DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – The Ford drivers and their strength on superspeedways have drawn the attention of the NASCAR garage. Heading into 2019, they’ve won 13 of the last 18 points paying races on restrictor plate tracks. It’s not just that feat that has the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage talking, it’s what they did and how they did it last October at Talladega that has everyone speaking.
“If we get our tails kicked in like we did at Talladega, it’s going to look bad,” said last year’s Daytona 500 champion Austin Dillon during the Daytona 500 Media Day. “Daytona is a little bit different in the fact that handling is more in play more often. What they did (at Talladega) was so impressive. They led the whole race.”
Dillon, says that while he doesn’t see that happening again, he did note that Team Penske was strong during Sunday’s Clash and that it was “kind of scary” in seeing.
In order for Dillon and his Richard Childress Racing teammates to contend on Sunday with the Fords, he thinks that they need to have strength in numbers. We’ve heard it after Sunday’s race, it’s just hard to pass now at Daytona. When everyone goes to the high line, it’s hard to get any runs on the low side.
But, if you get some drafting help from other Chevy’s and can break up the Ford’s, it could essentially work in their favor.
“I do think it’s a good idea for us to get together to make some sort of game plan,” Dillon said. “We do a pretty good job of trying to pit together and stay on the same pit strategies. So that is something that will probably be talked about more and more as we get closer to the race. We need to get together, I think, and work on that if that is how the race is going to go.”
One driver though sees that to a disadvantage. 2016 Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin said that he doesn’t think he has enough Toyota teammates in his arsenal to do much damage. With only four Joe Gibbs Racing cars and the Leavine Family Racing entry, those are the only five guaranteed Toyota cars to race. That’s not enough drafting help.
But, he did take the blame for the Ford camp doing what they’re doing now, crediting how he and his Toyota teammates were the first ones to really work together in a line.
“I think that’s really been a lot of the success that Team Penske has had and Stewart-Haas at Talladega,” Hamlin said on Wednesday. “Their cars were just extremely fast and they just stayed in line together. That’s something that we displayed in 2016 with our Toyota teammates and really haven’t been able to replicate since.
“Other manufacturers have more cars. Us five cars can stay all in a line all we want, but if there are nine Fords or 10 Fords that stay in a line, that’s going to be faster. So once we kind of put the blueprint out there of how we work together, it’s been impossible for us to replicate since simply because of numbers.”
The big key in this is whose remaining at the end too. We’ve seen in the past that one manufacturer or set of drivers look the strongest throughout Speedweeks but they all get involved in a crash during the ‘500 itself.