Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Ford's new FR9 engine: Okay, show us what you've got

  David Ragan: good for 2011 with UPS and Jack Roush. But he knows he's got to step it up a notch (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    By Mike Mulhern

   POCONO, Pa.
   Patience, patience, patience.
   That's the mantra in the Ford camp.
   Well, along with 'more speed, more speed.'
   It's been a slow start to the season for the Blue Oval guys, still winless.
   But now they finally get to put some laps down with the new FR9 engine, which could help in the middle of the corners, if not up off the turns.
   Doug Yates, the man heading the new engine program, and son of the legendary Robert Yates, is as anxious as anyone to see just what happens next.
   "There are definitely some performance upgrades," Yates says. "Everybody had it at the (Charlotte) All-Star race, and we got to see that."
   So will the FR9 make Ford an instant winner again?
   "I would like to think the engine was going to solve the search for our first win of the year and get us on the way to a championship," Yates says. "But there are a lot of variables to make a car go fast...the engine is just one of them."
    Still, the drivers are saying they need more speed.
   And when it comes to speed, Yates concedes "the first thing people think is that it is the engine.
    "But being an engine guy -- and also a team owner -- you learn that the car has to go through the center of the corner really fast.
    "It is a lot about corner speed."
    Yes, but we're talking Yates here. And the Yates, father and son, once were known for the some of the most awesome engines in NASCAR.
   "When my dad and I had our team,  with Davey Allison, Ernie Irvan and Dale Jarrett, we were at times known for having a serious horsepower advantage," Yates says. "But today the rules are pretty tight."


   Doug Yates. Key to Ford's new engine (Photo: Autostock)


    Yes, but Dodge, Toyota and Chevrolet have all introduced new NASCAR engines over the past few years, while Ford has made do with the venerable model.
    The FR9 should have some of the new tricks, in cooling designs and weight, that the other guys have had for a couple of years.
    But Ford probably won't show all its stuff right away.
    The real key to the season of course is the 10-race chase, which begins in September.
   And while Ford teams are still winless Yates points out "Remember we have three guys in the top-12...AJ Allmendinger had a pole at Phoenix....we were one rule change away (multiple green-white-checkered finishes) from winning the Daytona 500 (with Greg Biffle)...Kasey Kahne won a twin-150 qualifier.
    "With a lot of things it's how you paint it. And people can point out deficiencies, but we have been real close to winning several races this year.
    "Matt Kenseth took the lead at Martinsville (on a late restart, from Jeff Gordon) and was one corner away from winning the race (when Gordon deliberately crashed him).
    "We have three guys in contention for the championship...and hopefully will make the chase.
    "Just like we did in 2004 with Kurt Busch, we want to peak at the right time. Those last 10 races are what we are trying to position ourselves for -- to make a strong run for the championship."
    Meanwhile, discount any rumors about sponsor UPS and David Ragan. That contract runs through the end of 2011. Still Ragan, struggling through a disappointing spring, and with only one top-10 (a sixth at Talladega), and a distant 24th in the standings, knows he has to start making some waves.
    The anchor for Team Ford looks to be Kenseth, comfortably third in the points, if not all that impressive so far out on the track.
   "I am really happy where we are in the points, and where our finishes have been, compared to how we've run," says Kenseth, who ran second at Atlanta and third at Dover, in his best finishes so far.
   "We just haven't run well enough overall."
    Well, that may be relative. Kenseth, after all, has averaged a 10th-place finish over the first 13 races, and only Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are doing any better. It's consistency like that which makes championship contenders.
    Still Kenseth says he's not looking that far ahead: "I haven't really thought about the chase, or championships...We have been trying to get the cars better to compete."
   After all, it's one thing to make the chase, another to be a serious title contender.
    "We are all smart enough to know if we run like this every week we aren't going to be good enough to win the championship," Kenseth says. "Hopefully we would make the 'dance,' but I don't think we would win it. 
    "We know we need to be better to be able to run with those guys."
    Still, last season was trying for Kenseth, because he faded down the stretch. "Last year we didn't even make it in the chase....and that was after we won two races early in the year (including the Daytona 500).
    "We've got to get finishes every week, and get our cars running better, so we have chances to win."

  Greg Biffle, Kenseth's teammate, just hopes for cautions to fall at the right time, because fuel mileage has been his Achilles Heel. "Last year we ran in the top-five the whole race, both races actually....but in both races we couldn't make it on fuel."
   And at Charlotte the Fords were not getting as good gas mileage as rivals, which was troubling.
   So the first round of green flag stops here Sunday could be key to seeing just what kind of improvement in fuel mileage the FR9 may provide.
   Biffle wants more, though: "Everyone is always getting better....and it seems like we have been trying to catch up for a couple of years.
   "Over the winter I feel we made some big gains and started the year stronger. But we certainly aren't where we want to be."
   And while Kenseth may be cool about his standing in the standings, Biffle is getting nervous: "We have had a rough little patch going.
    "Last week we had a good run going, but it was unfortunate we finished where we did (32nd, after slapping the wall a couple of times).
   "We have got to stay strong right now, through this stretch, in order to make the chase. We are ninth in points, but we are on the edge. We aren't third or fourth. So we are on that 'treading light' territory."

     [Note: You can use Twitter as an easy headline service for mikemulhern.net stories, with our instant Tweets to your mobile as soon as our newest NASCAR story is filed. And mikemulhern.net is mobile-friendly for viewing. You can also use the orange RSS feed button as a quickie headline service on your laptop or home computer for mikemulhern.net stories, by creating a Live Bookmark RSS feed on your web browser's toolbar. Or you can create a Google Alert for mikemulhernnet.]


   The legendary Robert Yates (Photo: Autostock)

Give it up Ford

Go back to Detroit and quit wasting your money in this sport. We love the fact that you refused bailout money. That has sold more cars for you than winning any of these races in the last decade.

Seriously, I hate to see Ford leave but really, what is the value? The Ford fans have given up, if this FR9 engine doesn't produce, you will be run out of the sport and Nascar isn't interested anyway. They are happy with Gibbs and Hendrick winning every race. Everyone is running an engine, car configuration, with a carburator not available in any new car, why would this influence my purchasing decision?

Times have changed, Toyota is the new Ford, Chevy or GM will always have cash to race with, even when they are bankrupt. You can't compete with that mentality half hearted.

I hope I am wrong but I see a winless Ford year.


Dont give up anything Ford. That moron needs to shut the hell up they didnt refuse bail out money...they didnt need it. Ford fans havent given up and never will. Lets win the chase this year!!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com