Ford dominating NASCAR

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:22 PM ET

Late last fall, at the final race of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead Miami Speedway, Montreal’s Patrick Carpentier was bemoaning the fact that he had failed to qualify his No. 26 Air Guard Ford for the show.

But he was certain that if his team had been able to use Ford’s new FR9 engine that day, he would have qualified easily for the Ford 400.

“Without a doubt,” Carpentier said at the time. “Man, that FR9 is a rocket.”

Ford had made the FR9 available only to select teams during its shakedown runs late in 2010.

It had been developed by Ford in association with Roush Yates Engines as an attempt to catch up to the Chevrolet and Toyota power plants that had been dominating the Sprint Cup series over the previous five seasons.

It worked.

On Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway the first four cars on the grid — that’s the entire two front rows — will be Fords with the FR9 motor.

And while it’s only the third race of the 2011 Cup season, heads are being turned by the power that this new engine is putting out.

Matt Kenseth set an LVMS record of 188.884 m.p.h.in the No 17 Roush Fenway Ford to win the pole position for Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400. Right behind him were Marcos Ambrose in the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford at 188.166 m.p.h., Carl Edwards in the No. 99 RFR Ford at 188.127 m.p.h. and Greg Biffle in the No. 16 RFR Ford at 187.970.

All four are powered by the FR9.

“I have to give Doug Yates and the engine shop a lot of credit because I think we have more power than we ever had last year,” Kenseth said. “This is our first full season with the FR9 and we started running better on it toward the end of last year.

“In Phoenix our engine ran really well and now here this weekend you see all the Fords up toward the top.”

Kenseth, the 2003 Sprint Cup champion, said he knew right from Daytona that the Yates group had something special in store with the new engine.

“(Yates) hadn’t told me that he has had big gains but he has been in a really good mood lately,” Kenseth said. “We have had big gains and the speed is up.”

Kenseth — never one to get too excited — said he is tempering his enthusiasm for the FR9 until there are few more races to judge its effectiveness in the long run.

“You really don’t know about this year for, probably, about another month or so but I think we can continue down this path of making ourselves better.”

Edwards, meanwhile, doesn’t have the same reservations as his RFR teammate. In fact his was downright bullish after his qualifying effort put him on the second row.

“That is a testament to how hard our guys are working at the shop and Doug Yates and everyone with the FR9 engine,” he said. “They have done an amazing job. We talked about earlier that we wanted to see how we ran in this first 1.5-mile (race).

“That would be a little bit of a test for the rest of the season. So far it looks really good. I am excited ... this is great for us.”

Yates has had to deal with a lot of adversity over the past several seasons that saw his father’s Yates Racing program dissolve, with the engine building component partnered with the RFR group.

There were doubts that the FR9 could compete with the big horsepower Toyota and Chevrolets especially after the first few outings last season didn’t exactly burn up the race tracks.

But Yates remained confident and it looks like he will be vindicated.

“We’ve had such a great start to the 2011 season,” he said. “Finishing 1-2-3 at Daytona, putting Carl Edwards on the pole in Phoenix, and the astounding speed we’ve shown in Vegas make me very proud of all the engineers at Roush Yates and Ford Racing.

“We’ve worked really hard in the off season to see gains on the racetrack and I think there are even more great things to come.”


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