“Four wins is not enough. It’s not acceptable. We need to get more wins,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports. “We need drivers who are higher in the standings and hopefully with at least four, if not more, drivers in the play-offs.
“It’s definitely going to be tough where we are now with only four regular season races to go, so it’s been a struggle with the new car, the new package to get our heads around and how to set it up properly to get to the work and optimize.”
Chasing their rivals
Ford’s four wins in the first 22 races have come from three drivers and two organizations: Team Penske’s new Austin Cindric won the Daytona 500, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe won at Phoenix and Penske’s Joey Logano won at Darlington and Gateway.
Logano’s win in the inaugural Cup race at Gateway in early June was the manufacturer’s most recent.
“We’ve seen a lot of success with speed on several tracks where we understood it, but we still haven’t taken home the win. So there’s a lot of work to be done, but that’s racing,” said Rushbrook.
“We always have to improve all the elements of the car, the engine, the aerodynamics, the chassis, the setup, the tire model, our simulator model, and we’re working on that. We have a lot of meetings and progress with our teams to try to do better every week.”
So far this season has been difficult for teams that have had success replicating week in and week out.
Even Chevrolet’s Chase Elliott – who leads the series with four wins – had a three-race stint where he finished no better than 21st.
Logano is another example.
He went into the race at Darlington openly questioning whether Penske had the race-winning speed needed to regularly compete for wins, then went out and led 107 out of 293 laps en route to his first win of the season 2022.
Joey Logano, Team Penske, Shell Pennzoil Ford Mustang
Photo By: Rusty Jarrett/NKP/Motorsport Images
“We’ve had different strengths with different cars on the different tracks. I think that’s part of the battle, because this car is so sensitive that even when a team brings four cars or two cars to the track with very minor differences, you see one at the top of the board and two or three or four on it. the other side of the board,” Rushbrook said.
“So that’s part of it and just understanding how sensitive it is and making sure we can really find the optimal place to run these cars.”
With four races left in the regular season, Ford has locked Cindric, Briscoe and Logano in the playoffs with 16 drivers.
Depending on whether there are any more new winners in the last four races, only Ford driver Ryan Blaney (Penske) is high enough in points to also make the field.
That would leave Ford with four of the 16 drivers in the playoffs – not exactly a strong starting point for getting away with a series championship.
But the unpredictable nature of the season so far means anything is possible ahead of the September 4 playoff opener in Darlington, SC.
“As a fan it was one of the best races we’ve ever had. You don’t know who’s going to be up front every race weekend because of the excitement, so I think that’s been very, very good,” said Rushbrook.
“The cars are so much closer and with change comes opportunities and great drivers who may not have had the right chance with the old car, this is playing in their wheelhouse and they have a great opportunity with this car.
“I think, again, it’s good for the sport to have different teams, different drivers up front.”