Three finishes outside the top 40 over a five-race stretch sent the Roush Fenway Ford #16 driven by Greg Biffle from the top five to out of the top 12 and precariously outside the Chase with half of the regular season over. Poor performance was part of the analysis and the Ford teams were worried. However, a second place last week by Biffle and now a first has the Ford camp in better spirits. However, the Biff’ says the team has,
“Just scratched the surface of how much better our cars are going to get.”
No doubt the teams of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota) and Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet) are still the cars to beat. Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski made a public statement just last week (source: Yahoo) that the Ford teams were behind because the Gibbs and Hendrick organizations were “stealing” employees and information. Nonetheless, it appears the blue oval badged Fords are gaining ground.
The fact is that Biffle’s Ford Fusion was fast enough at the Quicken Loans 400 to hold off the car everyone believes is the fastest right now: points leader Jimmie Johnson’s #48 Chevrolet SS. With Chad Knaus making great calls and adjustments, Johnson driving out of his mind has made it tough for the rest of the field, especially the Ford’s. However, Johnson in working hard to get to the front trying to catch Biffle, wore his right front out in the process, causing a blown tire and flattening the right side of the car. Interestingly enough, the week prior saw Biffle second to Johnson at Pocono.
The Fords appear to have closed the gap – at least for now. Yes, the Gibbs Toyota of Kyle Busch was fourth, Tony Stewart with Hendrick power was fifth, but the rest of the field was well represented by teams from other organizations including the Fords.
For the Roush Fenway team, along with Biffle, Carl Edwards was a frontrunner most of the day and ended up eighth. Joey Logano in a Penske Racing Ford also was a Top 10 all day, finishing ninth. Penske’s other Ford driven by Keselowski had moved slowly but surely through the field as the race went on and looked like he would be in the top five; but, Brad ran out of gas on the last lap, settling for 12th.
As it turned out, the Hendrick group as a whole had an unusual day that started well but ended badly (source: Sports Illustrated). Along with Johnson’s crash at the end that put him 28th, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s day ended with a blown engine while he was leading. And, prior to that, Kasey Kahne was leading comfortably when his right front tire unexpectedly blew, sending him into the wall and out of the race as well. Jeff Gordon was moving through the field very early when he was caught up in a crash not of his doing, ruining his day.
It was a special day for everyone who was part of the blue ovals as Ford won their 1,000th victory all-time in NASCAR, which is quite a milestone. Biffle has been a part of 56 of those wins including four Cup victories at Michigan International Speedway – his last victory was August of 2012 at Michigan.
The #16 Ford was fast in clean air but Biffle admitted they didn’t have the fastest car: “But it looks like we’re well on our way to getting more speed in these cars.” Ford appears to be the stalking horse in NASCAR challenging Toyota and Chevrolet. If indeed Biffle is right and the Roush Fenway gang is just scratching the surface of how fast they can be, the other teams including Gibbs and Hendrick should be worried.
Maybe just in time for the playoffs? Biffle thinks so saying:
“This feels like we’re rising up as we’re coming to the Chase.”
Source: YouTube (NASCAR)