU GET YOUR FAMOUS HATS FROM CANADA. I AM JUST CURIOUS WHERE YOU GET THEM EXACTLY? “I actually have not sourced them from a Canadian source. We buy them locally from men’s chains. I can’t even tell you where we got the last batch of hats. We got them two or three years ago, about two dozen of them, and I am not sure where they came from. The definitely say made in Canada on the label and our marketing people made contact to see if they had some free hats for me and they decided they would rather sell me hats then give them to me. I guess that the Canadians are better business people than the Americans are sometimes.”
JAMIE AND JACK, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON TREVOR BAYNE AND THE YEAR HE HAS HAD, RISING TO THE TOP AND THEN FIGHTING THROUGH THIS MYSTERIOUS ILLNESS?
JAMIE ALLSION: “When Trevor was going through what he was going through you learn a lot about people during their difficult moments. I tell you, this kid continues to impress me. He has wisdom beyond his age. When I did talk to him during that period he said to me, ‘Ya know, I have had the highlight moment of my life and now I am in one of the toughest moments. I have seen it at the top and at the bottom. I guess I can handle anything in between.’ Anybody who could, at the age of 20, relate to life in that perspective, having gone through the highs he has gone through and the difficulties he was going through, tells me that he can handle anything life throws at him. We all know that life will throw us a lot of different stuff, whether at the race track or dealing with life’s circumstances. This kid has it all. He has the skill, which Jack will attest to, and he has the maturity that compliments the skill for this kid to be a star in this sport for many years to come. He’s got the package.”
JACK ROUSH: “We were attracted to Trevor by his abilities at his young age. Of course he is a marketing delight. He is bright, articulate and a good looking young fella. He is a fierce competitor. I talked to his dad Rocky about the background he had and they had put him on a dirt bike with training wheels on it and he went upside down on it a couple of times when he was just five years old. They said they had to get four wheels under this kid. I don’t know if his mother was paying attention to what happened but Rocky went out and bought him a racing go-kart with four wheels. He has been go-kart racing since he was five years old. Rocky told me at one of the earlier race this year when we spent time together that Trevor has had at least 3,000 races. When they drop a checkered or green flag, he had done that at least 3,000 times and with more victories than reason would dictate. So anyway, he comes from a racing family and has a great future. He is positioned well with his motivations and ambition. All of that bodes well for the decision he has made to come with us and Ford and that we have made to align with him. The problem he had was a bump in the road. We went to the Mayo Clinic to get the best advice he could get and a determination of his issues. They are still not absolutely certain what happened. It is certain that he had a reaction to a bug bite but they are not clear if that is the only thing that was going on. He may have had an episode with some other neurological issue that was causing his vision problem that was in addition to or separate from the bug bite. It would be really unusual for those two things to visit a person at the same time, but that has not been ruled out. The spinal tap fluid and other tests did not show anything really sinister. The only thing clinically they could see was the blurred vision, which could have been a number of things, including the bug bite. He had a reaction to this insect or tick bite or whatever it was. It is possible that if it was a neurological issue that he may never have another episode in his adult life or he may have one in five years. That is just not clear.
If anybody looked at what their prospects were for ongoing health or problems, his prospects are no different than anybody else in the broader population. He certainly kept himself in good shape and good spirits going through the down time. He accepted the advice and structure that the medical community around NASCAR gave. When they said that they thought he needed more time to make sure his recovery was not exasperated by the elevated temperature and fatigue that would go with the Coke 600 race. The one that was most frustrating and disappointing for him was not being able to race the 300 at Charlotte in the Nationwide car and then the 600 the next day. He took that though and he accepted the advice he was given and he came back like gangbusters when he was able to get back in the car. Trevor Bayne is going to be in this business for a long time. He is going to be unencumbered and unaffected by any negative aspect of his health and we look forward to being part of that and hope to have him in a Ford and winning championships down the road.”
JAMIE, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT MANUFACTURER IDENTITY WITH MUSTANG ON THE NATIONWIDE SIDE AND WHAT YOU AS MANUFACTURERS ARE DOING TO BRING BRAND IDENTITY TO THE CUP SIDE? “It all starts at the track. Mustang this year has come out of the gate very fast thanks to the leadership of Jack and his team. We have Carl, Ricky and Trevor piloting Mustangs in the Nationwide series. We were talking earlier about Trevor but Ricky Stenhouse has done an amazing job this year. He earned his stripes last year and this year he has done a tremendous job in every one of the races. He is just a few points away from the lead now. He had it earlier and is right back in it after winning his first race in that series which bodes well for his ability and skill and the team that surrounds him at Roush Fenway. The success on the track translates to fan support in the stands and we hear it. Whether it is from the magazines now covering NASCAR that previously didn’t because of Mustangs presence, or through fan mail that I get about seeing Mustang racing on the track. Hats off to NASCAR for bringing back brand identity into the sport. The Mustang that you see and of course the Dodge that is there, stand out as cars resembling cars that are purchased by consumers, which is the right thing for the sport. NASCAR started life as a showroom stock car based race cars and we have seen evidence of that in Nationwide and hope to progress it further in the Cup series in the coming years. We are very excited. It is a great venue. Mustang is doing very well because we have great teams, fast cars and great power. We hope to carry that through to the end of the season and claim a championship for Ford in Nationwide.”
CAN YOU BOTH UPDATE US ON WHERE YOU ARE AT WITH THE 2013 CAR AND WHAT THAT BRINGS?
JAMIE ALLISON: “We have been working diligently and cooperatively with NASCAR, all the OEM’s; it is truly a model of collaboration. All the four OEM’s are involved and our teams are involved and NASCAR basically is providing the framework to ensure parody at the end of the day. The fans and the sport will be returning to its original roots where you will see more brand identity in the cars that are raced. I think it is an evolution. We say that with the car of tomorrow and what is going on in Nationwide and in 2013 we will take it a step beyond that. There is a lot of development and a lot of iteration that has to take place along the way. When you try to introduce brand identity and uniqueness in each vehicle you also want to make sure there is the competitive parody that the sport has done so well with and is known for. It is a constant integration and evolution but it is done with diligence and development and modeling and testing to take us to the eventual day where these cars will represent the cars that people but and will be raced on the track. The fans will enjoy a great demonstration of those cars.”
JACK, WHERE ARE YOU IN THE DEVOLOPMENT AND SUBMISSION PROCESS? “The manufacturers have been cooperating with one another. They share the desire to have brand identity to help them with marketing programs but they also share the desire to not be disadvantaged by another manufacturer. NASCAR is the third point in this triangle and they have determined that certain things are hard points that would have the propensity to have one manufacturer get an advantage over another. NASCAR has established hard points to say that there are areas where the car has to be similar in certain areas. For instance, it will be a common roof even though the quarter windows will be different. It will be a common back light and deck lid configuration even though the rear fascia will be different. The side panels, the door sides and quarter panels and fenders will be brand identifiable but the areas around the wheel wells and the areas around the front and rear fascia contacts will be the same. I think there has been great effort made to give as much room as possible for the manufacturers to show the brand identity things that are of interest to them while at the same time maintain parody in regard to performance. I am sure that Ford has in their heart, and I hope the others manufacturers have, not the clan descent desire to seek some kind of performance advantage but rather to see to it that they have the optimal amount of brand identity while maintaining parody performance wise.”
I suspect a cast of more than 100 people.
JACK, DO YOU SEE THE STARS ALIGNING THIS YEAR TO GIVE YOU YOUR BEST SHOT AT A CHAMPIONSHIP IN AWHILE? “We are certainly in the best shape we have ever been in performance wise. How the new points system and the bonus points are going to work out is yet to be seen. NASCAR wants to have, and I believe they will achieve, as close to a jump ball for the final corner of the final lap at Homestead as they could possibly have. I don’t think anybody is going to achieve a runaway, unless bad fortune befalls the majority of the cars in the top-12. Unless bad luck and misfortune befalls people that would not be expected, I think there will be a shootout right down to the last lap of the last race of the year. I just hope that we can have the biggest gun and best prospects for the way we aim the gun for that final shot. In terms of our program, we have no weakness in our program that I have identified and we have some really excellent scenarios we have been challenged by before. This has been the best start to any year we have had in my 24 years and I hope to keep it going in the interest of Ford and the commitment they have made to be behind us.”
IN REGARD TO THE FR9 ENGINE, IS IT POSSIBLE TO ESTIMATE THE NUMBER OF ENGINEERS THAT WORKED ON THAT ENGINE OR THE HOURS IT TOOK, AND WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST HURDLES YOU FACED IN CREATING IT?
JAMIE ALLISON CONTINUED: “The role of the manufacturer on such an undertaking is to initiate the design work. When you talk about the number of people involved, it is probably more appropriate to talk about the number of man hours because the increased use of computer aided engineering, design and modeling is what yields the advantages and opportunities and design excellence that we are seeing. I will let Jack elaborate a little more on going from design to development and going from physical development to physical testing and the Roush Yates organization that brings all that to life.”
JACK ROUSH CONTINUED: “First of all, from the time we made the commitment to introduce the engine in 2010, we made the commitment to make that possible in 2007. If you look at a man’s work year being 2,000 hours, which is the number used a lot; there have been tens of thousands of hours used. As for the number of people used, Doug Yates might be able to put his arms around that but for me it would be impossible. We have had a half a dozen engineers, both Ford and Roush Yates guys, working on this thing continuously over the three year period. Within the vendor group, the blocks have to be cast by an outside source; the valve train had advisory from other people in other forms of racing that had expertise in valve train dynamics and components. The pistons and connecting rods as well as the cooling system and gaskets, behind the scenes there was at least two dozen vendors that had people working on this thing for a period of time. I suspect a cast of more than 100 people that made commitments to this that were significant. It came together, almost without a glitch. We had a minor valve train problem for Carl at Pocono this past weekend that, as we traced it back, was the result of a material inclusion in the head of one of the intake valves. From a design point of view, we have not had to go back and redesign any component in the engine based on the fact that there was not something ideally considered. It has been the most trouble free introduction of a new engine that I have seen in my time of being in this business for more than 40 years. Everyone deserves a vote of thanks and appreciation for the job they have done. Of course not the cries are out there that Ford has an advantage. The advantage that Ford has is that we have parody with our contemporaries that we didn’t have in the past based on the fact that they had received consideration, one after another, for new engine design that preceded the FR9.”
JACK, YOUR CUP RECORD AT MICHIGAN IS IMPRESSIVE. IT SEEMS THAT TRACK GETS YOU EXCITED MORE THAN ANY OTHER TRACK OUT THERE. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT? “I wish I could drive a car on the track and bring my personal emotions to bear on the intensity of the decision making and the opportunities that would follow that commitment. It is a home track for me and I enjoy flying my World War II airplanes over the track mid-week when I have the time. I am known by the people around the track as well as the people who operate the track. Our drivers know when we go there that we are racing in front of the Ford crowd, the home crowd, as far as the auto industry and Detroit is concerned. Emotions are very high. There will be a lot of people that have sleepless nights though enthusiasm and anticipation for it as we arrive here. It is a great place to race.
Ford for being a great partner for me and my organization...
The stakes are really high for me. I think it was 2001 or 2002 on the 100th anniversary of Ford Motor Company and it was celebrated in Dearborn. Near Lake St. Claire is where Henry Ford won a very important race that formed the support that brought attention and allowed him to get support to start Ford Motor Company as it exists today. On that 100th anniversary when we came to Michigan and celebrated that event for Ford, the stakes were very high for us to be successful and we were able to win the race on that occasion. The team has rallied and done its job when it needed to and on average we have done better at Michigan than we have at most tracks. I look forward to another positive result but at the same time I am prepared for disappointment because you can’t expect to win the race at any given race track every time you go there.”
JACK, HOW FAR ALONG ARE YOU ON THE 2013 CAR IN TERMS OF PERCENTAGES? “NASCAR has established the hard points and they are going to try to aero match the car with down force and drag that we have today. I am not aware of how close they came with the spoiler dimensions and the splitter adjustment dimensions. I am not aware of how close they got on aero matching. I don’t think it is a big challenge and it should be easily accomplished. The roof is defined. The deck lid is defined. The front fascia profile and silhouette is basically defined. The artwork and detail of the shape within the parameter of NASCAR’s hard points is being worked on at this point. I know that the first cars that are being built are being built as marketing and image cars. Those cars will be done off the clay model configurations that are at the point of being finished. My understanding is we will have the body work ready to start assembling the car in the next couple of weeks.”
JAMIE ALLISON CONTINUED: “Jack talked about the centennial anniversary of the company and how we were fortunate enough to capture the victory at MIS. I hope destiny is on our side because this year we are celebrating the 110-year anniversary so I hope it isn’t too much to ask Jack and the team to carry the burden of delivering a victory on a seminal moment like the 110-year anniversary of Ford Racing. I am sure the team is prepared and I know they are. We have the best organization, the best leadership, the best cars and we have the power to stand behind it and I think the rest just has to unfold at the track as it always has to do. Before I conclude, I am sure that Jack shares with me to congratulate Glen Wood who was tabbed for the NASCAR Hall of Fame last night and also Dale Inman, who we have gotten to know recently. These are two individuals involved with Ford teams and I send heartfelt congratulations to both Dale and Glen for their induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It is well merited and they are well earned additions to the prestigious club.”
JACK ROUSH CONTINUED: “I would obviously ditto that and I want to that Ford for being a great partner for me and my organization for more than 40 years and hope that we can keep the spirit alive and create the interest in the fan base and the result back in the showrooms that will make that involvement worthwhile going forward for the future.”
-source: ford racing