Looking Back On ’12 Gives High Hopes For ’13
By Team Ford Racing Correspondent
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- In the afterglow of the final race of the Sprint Cup season Sunday night along the south Florida coast, the beginnings of what should be a potent 2013 for Ford Racing were forming.
The 36-race schedule concluded with two Ford drivers -- Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth -- in the top seven in the point standings, each owning multiple victories. Kenseth won twice -- at Talladega and Kansas -- in the Chase, and Biffle finished in the top 10 in the final four races of the season to take Ford into the top five in the final standings.
The strengths of the two Roush Fenway Racing teams were evident throughout the long season.
Biffle led the points for 11 straight weeks in the first half of the season and bounced back later in the year to lead three more times. For the first 25 weeks of the season, as the team built momentum, Biffle was never out of the top four in the standings. He won at Texas and Michigan.
Kenseth started the year in bangup fashion by winning the Daytona 500, then put together a string of top-10 runs to take command of the point race in the heat of mid- summer, thoroughly banishing any thoughts that his “lame-duck” season at Roush Fenway might be a downer.
In the final analysis, Biffle had only two less top-10 finishes (21) than champion Brad Keselowski, and Kenseth posted 19 top-10 runs.
They will represent Ford onstage at Las Vegas next week as the NASCAR family gathers to celebrate the season.
Work already has begun on 2013, a year of dramatic change for the sport. A focus of the new season will be new car models designed to more closely resemble street cars, and NASCAR announced over the season’s final race weekend some cosmetic tweaks that will accompany the change.
For the first time, the driver’s last name will be placed at the top of the windshield, and, among other surface changes, teams will be allowed to place sponsor identification on the car’s roof, which previously was reserved for the car number.
NASCAR and Ford teams also are working overtime to lift the competition profile of the new cars, particularly on the circuit’s many 1.5-mile tracks.
Ford Racing will enter the new season with a solid, strengthened driver/team lineup that promises to present challenges for others eyeing victory lane.
Roush Fenway Racing will be back with a powerful three-driver Sprint Cup lineup that finds two-time Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. joining Biffle and Carl Edwards.
Stenhouse moves into the No. 17 Fusions after two remarkable seasons in Nationwide and figures to challenge for wins and a Chase spot. Edwards looks to return to the Chase with the assistance of veteran crew chief Jimmy Fennig, and Biffle and crew chief Matt Puccia have the positives of another successful season to build on.
Richard Petty Motorsports will be back in 2013 with its two-driver lineup of Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola. Ambrose logged his second Sprint Cup win this season and finished 18th in points, and a strong late-season run by Almirola lifted him into the top 20 in points.
The Ford Racing 2013 profile will be lifted dramatically by the arrival of Penske Racing, 2012’s Sprint Cup championship team. Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano will be in Fusions when the new season opens in February at Daytona International Speedway.