Ford Performance lifts brand, cars to new heights
Photo credit: Nigel Kinrade/NK Photography For 2017, Ford Performance will field seven Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series organizations featuring 13 teams. Driving Ford Fusions for the first time this year are Stewart-Haas Racing drivers Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick . Harvick won the series title in 2014 while Busch was the last Ford driver to win the series’ championship, in 2004 with what is now Roush Fenway Racing . "I think you've seen over the past year with the formulation of Ford Performance that we have a different approach to our racing program," Global Director of Ford Performance Dave Pericak said when the agreement with SHR was announced early last season. "A lot of people have heard me say that we don't race to race, we race to win and we also race to learn. So we're truly using racing as an innovation test bed in development of new technologies, tools and our people. "I think Stewart-Haas brings with it just an enormous amount of expertise and the way that they approach racing is a very technical way, so all of that is going to blend very well with what we’ve been doing within Ford Performance and how we are approaching now our racing program." In the past four years, Ford teams have visited Victory Lane 35 times and six of its drivers have earned a spot in the 10-race, championship-determining playoff. Team Penske 's Joey Logano has advanced to the Championship Round in two of the past three seasons. "There does seem to be an increase in engineering support again," noted one long-time team owner. "It's nice when Raj (Nair) and Dave, guys dedicated to winning, show up at the track. You know they are there for one reason – to see a Ford win." It's something that doesn't go unnoticed to Ford drivers. "With the transition to Ford, right off the bat the thing I've enjoyed most is it's the head honchos you're talking to," Bowyer said. "Raj Nair has made this Ford Performance the reality it is today, and he's the guy you're talking to."
Stewart-Haas Racing 'ready' for move to Ford
Team co-owner Tony Stewart talks about why it was important to Stewart-Haas Racing to make the move to Ford, as well as the decision to start making its chassis in 2017.
Bowyer gears up for 'best opportunity' with Stewart-Haas
RELATED: First look at paint schemes of 2017 CONCORD, N.C. -- There's been plenty for Clint Bowyer to adjust to in the brief time that he's officially been a member of Stewart-Haas Racing 's driver roster. He's had to acclimate himself to the way that his new team operates. He's also had to become more familiar with the personnel on the No. 14 Ford that Bowyer will drive in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. A helpful hand from his new crew chief, Mike Bugarewicz, has helped Bowyer adjust to both of those new concepts. When Bowyer half-jokingly asked Bugarewicz if he had a team roster to keep him from addressing his crewmembers with, "Hey, buddy," or similar salutations, the second-year crew chief unexpectedly delivered. "He's such a dedicated person and so prepared, he literally went and took pictures of all the guys and e-mailed me the names of them," Bowyer said Wednesday during a preseason media event at the sprawling Ford Performance Technical Center. "I'm like, 'Man, you didn't have to do that. I could've come down.' " At which point Tony Stewart , his team owner and predecessor in the No. 14, interjected: "He says he didn't need that. He needed that, trust me." Laughing aside, Bowyer continued to underscore his point. "That's the level of dedication that you have at Stewart-Haas ," Bowyer said. "And it doesn't just end with Mike, it's all across the board. If you ask for something … you've got to be careful asking for something because it's just done." RELATED: Harvick bullish on changes " Transition to Ford among top story lines The next adjustment that Bowyer may have to make is getting accustomed to relevance, something in short supply even before he was announced Sept. 30, 2015 as the successor to three-time series champion Stewart for the organization's flagship team. Bowyer drove in relative obscurity for Michael Waltrip Racing in its waning days, then languished through a throwaway season in 2016 with the former HScott Motorsports operation as he waited his turn to join SHR. "If he could've clicked his heels three times and made it 2017, he'd have done it in a heartbeat," Stewart said. "But we were all just reminding him: 'Be patient. You've got a lot to look forward to.' And we were hoping that his season would turn around at some point, too, but it didn't work out that way and it wasn't for a lack of effort on their side. "I think the nice thing, though, is -- as odd as this sounds -- I've seen him a lot calmer than I saw him all last year. I don't know that he's ever calm, but you can tell he's excited about what's coming up. He's genuinely excited about getting in the 14 car and that makes us happy, too." RELATED: Stewart at ease in new role at SHR Bowyer's authentic anticipation is attached to what he calls "the best opportunity I've ever had." Not only does the 37-year-old driver now have an avenue to potentially return to Victory Lane for the first time in more than four seasons, he also has the chance to place his name back among the sport's top tier. Bowyer has always been known as one of the most animated and energetic figures in the NASCAR garage. But performance -- or a lack of it, in the case of Bowyer's most recent body of work -- has a way of shuffling even the most engaging figures to the shadows. Bowyer's return to a high-profile ride likely changes both the prevailing perceptions and his exposure level, but the results will need to follow suit. "Here's what I hope -- I sure hope you're watching me," Bowyer said. "At the end of the day, relevancy in this sport is everything and I've lost that a little bit. Not a little bit, a lot. And I felt it and didn't like it. It's up to me to go out and become relevant again, have you watch me and talking about me. "It makes everything better. This is a business. This is racing , but once you race at this level, it becomes a business and it trickles down to everything in your life. We're race car drivers but we do this for a business. From my dirt program, everything, my (car) dealership, it just really trickles down. Every business thing that's happened really feeds off of your success on that race track. I had a bad year and I want to become relevant again. You don't work as hard and you have a hell of a lot more fun." RELATED: Key moments in SHR history Before he embarks on that goal, Bowyer has had fun getting better acquainted with his new surroundings, no doubt aided by Bugarewicz's handy chart. But the jollity has also extended to enjoying the luxuries of championship-level equipment for a change. Bowyer marveled at the comfort and quality of his new carbon-fiber seat, remarking "I feel rich" with regards to the perfectly tailored fit. And in a further illustration of Stewart-Haas' attention to precise details, Bowyer was asked last weekend about his preference for a gearshift handle. When the newest SHR driver reacted with indifference in saying that any handle would do, he was presented with eight possible choices. "I think we have dialed in the right gearshift handle for myself and my success this year," Bowyer said with a wry smile. "If not, we have plenty of extras to go around." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Feel the power, pressure of SHR's pit crew competition
See which team comes out on top in Stewart-Haas Racing's annual Pit Crew Throwdown.
Jimmy John's re-ups with Stewart-Haas Racing , Harvick
RELATED: Drivers on the move in 2017 Stewart-Haas Racing announced Thursday that Jimmy John's has renewed its partnership with its No. 4 Chevrolet team and driver Kevin Harvick in a multiyear agreement. With the extension, Jimmy John's will be the primary sponsor of the No. 4 Chevy in 16 races, including the season-opening Daytona 500 . The Illinois-based sandwich chain will serve as a major associate sponsor in the remaining 22 events. Jimmy John's has been associated with Harvick as a primary sponsor in NASCAR's top division since 2011. Jimmy John's followed Harvick from Richard Childress Racing to Stewart-Haas in 2014, expanding its backing of his racing efforts. "We are fortunate to partner with Kevin for many years in a very meaningful way," restaurant founder Jimmy John Liautaud said in a release provided by the team. "On and off the track, Kevin and (wife) DeLana Harvick are winners in all they do, and Stewart-Haas Racing has proven to be an excellent home for them and for Jimmy John's." Said Harvick: "I've known Jimmy since 2009 and I've personally seen how driven he is and how his work ethic is embraced by Jimmy John's franchise owners. He wants to be the best, period. And he'll out-work everyone to be the best. That's the same mindset we have in racing . I'm proud to continue this partnership with Jimmy John's at Stewart-Haas Racing ." Jimmy John's also sponsored Harvick's efforts as an owner/driver from 2009-10 in what is now known as the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
Hamlin passes Earnhardt for Duel 2 win at Daytona
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Duel 1 results " Duel 2 results " Projected lineup " More on the race Denny Hamlin used a push from Austin Dillon and momentum on the outside lane to pass race leader Dale Earnhardt Jr . for the victory in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with two laps to go in Thursday's Can-Am Duel 2 at Daytona International Speedway . The reigning Daytona 500 winner, Hamlin has also won a Duel race twice in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career. "We definitely had a strong car but so much of that race was single file and so it was really tough to show what we could do in the pack once we got two- and three-wide, but it looked like our car could make some really good moves and got a great push from the 3 (Dillon) there at the end," Hamlin said. "It looked like our cars worked really, really well together there so we’ll keep that in mind when I need somebody to draft with in the 500." Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch finished second and third, respectively, while AJ Allmendinger nabbed a fourth-place result in his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet. Austin Dillon completed the top five in his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevy. Earnhardt Jr., who led Duel 2 to green to start the 60-lap event, led a race-high 53 laps around the superspeedway but finished sixth. "I don't know what I could have done differently to defend that," Earnhardt said after the race. "Once I heard the No. 3 (Dillon) was clear on the outside, I knew they was going to have a big run. Denny (Hamlin) is so smart and he knows what he's doing out there. He's one of the better plate racers out there. Any which way I would have went, he was going to go the other way and probably get by me. I was hoping Austin might push us a little bit since he drives a Chevy; but I don't know if I would have done it any different than he did, either. Congratulations to Denny." The Can-Am Duel 2 race set the outside row for Sunday's Daytona 500 , with Earnhardt Jr. retaining his outside pole position from Sunday's qualifying session. Duel 2 winner Hamlin will start fourth, runner up Clint Bowyer will roll off the grid sixth, etc. Just as Duel 1, the top-10 finishers received championship points: Race winner Hamlin earned 10 points, second-place Bowyer received nine, continuing down through 10th-place. Fourth-place finisher Allmendinger did not receive any points as he failed post-race inspection. Ryan Blaney (20th) was contending for the lead with 15 laps to go and running in the top three when his No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford was clipped by Jimmie Johnson (13th), who got loose from David Ragan 's (11th) No. 38 ride. Ragan and Blaney also had some contact. Blaney took a trip down pit road under green for repairs. One lap later, Johnson scraped the wall, triggered the caution and brought the No. 48 Chevrolet down pit road for five-minute repairs, per NASCAR's new damage rule. DJ Kennington was the highest-running Open car in 15th-place and thus earned a spot in Sunday's Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Elliott Sadler received a spot due to speed in Sunday's qualifying session. Timmy Hill did not make the field. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Get to the points: Drivers eye duel advantage
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Lineups for the Duels " How the Duels work DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The opportunity to earn points and possibly a berth in the season-ending playoffs for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series begins in earnest here this weekend as drivers prepare for Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway . The first chance for points will present itself Thursday as Daytona hosts the annual Can-Am Duels (7 p.m. ET, FS1), two 60-lap qualifying races that will set the bulk of the field for Sunday's main event. For the first time since 1971, drivers finishing in the top 10 in the Duels will receive points (10th for first through one for 10th ). The ability to earn points in this year's event impacts strategy. "It will make a difference for David Ragan ," the Front Row Motorsports driver said Wednesday during NASCAR's annual Media Day at Daytona. "For me, points are what matter to a smaller team," Ragan, driver of the team's No. 38 Ford, said. "And every opportunity we have to gain some points we need to capitalize. "A team like Kevin Harvick 's who can lead a lot of laps, they're going to be fast, win some races, they can overcome not scoring points in a segment. They're going to be able to score a lot of points quicker but for a team that will be running in the mid-teens or low 20s, if we can score points at some segments or in the Duels … that could mean the difference in making the (playoffs) or not making (them). "So I think we will be a little more aggressive when it comes to these opportunities to gain points." RELATED: Fast facts on the race enhancements Harvick, the 2014 series champion, wins with frequency. He'll be going after career win No. 36 and a second Daytona 500 trophy this weekend at the wheel of the No. 4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing . Looming large for teams heading into the Duels is the potential for damage -- scarring up the primary entry for the Daytona 500 just to earn a handful of points is a risky proposition. "I still want to race my primary car in the 500," Ragan said, adding that some of his best finishes in the race have come in back-up entries. "So it's not the end of the world … but I don't want to take any unnecessary risks and do something stupid. But I will be looking to gain some points on Thursday." Pete Hamilton, driving the No. 6 Plymouth fielded by Spartanburg, South Carolina for car owner Cotton Owens and David Pearson, in the No. 17 Holman-Moody Mercury, won the two qualifying races in '71, the last time points were awarded in the for the events. Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Dillon isn't worried about protecting his car for Sunday's 500 -- a lackluster qualifying effort has the youngster and his team searching for speed and answers. RELATED: Dillon discusses how slick the track is "I'm definitely going to do what I can to grab points in the Duel," Dillon said. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Chase Elliott wins Duel 1 from pole position
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Duel 1 results " Duel 2 results A strong restart with eight laps to go -- and a push from fellow Chevrolet driver Jamie McMurray -- gave Daytona 500 polesitter Chase Elliott the power he needed to maintain the lead and take the checkered flag in Thursday's Can-Am Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway . Elliott, the youngest Daytona 500 polesitter, also became the youngest Duel winner in the race's history -- the previous record holder was Jeff Gordon . Elliott will start on the pole in Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for the second straight year. RELATED: Detailed results from Duel 1 " Projected Daytona lineup "We just kind of set out and wanted to race, not ride around," Elliott said after climbing out of his car in Victory Lane. "I think sometimes you ride around and you don't know what your car is like and if it's going to be the way you want it for Sunday. And you can also get yourself in trouble. We took chances and it worked out, so I'm excited for Sunday." McMurray gave Chevrolet a 1-2 finish with a runner-up result in his No. 1 Chip Ganassi ride, while Kevin Harvick finished third in the Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Brad Keselowski 's No. 2 Team Penske Ford and Matt Kenseth 's No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota rounded out the top five. Keselowski displayed his familiar restrictor-plate power, leading a race-high 28 laps. "We had a good night," Keselowski said. "We knew the 24 car (of Elliott) was going to be strong. It just didn't shake out like I hoped it would in some of those pivotal moments, but that’s part of it. ... We're going to work on some things that make that possible." Duel 1 race determined the inside row for Sunday's Daytona 500 0 with Elliott locked into the top starting position, followed by McMurray (third), Harvick (fifth), etc. behind him. The top 10 finishers received championship points, so race winner Elliott earned 10 points for the season, second-place McMurray nabbed nine, all the way to 10th-place Cole Whitt earning one point. The same system also applied to Duel 2. Corey LaJoie claimed a spot in the "Great American Race," as he was the highest finisher (18th) among the three Open teams in the race. Brendan Gaughan had previously earned a spot by being the fastest Open car during Sunday's qualifying session. Reed Sorenson seemed poised to earn a spot in the Daytona 500 as the highest Open team, but contact from LaJoie with 12 laps to go caused his No. 55 Toyota to spin and it was quickly towed off track. Paul Menard (20th) and Kyle Busch (13th) were also affected in the wreck. Joey Logano (ninth) experienced problems early in the 60-lap race: He fell back in the pack and was forced to pit for a loose wheel that was causing a vibration in the first 20 laps. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Kurt Busch seeks to snap Daytona 500 hex of runner-up finishes
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! MORE: Busch through the years " Busch marries fiancée DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Three hundred and fifty-five days. Give or take a week, perhaps. That's how long losing the Daytona 500 sticks with you, according to Kurt Busch . And Busch, driver of the No. 41 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing , should know. Three times Busch has been in position to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season-opening event. Three times he has been denied, taking the checkered flag before everyone else except for the race winner. Second is a lonely place. Others have finished second in the 500-mile race held annually here at Daytona International Speedway more often than Busch. NASCAR Hall of Fame member Dale Earnhardt finished second five times. Fellow Hall cohort Cale Yarborough did it four times. Dale Earnhardt Jr . has been runner up four times, as well. But the sting of a second-place finish in the season's biggest event isn't as painful when there are Daytona 500 trophies in the trophy case, and that's the case for the Earnhardts, Yarborough and a host of others. For Busch, the lack of a Harley J. Earl trophy, presented to the Daytona 500 victor, is the lone omission on an otherwise solid resume. He's a former series champion (2004), and enters the 2017 season with 28 wins over a 17-year career. This year's race, scheduled for Sunday (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be his 16th attempt at being known as a Daytona 500 champion. "You go with all the optimism you can to win it," Busch said. "You apply all the knowledge from years past being so close to try to win it. (But) it sticks with you." WATCH: Busch and Kenseth talk Monster Energy, Daytona 500 Restrictor-plate races contested at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway haven't been kind to Busch, although he did win an IROC race at Talladega in 2003 en route to the championship for that four-race series. He's also won the non-points "The Clash" at Daytona as well as one of the Can-Am Duel qualifying races that determine the bulk of the lineup for the 500. "But both those (Clash and Can-Am) wins were when we were doing the tandem (draft)," Busch said of the NASCAR victories. "I mastered the tandem really well I felt like." What he's yet to master, he said "is the aggressive blocking, making the car as wide as it can be at the end of the race to hold that position. "I was in position, I thought, to win the April race at Talladega last year and Brad (Keselowski) got around me at the end. I made a mistake. Coming to the line here in July running second, third, behind Brad. Joey (Logano, Keselowski’s teammate) is behind me pushing and I got spun coming to the line. "So many close opportunities and yet nothing to show for it as far as a points win. I just have to be more aggressive and strategic in blocking at the end."
Stewart-Haas Racing raises flag on new era with Ford
Some of us raised glasses to toast the New Year, but those at Stewart-Haas Racing were also raising a new flag at their headquarters in Kannapolis, North Carolina, to kick off the 2017 season. SHR's transition to a new manufacturer will be one of the key story lines for fans to watch this year. And as you'll see below SHR seems excited about taking on that challenge. After raising a glass to the New Year, it's time to raise a new flag at the race shop. #shrFORDward pic.twitter.com/ONSEdktG03 — Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) January 1, 2017 MORE: Harvick bullish on SHR's changes
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