NASCAR Busch Grand National Ford Racing not only celebrated its 10th win of the season last weekend in Dover, in just the 14th event of the schedule, but now the manufacturer is just two wins shy of tying its single-season win mark in NASCAR...
NASCAR Busch Grand National
Ford Racing not only celebrated its 10th win of the season last weekend in Dover, in just the 14th event of the schedule, but now the manufacturer is just two wins shy of tying its single-season win mark in NASCAR Busch Series competition. Even more impressive is the fact that with Greg Biffle's first win of 2002, all of the full-time Ford Busch Series competitors have notched wins. Five drivers - Jason Keller, Scott Riggs, Bobby Hamilton, Jr., Biffle and Jeff Burton - account for those 10 wins, and while capturing the manufacturer championship in the Busch Series would be an extraordinary feat for Ford Racing considering the number of Ford teams that compete on a weekly basis, the main focus is on capturing the driver's championship for the first time in series history. Currently, four Ford drivers are in the top seven in points, and all are within striking distance of the lead as the series returns to Nashville Superspeedway, a track where Ford drivers have dominated, winning both of the first two Busch Series events run on the 1.333-mile speedway.
GREG SPECHT, Manager, North American Racing Operations, Ford Racing Technology:
ALL FOUR FULL-TIME FORD DRIVERS HAVE NOW CAPTURED WINS WITHIN THE FIRST 14 BUSCH RACES OF THE SEASON, BUT THE HIGHEST FORD DRIVER IS THE POINT STANDINGS IS SECOND. IS SUCCESS MEASURED BY WINNING THE MANUFACTURER OR DRIVER CHAMPIONSHIP? "We want to win the team title. We like the driver's championship. It's the same for Winston Cup and all of the series that we participate in. The fan identifies and connects with the driver first, and the connection to the manufacturer is secondary. So while we are making an effort in both areas - we want to win both - we certainly want to make sure that we wrap up the driver's championship."
WITH ONLY A HANDFUL OF FULL-TIME FORD TEAMS PARTICIPATING IN THE SERIES, IS THERE A QUALITY OVER QUANTITY MENTALITY? "Absolutely. We did not have a strong presence in the Busch Series, and a few years ago NASCAR came and said that they really wanted to put more emphasis on the Busch Series and wanted to promote it more and make it more interesting, and they thought that if Ford had a greater presence there that would help. We decided to go ahead and do that and our objective in racing is to win. That builds loyalty to our brand. What the fan identifies with is winning drivers. So we went in there and worked with the teams that were already with Ford to improve their performance on the track, and we thought that we needed a greater presence there, so we went after what we thought were the best teams in the series and recruited them to come over to the Ford program, and we were successful with that."
WHAT IS THE STRATEGY BEHIND FORD'S GREATER INVOLVEMENT IN THE BUSCH SERIES? "It's two-fold. One is a marketing objective. The Busch Series is very popular, and we think it's very important for Ford to be there and display our technical expertise and have a presence. Second, it's a training ground for young drivers, crew chiefs and teams that will ultimately end up in Winston Cup. Up until now, with our limited presence there, we really didn't have a place for up-and-coming drivers to stop over before going to Winston Cup. As a result I think we missed out on some opportunities because people got placed with a GM team and got into the GM fold. So that's why we wanted to have some really competitive teams, to have a seat for some of these drivers and crew chiefs."
COMPETING ON THE WINSTON CUP LEVEL IS THE ASPIRATION OF ALL DRIVERS, SO IS THERE MORE OF A COMMITMENT TO AN ORGANIZATION THAN A DRIVER, KNOWING THAT THE DRIVERS MAY MAKE THE JUMP? "Part of the equation and part of the value that Ford derives from the Busch Series is that it is a training ground for up-and-coming drivers and team members, not just drivers, but crew chiefs, engine tuners, chassis people and body people. The Busch Series is the place that a lot of people cut their teeth on and get a lot of experience on. It even starts before drivers and crew members start competing at the NASCAR level, just driving stock cars in at the Saturday night tracks, the Modified Series, the Winston West Series and ARCA and so forth."
CURRENTLY, THERE SEEM TO BE MORE DRIVERS STARTING THEIR NASCAR CAREERS IN THE BUSCH SERIES RATHER THAN THE CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES. IS THE BUSCH SERIES A BETTER PROVING GROUND? "Not at all. It's just a question of what opportunities present themselves in particular points in time."
THERE ALWAYS SEEMS TO BE A LEAST ONE FULL-TIME WINSTON CUP COMPETITOR, AND SOMETIMES MORE, COMPETING IN THE BUSCH SERIES EVENTS. ARE THEY TAKING THE STARTING SPOTS OF POSSIBLE UP-AND-COMING DRIVERS? "I don't believe so. In fact, I think it adds to the series in a couple of ways. First, it obviously draws fans and draws attention to the series, but secondly, it gives the drivers like Scott Riggs, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle the opportunity to compete against the people that they will ultimately be competing with later in their careers. It really helps them sharpen their skills and it also gives the team a measuring stick to say, 'How good are we?' and 'Are we ready to move up to the next level?'"
RULE CHANGES ARE FEWER ARE FURTHER BETWEEN IN THE BUSCH SERIES. IS THAT BECAUSE THERE IS MORE PARITY BETWEEN MANUFACTURERS OR JUST LESS POLITICKING? "I think it's the latter. Everyone in the Busch Series that I've ever talked to just says that they're accustomed to, once the green flag drops at Daytona, 'you run what you've brung.' If you're at a disadvantage, you're just going to have to go out there and figure out ways to overcome that. Looking at it from the manufacturer's side, there's less politicking and there's less room for maneuvering as well."