Andy Slankard - Ford Interview

New Hampshire International Speedway

This Week In Ford Racing

As the NASCAR schedule starts its second-half run this weekend at New Hampshire, Andy Slankard, NASCAR Operations Manager for Ford Racing, took time to review where Ford’s program is right now. Slankard touched on the success of the first half, what it will take to maintain it in the second half, the process of working on the 2013 Sprint Cup car and more.

Ford Logo
Ford Logo

Photo by: Troy Hart

JAMIE ALLISON ANNOUNCED A FEW WEEKS AGO THAT FORD WILL CONTINUE WITH THE FUSION IN 2013. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PROCESS BETWEEN THE MANUFACTURERS AND NASCAR WORKING TOGETHER ON THE CARS FOR 2013, WHAT THAT HAS BEEN LIKE, AND WHAT WE WILL SEE FROM THE COLLABORATION? “Working with NASCAR has been a joy on this project. We had some discussions late last year and they came in with some ideas, and the manufacturers went away and got together and decided that we should have some more input. We talked about if we would want to get together and help NASCAR make a better car. The ground rules were set. We wanted to keep the chassis, wheel-base and everything. We also knew that certain aspects of the car had to be similar so we worked together to create a common greenhouse and common rear deck lid and certain other areas that will still be common, but allow freedom within the rest of the car to really show the brand identity. That has been a great process to work with on with NASCAR. As we came back to NASCAR and said we propose we can do this and this and this, they were fantastic. Robin Pemberton, John Darby and the whole team were open-eyed and open-eared and said, ‘Alright, we will go take a look at it.’ Each of us manufacturers went back to our designers, which got us thinking about when was the last time the designers and artists, the guys that design all of our great Ford products, actually got involved with NASCAR? That is what we have done. We assembled a great team of designers that are helping us make a NASCAR Fusion look as close to production as possible with the current chassis and standards in safety that NASCAR has brought with the Car of Tomorrow.”

WHAT IS THE PROCESS LIKE? HOW DO YOU ACCOMPLISH ALL OF THAT? “We meet with the other manufacturers almost weekly to talk about these common areas and then go back to our designers and say, ‘Okay, this line here, if we kept this common line, would it take away from the look of our car?’ It has all been driven by look, not performance. We have used tools like Computational Fluid Dynamics to make sure the cars have similar downforce and drag as what they do today. We are adding a lot of cues to the car so that when the cars come on the track in 2013, the fan is going to know that one car is a Ford, that is a Chevy, that is a Dodge, and that is a Toyota. We are excited about it. The car will look great and it will be interesting to see how it runs in places like Daytona with this new tandem racing, but we are very excited about the project.”

SO NO LONGER WILL WE NEED TO PUT ‘FUSION’ ON THE FRONT OF THE CAR? IS THE GOAL THAT IT IS INSTANTLY RECOGNIZABLE WITHOUT A STICKER? “That is exactly right. My goal is to not have a Fusion decal on the front bumper. And we won’t. I think it will be really evident. The next set of processes is that we have shared some wind tunnel data with other manufacturers that have been in the 40-percent scale model and we are going to go with our model over the next month. We will use the 40-percent model and then a full size scale car and put that in the tunnel as well. We are going to make sure we have the car aero balanced and the safety required for things like lift off as it goes backwards in the case of accidents. We want to make sure the car is safe and balanced, but above all it is going to really look like a Fusion.”

IS IT A LITTLE WEIRD TO SIT IN THE ROOM WITH THE OTHER MANUFACTURERS ON A WEEKLY BASIS AND COMPARE NOTES ON THIS PROJECT? “Like I said, every Friday or Saturday at the track we get together one way or the other with the manufacturers and, to be honest, it has been a great process. I guess when things were super competitive and the sport was on an upward trend, nobody wanted to share, even the Ford camps within Ford. In this case we all know what is best for the sport. Each manufacturer wants to see its brand clearly identified again. Every one of them is using their own design services to make that happen. The process has been one of a fairly open book, especially on the areas it needs to be. I don’t really know what the Chevy looks like or what some of the other ones look like and they don’t really know what our Fusion will look like, but we have common areas and it has been a great experience across the board.”

NASCAR ENTERS THE SECOND HALF OF ITS SEASON WITH THE RACE THIS WEEKEND AT NEW HAMPSHIRE. IT HAS BEEN A SUCCESSFUL FIRST HALF FOR FORD IN TERMS OF WINS, POINT STANDINGS, MANUFACTURER POINTS, YOU NAME IT. WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS BEEN THE KEY TO ALL OF THAT? “In Sprint Cup, we are doing a lot better than we did last year. We are second in manufacturer points, 12 behind Chevy. We have a lot more wins this year and wins by four different drivers instead of two, which is great. Seeing Trevor Bayne win and David Ragan win for the first time is fantastic and a tribute to some decent cars and the hard work that everybody on the team is doing. There is not one particular thing I could really put my finger on except that we are paying attention to every bit of the car. The FR9 engine is full time this year. Behind the scenes, that made the engine group a lot simpler. They didn’t have to worry about building a 452 engine and a FR9, and the teams didn’t have to install a 452 and FR9 like last year. It allows people to be very focused and the engine is doing fantastic. We are on a great part of the learning curve. Every week we are bringing better and better engines to the table. Also, our simulations have improved. We have some specialists to support our efforts and they have integrated very well into the team. We are using the best of our models and best of their models to give us some predictability as we go to the races. You can see that we are fast off the truck, which points to simulations. Finally, we are just building the best cars we have in a while. I think Robbie Reiser and the Roush teams have really done a concentrated effort to reduce weight and make the best cars that we can. It is not one thing.

In Nationwide, having Mustang run full time is exciting. We had a change in the rules where Cup drivers aren’t driving for the championship and last year we didn’t pay that much attention to Nationwide and it showed. We finished last in the manufacturer’s point standings. This year, we are a close second right now to Toyota. Carl Edwards is running full time and is very fast and doing a great job. We have Ricky Stenhouse and Trevor Bayne full time. Unfortunately, Trevor had his medical incident, but Ricky is doing a fantastic job and is either in first or right behind on any given race. It has been great to put a little emphasis on Nationwide. We brought the FR9 to Nationwide and with the Mustang body we are really optimistic on getting a driver championship and manufacturer championship.”

ARE THERE ONE OR TWO THINGS FOR THE STRETCH RUN HERE THAT YOU ARE FOCUSING ON TO MAKE SURE A FORD TAKES HOME THE CHAMPIONSHIP? “We are never done. Racing is a constant movement of the goal posts and we have to work hard at all areas. We will have new cars, lighter cars, and better cars coming to the Chase. We have lots of guys with a chance to still get into it, like David Ragan, AJ Allmendinger and Greg Biffle all knocking on the door. The thing we have started to look at a little bit is how we keep the power up, while working on the downforce and fuel economy which has crept in at a couple races. We need to make sure we dot our I’s with fuel economy without losing power. We will just keep working on every aspect of the car and help all of our Ford teams try to get to the championship.”

By: ford racing

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Drivers Greg Biffle , Trevor Bayne , Carl Edwards , David Ragan
Tags ford, fusion, mustang, nascar, nationwide, nns, slankard, sprint cup. nscs