Ford’s Sprint Cup title outlook looking bleak

jutter@charlotteobserver.comOctober 3, 2013 

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Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M Ford, leads Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota, and Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Menards / Sylvania Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 22, 2013 in Loudon, New Hampshire.

JARED WICKERHAM — Getty

With seven races still remaining to decide the Sprint Cup Series champion, it’s becoming increasingly likely Ford will once again be shut out of the title picture.

Kurt Busch, then with Roush Fenway Racing, was the last Ford driver to win NASCAR’s biggest prize in 2004, the first year NASCAR began utilizing the Chase format to decide the championship.

Since then, it’s been seven champions from the Chevrolet camp and one from Dodge.

Three races into the 2013 Chase, and Ford doesn’t look in any better position to end its drought.

Greg Biffle is sixth in the series standings – the highest ranked of the three Ford drivers in the Chase. Yet he trails leader Matt Kenseth by 41 points – not an impossible margin to overcome, but very difficult.

Biffle may be the best positioned entering Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway – he owns a pair of victories and seven top-five finishes in 14 career starts.

Biffle’s Roush teammate, Carl Edwards is 11th (65 points behind Kenseth) and Penske Racing’s Joey Logano is 12th (66 behind).

Why has Ford had such a difficult time in capturing the Cup championship?

“I can’t really answer why we haven’t won a title,” said Biffle. “You look at Carl, and Carl tied for the points championship (in 2011). It doesn’t get any closer than that.

“Some teams have probably done a little better job than we have and you look at Matt Kenseth for example. He’s got seven wins on the season. That might indicate some of the reasons why they’ve got more championships than we’ve got.”

Biffle as well as his team owner, Jack Roush, have remained hopeful their fortunes could still change this season.

“We’ve still got a little bit more work to do. We’ve come a tremendously long way and I think we’re fairly competitive right now,” Biffle said.

Entering last weekend’s race at Dover, Del., Roush believed his organization was in “good shape” to compete for the championship.

“We hadn’t expected that Loudon (N.H.) would be particularly good for us. We were a little disappointed at Chicago, but I’m looking forward to going to Kansas, Charlotte, Texas and Homestead (Fla.) as we look at what I think are our strengths for the balance of the year,” Roush said. 

“I feel that we almost dodged a bullet at Loudon and look forward at having the same kind of luck at Martinsville (Va.) and Talladega (Ala.).”

The short track at Martinsville and the typically-unpredictable restrictor-plate race at Talladega probably offer the best chance for a Ford driver to cash in on mistakes or misfortunes that may befall one of top three in points – Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Busch.

“You always hope for the best when you go to Martinsville and you hope for the best when you go to Talladega, knowing those are places that there could be a crash on any lap,” Biffle said.

Roush is also approaching those races from that perspective.

“If we can just have some good luck and not break a part, or get involved in a crash that’s not our fault, or run over a piece of debris, or have something happen that would be beyond our control, if we can dodge those bullets, if those things visit (Busch) and (Kenseth) in one race, then we could be right back in it,” he said.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter.

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