After 22 NASCAR Cup Series races this season, Chevrolet leads the way with 13 victories.
When it comes to Ford Performance, though they sit one point above Toyota in the manufacturer standings, they find themselves with the least amount of wins with four.
Ford’s Global Director of Motorsports Mark Rushbrook was undoubtedly candid regarding the Blue Oval’s performance this season.
“Four wins is not enough. It’s not acceptable. We need to get more wins,” Rushbrook said. “We need to have drivers further up the standings and hopefully at least four if not more drivers into the playoffs. It’s certainly going to be hard with where we are with only four regular season races left, so it’s been a struggle with the new car, the new package with getting our head around it and how to set it up properly going to the track and optimizing it.
“We’ve seen a lot of success with speed at different tracks where we have understood it, but we still didn’t bring the win home,” Rushbrook continued. “So there’s a lot of work to do, but that’s racing. We always need to make all elements of the car better, the engine, the aerodynamics, the chassis, the setup, the tire model, our simulator model, and that’s what we’re working on. We have a lot of meetings and advancements with our teams to try and do better every week.”
It’s been well-documented how the Next Gen car has thrown teams for a loop.
Whether it be the differences in tuning, aerodynamics, or the subtleties of finessing the car on each course, Rushbrook believes the unknowns to be troublesome for Ford.
“It’s been different. We’ve had different strengths across different cars at the different tracks,” Rushbrook said. “I think that’s part of the struggle is this car is so sensitive that even when one team is taking four cars or two cars to the track with very small differences, you’ll see one near the top of the board and two or three or four down at the other end of the board. So that’s part of it and just understanding how sensitive it is and making sure we can really find the optimum spot for these cars to run.”
Ford came out of the gates strong this season, as Joey Logano scored the first win in the Next Gen car during the exhibition Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum.
Then, RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher swept the Duel’s at Daytona (Fla.), before Team Penske’s Austin Cindric landed in victory lane for the 64th annual Daytona 500.
However, since kicking off the season with a victory in the Daytona 500, Ford has only three victories, with two coming from Team Penske’s Logano and the other from Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe.
When asked if there was any specific element that Ford needed to focus on, Rushbrook feels that all areas are up for improvement.
“Honestly, as I just said for the last question, we’ve got to get better in all areas because if you’re equal in every area, you’re exactly that – you’re only equal in every area,” Rushbrook said. “We want to have the best engine with the best aero, which means the least drag and most downforce. The best chassis setup, which means really understanding the tire model and how to optimize ride heights and all the settings in the suspension, so it’s racing.
“We’ve got to advance all of those to be the best in every area because the competition is so close,” Rushbrook continued. “If you’re off in just one area, then you’re not gonna win the race. Again, as we go to different tracks, whether it’s a superspeedway versus a road course, there are different strengths and weaknesses because of the different engine packages and the different setup required on the car.”
As they continue to chase the sweet spot with the Next Gen car’s performance, a welcoming sign for Ford has been the uptick in performance for drivers such as Buescher and Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell.
McDowell already has nine top-10 finishes and an average finish of 16.1.
For Buescher, it’s been a refreshing season amid new ownership at RFK Racing, as he’s earned six top-10 finishes and a pole.
“I think it’s been great for the sport,” Rushbrook said. “As a fan, it’s been some of the best racing we’ve ever had. Because of the excitement you don’t know who is gonna be at the front as you go to every race weekend, so I think that’s been really, really good. The cars are so much closer and with change comes opportunity and great drivers that maybe didn’t have the right opportunity with the old car, this plays into their wheelhouse and they’ve got a great opportunity with this car. I think, again, it’s good for the sport to have different teams, different drivers at the front.”