This is the first of a three-part look previewing the manufacturer-supported entries in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
It has been nearly a decade since a Ford Racing driver finished the NASCAR season with the sport’s biggest prize.
Kurt Busch was the last Ford driver to win the Cup championship when he captured the 2004 title while he was at Roush Racing.
For Busch, that was four teams ago. For Ford, it has been like an eternity.
In a surprising twist, it was a newcomer to the Chase – Joey Logano – who registered the best 2013 season for Ford Racing teams. He finished eighth in the standings and won the August Michigan race from the pole.
Roush Fenway Racing will continue to field three teams this season with Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who won rookie of the year honors in 2013.
Logano, Biffle and Edwards are the only returning Ford drivers to make the Chase last season.
Q&A with Joey Logano
Q: Are you ready for the Daytona 500?
A: I’m ready to go. My team’s ready to go. We’re excited about the season. We’re able to keep the whole team together for the most part and be able to build off what we had last season, which is good, because we made a lot of changes coming into last season, obviously, with the driver, but with engineers, shock specialists, car chief, a spotter, all that.
So those key positions are still there and that’s important to kind of build off what we had last year. We ended the season with a good year, and being able to build off of that with the same people and kind of take a step back and look at what everyone’s role is and where we can all do a little better job individually and as a team and try to make a great season out of it.
Q: How would you assess the 2013 season?
A: I don’t think it was a terrible season, in all honesty. We made the Chase. We were very solid. Week-in and week-out we were a top-10 to top-5 car unless we had some kind of issue.
I feel like we’ve had the opportunity last year to win five to six races. We only capitalized on one, so we can get better at that. I think that’s a big area for us. I think our pit stops, we’re making some changes on the pit crew to make that better. I felt like our cars last year had speed in them. I felt like the mile-and-a-half stuff was probably our best.
Q: Will it be difficult to adjust to the new aerodynamic rules for 2014?
A: It changes it up a lot. It changes your driving style; changes your car set-up a lot, and in all honesty it brings it more to a Nationwide car, which I don’t believe is a bad thing for this team. I feel like it falls into my style a little bit. I think last year you see the Gen6 car, that kind of fell into my hands, too.
We’re excited about this season. We’re very positive about these rule changes, and like I said earlier, I want to take advantage of the opportunity to be the first guy to figure this out.
Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter