By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Three races, two dominant wins, leave Ford Performance on top of the three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series manufacturers. Ford Fusions took six of the top-10 finishing positions in the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube. Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick took the victory, his 100th career win across NASCAR’s top three series.
Prior to the season, many expected Ford Performance to be at a disadvantage. This was based on the domination of Toyota’s 2018 Camry last season and the brand-new Camaro ZL1 for Chevrolet. Contrary to the pre-season assumptions, Ford has not been behind, but rather leading the pack. Joining Harvick inside the top-10 were Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Paul Menard, and Aric Almirola.
Ford Fusions were up front for much of the race. The pace set by Harvick’s No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion left just nine cars on the lead lap when the checkered flag waved. Of the 267 laps run, Blue Ovals lead a staggering 251 circuits at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Toyota Racing’s Camry lead the other 16 laps, leaving the Camaro ZL1 shut out.
“We have definitely had three good race cars with the Xfinity Car and the Cup car and we had a good race car at Daytona as well and got caught up in a wreck,” Harvick said about the start of the season. “As you look at the last two weeks and our 1.5-mile program in general it has been really good since I started here at SHR. They put a lot of effort into everything we do from every standpoint to get these cars going like they are. I have to thank everyone from Stewart-Haas Racing, Gene and Tony, it is fun to have them here when we win. Everybody who helps put this thing on the race track, we couldn’t do it without them. And the fans for coming out to the racetrack today. We really appreciate you all coming out. It is always fun for me to win on the west coast and I didn’t have a lot of luck here until I came to SHR. It is great to win on the west coast for me.”
After Vegas, Ford Performance drivers occupy half of the top-10 in the Championship Points Standings, including the top-three. Harvick sits on top of the standings after scoring back-to-back wins at Atlanta last weekend and Vegas this weekend.
The main explanation that has been pointed to for the balance of performance has been NASCAR’s Optical Scanning Station, or ‘Hawkeye.’ The inspection system is more precise than the Laser Inspection Station used in previous seasons as well as ‘The Claw.’ Regardless of the cause of Ford Performance’s recent domination, the manufacturer has shown no evidence of slowing down.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be back in action at ISM Raceway on March 11 for the Ticket Guardian 500. ISM Raceway is a track that Ford’s Harvick has been very successful at in recent years, but only time will tell if Ford continues this trend.