By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Despite concerns that Ford Performance was lagging behind its’ Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competitors, their strength in restrictor plate racing. Ford Fusions claimed the top four finishing positions in the 2018 Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway.
Ford Fusions lead 43 of the 75 laps that made up the 2018 Clash. Brad Keselowski, the eventual winner, was in front for a dominant 41 circuits. Keselowski even called his shot on Twitter prior to the race, replying to his former competitor Dale Earnhardt, Jr that “he would win the race.”
Keselowski almost didn’t make it to the finish. A large piece of debris, a plastic bag, became lodged on the nose of his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion. However, the bag did not completely block the radiator, allowing air to cool Keselowski’s Roush-Yates engine.
“I was worried about the run but the car was way overheating there at the end and I was more worried about it blowing up than anything else,” Keselowski explained. “Doug Yates and his guys did a good job giving me something real durable to take all that and keep digging. I am really proud of the whole effort here. What a way to start speedweeks, putting the Miller Lite Ford in Victory Lane. I am really proud of my team.”
Behind Keselowski was his Team Penske teammate, and 2017 Clash Winner, Joey Logano, Stewart Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch, and Penske’s newest addition, Ryan Blaney. Blaney looked as if he was setting Keselowski up for a last-lap pass before a mistake just after taking the white flag. Busch was further back and used a surge of energy to cruise inside the top three.
“Project number one was to do all the laps so that we could understand more about our tires and our setup and the way that the car was going to handle,” Busch said with a grin. “Then step number two was to have fun. I had a blast. I wanted to make another move on the last lap but ran out of steam because the guys behind me got too wide. I couldn’t jump in there and go after the Penske guys. It is a good day for Ford and good day for us and Billy Scott, my new crew chief. Now we will go back and debrief about our car.”
The race was competitive from the drop of the green flag. Keselowski started last after the starting grid was drawn the previous night. Although the majority of the field was dicing and weaving, it seemed that the 2012 Premier Series Champion was the only driver that could put his car in any situation.
Although there are still many unknowns beyond Daytona, Ford Performance showed that in race trim, they are still a force to be reckoned with on restrictor plate tracks. The next opportunity for Ford Performance to compete is Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. in the Can-Am Duel races.