Ford teams eye strong start to NASCAR season with caution

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Ford teams eye strong start to NASCAR season with caution
Jim Utter
By: Jim Utter
Feb 27, 2018, 6:37 PM

Don’t read too much into Ford’s strong start to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season – at least not yet.

Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Jimmy John's Ford Fusion
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Jimmy John's Ford Fusion celebrates
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Jimmy John's Ford Fusion
Joey Logano, Team Penske, Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion
Clint Bowyer, Stewart-Haas Racing, Haas Automation Ford Fusion
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, Autotrader Ford Fusion Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Jimmy John's Ford Fusion
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing, Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion
Paul Menard, Wood Brothers Racing, Menards / Moen Ford Fusion and Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, Autotrader Ford Fusion
Joey Logano, Team Penske, Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing, Monster Energy/Haas Automation Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, Autotrader Ford Fusion

That was the message coming from Ford team officials following Sunday’s race at Atlanta, in which Ford drivers swept the top three positions, including a dominating performance by race winner Kevin Harvick.

In fact, the strong start to the 2018 season has stolen some of the thunder of the debut of Chevrolet’s Camaro ZL1.

“This is a place that’s all about grip, and drivers got to like it. By no means are we out of the woodwork,” said Greg Zipadelli, Stewart-Haas Racing’s vice president of competition. “We’re headed to Vegas, which is a complete opposite type of a race track next week.

“So, we’ll look at where we’re at and judge ourselves again next week.”

Ford and SHR driver Aric Almirola was in prime position to win the season-opening Daytona 500 but got wrecked while blocking eventual winner Austin Dillon.

Still, four Fords finished in the top-nine, including Ryan Blaney, who led the most laps (118) in the race.

Don’t get Zipadelli wrong, a driver in contention to win the first race of the season and another earning a playoff spot in the second is welcome news.

“I think absolutely we’re in a little bit better place. These guys have had a year to work with the car and understand it and make some little adjustments,” Zipadelli said. “I don’t know if anybody really knew where they’d stand amongst the competition. 

“There was some aero balance changes with just the way they’re doing the process of inspection and how far you can push things and what you can get away with and all those little details.”

Team Penske and Ford driver Joey Logano leads the series standings after the first two races thanks to fourth and sixth-place finishes, respectively, at Daytona and Atlanta.

Las Vegas is the true test

Even Logano says he remains “skeptical” about season-long prospects based on the results of the first two races.

“Yeah, we looked pretty good, but Atlanta is a unique beast. There’s only one Atlanta,” he said. “There’s no other track just like it, so it’s hard to say what’s going to happen.

“I think next weekend really shows where your mile-and-a-half speed is at. Yeah, (Atlanta) is a mile-and-a-half, but it’s not really like the mile-and-a-halves that we’re used to, so next week
will be the true test to see where we’re at.

“But, like I said, this is a decent start to the season. We have almost two top-fives. We didn’t run badly.”

 

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