Toyota Racing has dominated the intermediate tracks this season—particularly the Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 78 Furnishings Row Racing workforce.
Truex has gained six of the 10 races on 1.5-mile tracks, together with the primary three within the Monster Vitality Cup Collection Playoffs. However Kevin Harvick ended Truex’s run at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Oh, what a distinction three months make. After a little bit of a summer season hunch, Ford Efficiency has woke up like a revenant at simply the correct time with Stewart-Haas Racing and Staff Penske main the cost.
Ford’s impression on SHR
Harvick has exhibited spurts of pace all through the season. He earned poles at Atlanta, the primary Texas race and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. He dominated Atlanta and led 292 of the primary 311 laps earlier than a dashing penalty took the No. four Jimmy John’s Ford out of competition. On the first 4 intermediate tracks within the Playoff, Harvick’s common end is three.75.
“Ford is enormously answerable for that,” Harvick stated. “They’ve spent some huge cash a number of time, a number of effort in engaged on the Ford efficiency facet of issues. The instruments and issues we’ve got entry to, the hassle they put simply throughout the partitions of SHR has been very refreshing.”
Each Ford and Stewart-Haas Racing have addressed the rising pains of transitioning from Chevrolet. Not each workforce at SHR acclimated as rapidly because the No. four workforce led by crew chief Rodney Childers. However as Harvick has found the internal workings of the Dearborn, Michigan-based auto producer, he’s grown to admire the One Ford philosophy.
“I believe as you have a look at the best way issues go, I did not know anyone from Ford, by no means have handled anyone from Ford, however I can inform you from the highest down they’re very concerned in not solely our workforce however the Roush workforce, the Wooden Brothers, Penske group,” Harvick stated. “I believe as we have gone via this, it does really feel like one Ford. That is what they push.
“They take loads from every workforce. As we have gone via the yr, I believe our relationship with particularly the Penske facet of issues has developed. Brad (Keselowski) and myself discuss loads. Paul (Wolfe, No. 2 Staff Penske crew chief) and Rodney discuss loads. These are the forms of issues that you just want. It is enjoyable. I actually respect all of the help from the highest down as a result of they love racing. When you could have a gaggle of those that love racing, you place them with a bunch of racers like we’ve got at Stewart‑Haas Racing, (workforce co-owner) Gene (Haas), Tony, all the workers we’ve got, it is a good match.”
Staff Penske displaying marked enchancment
And Harvick isn’t the one one benefitting from the pace Ford has discovered. With out it, there’s no method that Keselowski or teammate Joey Logano would have recovered on Sunday. Keselowski obtained early injury after contact with Kyle Busch on the primary lap, dropped to 39th and fought again to a fifth-place outcome. He’s nonetheless nicely throughout the championship hunt. Keselowski is fourth within the standings, 19-points above the minimize line. Logano missed qualifying however rallied from the rear of the sector to the entrance solely to obtain a dashing penalty and sacrificing a seventh-place.
Staff Penske’s technical alliance with Wooden Brothers Racing has enabled Ryan Blaney to blossom underneath the perfect of circumstances. In his first Playoff look, Blaney, 23, has superior to the Spherical of eight and hasn’t completed worse than 11th on intermediate tracks.
Roush-Fenway Racing—the long-time flagship group of Ford Efficiency—loved two wins earlier this yr as Ricky Stenhouse Jr., discovered Victory Lane for the primary and second time. Stenhouse, 30, celebrated his breakout season with a Playoff debut and superior to the Spherical of 12.
However Stewart-Haas Racing has overcome the producer change to attain three wins and 5 poles this season. Kurt Busch kicked off the season by successful the Daytona 500 and gained the pole for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, posting the quickest qualifying lap ever run at a 1.5-mile intermediate speedway.
Busch led the Ford contingent at Kansas Speedway with a second-place outcome and completed ninth on Sunday—the fifth Ford among the many high 10 drivers. The achievement marked the primary time within the Playoff that 5 Fords positioned within the high 10 at an intermediate observe.
And that bodes nicely for Harvick. As the primary Ford driver to punch a ticket to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway–another 1.5-miler–Harvick is inspired to know he can outrun — significantly down the stretch.
“As you get later within the, recreation, as you wind up with much less and fewer vehicles, their groups all step up, often have their greatest performances of the yr as nicely,” Harvick stated. “Hopefully we will maintain that rolling.
“However the mindset is unquestionably we predict we will win, because it was not three months in the past. That is simply the distinction that three months has made.”