Ford Racing and it's new '04 Taurus has gotten off to a good start with Dale Jarrett's victory in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout and Greg Biffle's pole this afternoon. Greg Specht, North American Operations Manager for Ford Racing ...
Ford Racing and it's new '04 Taurus has gotten off to a good start with Dale Jarrett's victory in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout and Greg Biffle's pole this afternoon. Greg Specht, North American Operations Manager for Ford Racing Technology, spoke about how Ford and its teams started preparing for this year's Daytona 500 immediately after last year's event.
GREG SPECHT, North American Operations Manager, Ford Racing Technology
"This was not an overnight success. We were really unhappy with our performance last year in qualifying for the 500, so we started the day after the race. We got together back in Dearborn and kind of held hands and agreed that we had to change things. If we didn't do something differently, we were going to suffer the same results in '04. So the day after the '03 Daytona 500 is when we started working on this year's race. We met with our teams and had the same discussion with them and they agreed with us 100 percent. We really hadn't been paying enough attention to this race and that's why our performance wasn't what it should have been. Since then it's been a joint effort between us and our teams to concentrate on improving our speedway program specifically for the Daytona 500. So it has literally been a 364-day effort to get here. I firmly believe we're in better shape, relatively speaking, than we were last year, but whether we're good enough remains to be seen. Certainly it's been a lot of hard work and effort."
WINNING THE SHOOTOUT AND BEING COMPETITIVE IN PRACTICE SESSIONS IS GOOD, BUT WILL THE ONLY REAL SUCCESS BE WINNING THE 500? "Winning the Daytona 500 is the barometer. We won't be happy until we win the race. The Shootout was encouraging, but, frankly, I still saw some room for improvement out there. Again, I felt we were better. We only had three cars out there, but I really felt we looked better than we have in years past. Still, I see there is room for improvement."
THIS CAR SEEMED TO STRUGGLE BY ITSELF IN PREVIOUS YEARS, BUT THAT SEEMS TO HAVE CHANGED AS WELL. "We can look at wind tunnel data and compare ourselves to ourselves and we know we're better than we were last year. Whether we're the best out there, I don't know because there is so much gamesmanship going on. That's smart because you don't want to show your best hand. Half of the battle out here is knowing what the target is and it seems when people know what the target is, they'll just work tirelessly until they meet that target. That's what our guys are doing, but that's why the smart racers really don't show everything they've got until they really have to."
THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF CHANGE IN NASCAR OVERALL, BUT THERE'S BEEN A LOT WITHIN FORD AS WELL -- A NEW CAR, NEW CYLINDER HEADS AND THE YATES/ROUSH ENGINE COLLABORATION. "There has been a lot of change, but we knew we had to do that because what we were doing wasn't working. You can't just will this to happen, you have to make some changes in the equipment, in the people and in the objectives. We've got a new car that was part of our program and we wanted to make sure that this was a better car for restrictor plate races. We've got a new cylinder head. Frankly, that got approved so late in the year that it's not making a difference here, whereas the car is because we worked really hard at that. Robin Pemberton, Bernie Marcus, the Wood Brothers and our other teams did a really good job and worked hard at getting that piece approved soon enough so they would have time to massage it to be ready for the Daytona 500. The cylinder head is having no impact here, but even though the joint venture between Roush, Ford and Yates happened fairly late in the season, we've been very pleased to see some improvement in the short term. I look for that to continue over the long term as the development on the new cylinder head continues. There have been some personnel changes, which have been made by our teams and by ourselves from last year to this year, but the biggest thing to me is just the focus we've put on this project. What you focus on improves. We've seen that at Ford Motor Company many times and this may be another example of it where we're really focused on improving our restrictor plate program."
FORD SWEEPS FRONT ROW FOR DAYTONA 500
After registering the first win of his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series career at Daytona last July, Greg Biffle claimed his first series pole today with a qualifying speed of 188.387 mph (47.774 seconds). It marks the ninth time Ford has won the Daytona 500 pole and the first time for car owner Jack Roush. In addition, it's the fifth time Ford has swept the front row for the Great American Race.
FORD FRONT ROW QUALIFYING SWEEPS FOR THE DAYTONA 500
2004 - Greg Biffle (1st) and Elliott Sadler (2nd)
2000 - Dale Jarrett (1st) and Ricky Rudd (2nd)
1992 - Sterling Marlin (1st) and Bill Elliott (2nd)
1987 - Bill Elliott (1st) and Davey Allison (2nd)
1985 - Bill Elliott (1st) and Cale Yarborough (2nd)