DEARBORN - The numbers don’t lie.
When it comes to racing at Daytona and Talladega in recent years no manufacturer has had more success than Ford, which goes into this year’s Daytona 500 with a seven-race restrictor plate winning streak (not counting Brad Keselowski’s victory in Sunday’s Clash). And while anything can happen when cars are running two and three-wide at speeds around 200 miles per hour, the confidence level for extending it in 2018 is high.
“I think Doug Yates and his engines are the best superspeedway engines,” said Kurt Busch, who won last year’s Daytona 500 in Stewart-Haas Racing’s debut event with Ford and his first with the manufacturer since 2005. “Ford seems to have the least amount of drag and with that comes the least amount of downforce. That means we will run well at Daytona and Talladega. We swept the restrictor plate races last year and I don’t see that changing right now.”
And while that may sound like a bold statement, consider that Ford’s run of dominance hasn’t just been over the last two years. Since Trevor Bayne took the Wood Brothers to Victory Lane in the 2011 Daytona 500, Ford has won 16 of the 28 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series events at Daytona and Talladega.
“I believe statistics don’t lie,” said Kevin Harvick, who won the Daytona 500 in 2007. “I think speedway racing is an effort and when you look at the effort it’s not just an engine or just a body, it’s a total effort and I feel like the effort is high just from what we stepped into when we came to Ford.”
Eight different drivers representing six organizations have registered at least one win during the stretch, including four first-time winners -- Bayne, David Ragan, Aric Almirola and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -- proving that there is strength throughout the Ford program.
“All of our teams work hard and it’s been nice to see each of them get rewarded for that through the years,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance. “We take a great deal of pride in the fact that we have multiple organizations capable of winning on any given week and the Daytona 500 is obviously one everybody wants. We’d like nothing better than to see that streak get to eight.”
The one common denominator in all these wins has been under the hood as Roush Yates Engines continues its legacy of being a restrictor plate king. Since Robert Yates and Jack Roush merged their engine operations in 2004, the group has won the Daytona 500 five times and has posted 20 series victories at Daytona and Talladega.
“It started early on with my dad. He always loved going to Daytona because this is our Super Bowl. If you’re involved in NASCAR, you want to be successful at Daytona and Talladega, so we’ve always worked hard at that,” said Doug Yates, chief executive officer, Roush Yates Engines. “The wins we’ve had in the 500 show that we take it seriously, but it’s always about the next one. We don’t think about the stats very much, we just think about the next race and work hard to be better than we were the last one. That’s worked well for us, but we’ve got to keep going because those guys are coming after us.”
One driver who will likely be viewed as a favorite based off his two wins from a year ago is Stenhouse, who will be starting his sixth full season driving at the Cup level for car owner Jack Roush.
“I feel a lot more confident going into the 500 than I ever have,” said Stenhouse, who won the spring race at Talladega and the July Daytona event. “I always went into the 500 thinking, ‘Hey, let’s get off to a good start. Let’s have a good points race.’ I never thought about winning the 500. After last season, I feel like going in that is the only goal that we have is to win and not just to get a good finish out of it.”
Another is Busch, who got a helpful push from Ryan Blaney to pass Kyle Larson on the final lap to win last year’s season-opener.
“To me, I feel more pressure because I want to defend it properly. I want to go back-to-back. I want to bring it home again for Monster, Ford and everybody at Stewart-Haas,” he said. “You give it that same attention to detail that you give Daytona every year. If you have won it or you haven't, you still go after it hard.”
The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 18 at 2:30 p.m. (Eastern Time)
FORD’S RESTRICTOR PLATE WINS SINCE 2011 (Points races only)
Feb. 20, 2011 – Trevor Bayne (Daytona 500, Daytona International Speedway)
July 2, 2011 – David Ragan (Coke Zero 400, Daytona International Speedway)
Feb. 27, 2012 – Matt Kenseth (Daytona 500, Daytona International Speedway)
Oct. 7, 2012 – Matt Kenseth (Good Sam 500, Talladega Superspeedway)
May 5, 2013 – David Ragan (Aaron’s 399, Talladega Superspeedway)
July 6, 2014 – Aric Almirola (Coke Zero 400, Daytona International Speedway)
Oct. 19, 2014 – Brad Keselowski (Geico 500, Talladega Superspeedway)
Feb. 22, 2015 – Joey Logano (Daytona 500, Daytona International Speedway)
Oct. 25, 2015 – Joey Logano (CampingWorld.com 500, Talladega Superspeedway)
May 1, 2016 – Brad Keselowski (Geico 500, Talladega Superspeedway)
July 2, 2016 – Brad Keselowski (Coke Zero 400, Daytona International Speedway)
Oct. 23, 2016 – Joey Logano (Hellman’s 500, Talladega Superspeedway)
Feb. 26, 2017 – Kurt Busch (Daytona 500, Daytona International Speedway)
May 7, 2017 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Geico 500, Talladega Superspeedway)
July 1, 2017 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Coke Zero 400, Daytona International Speedway)
Oct. 15, 2017 – Brad Keselowski (Alabama 500, Talladega Superspeedway)