NASCAR: Ford’s newfound speed a sign of things to come?

Ford’s strength with the 750-horsepower, low-downforce package at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a positive sign for the upcoming NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

This past Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was full of surprises, including Ford’s show of speed from start to finish.

The series ran the 750-horsepower, low-downforce package in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at the four-turn, 1.058-mile (1.703-kilometer) oval in Loudon, New Hampshire.

With six of the 10 playoff races scheduled at tracks where the low-downforce package is set to be run, including the round of 8 finale at Martinsville Speedway and the Championship 4 race at Phoenix Raceway, teams must find speed with it to capture the championship.

Teams and drivers had New Hampshire Motor Speedway circled on the calendar heading into the race weekend, as it is the closest comparison to Phoenix Raceway.

Brad Keselowski commented on the importance of this race.

“Looking forward, the Phoenix race settles the championship in November, and Loudon, New Hampshire is the closest track we have to Phoenix remaining on the circuit. So when it comes to car development, team development, we look to this track to be a key indicator for how we will run for that race.”

Running well in this race could translate to speed in the upcoming races at ovals shorter than 1.5 miles in length.

Aric Almirola’s upset win for Stewart-Haas Racing, the team’s first victory of 2021, shot him from a miserable 27th place in point standings to one of the 16 playoff spots.

Stewart-Haas Racing showed winning speed for the first time all season in this race. Almirola’s #10 Ford was the car to beat in stage three and Kevin Harvick led the most laps, running in or around the top five all race en route to a sixth place finish.

Team Penske’s three Fords finished in the top five, with Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski winning stage one and stage two, respectively, and leading a combined 117 laps.

Joey Logano battled back from an early penalty for an unapproved adjustment during the red flag period to finish in fourth place. The #22 team may have contended for the win had they retained track position early on.

Thanks to a strategy gambit to stay out with darkness threatening to shorten the event, Matt DiBenedetto led 20 laps and still finished in 11th place, continuing a recent trend of improvement.

This race marked the fastest that the Fords have been in a non-superspeedway race so far in the 2021 season, and it could be a sign of better things to come.