Stories Of People Who Make A Living In Motorsports
BY DAN DAVIS
Dan Davis is the director of Ford Racing Technology.
Fast Fact: Davis joined Ford Motor Company in 1976 as a project engineer.
If it’s mid-November, it must be time for Ford Championship Weekend.
Indeed, our championship weekend unofficially wraps up a 2007 racing season that started nine and a half months ago in Daytona for the 24 Hours.
We’re thrilled to be able to host the Ford Championship Weekend, our fifth year of doing so, and it appears that at least two of the championships — Nextel Cup and Craftsman Truck — will come down to the wire.
It’s also a chance for us to connect with so many race fans, through a nationwide TV audience, but also with our massive on-site display featuring everything from Chip Foose F-150s, to our latest Mustangs featuring Ford Racing performance parts.
The end of the season also is a good chance to reflect on some of the happenings of this year for us.
• In NASCAR, we won the Busch Championship with Carl Edwards, and — as of this writing — have seven of the top 10 drivers.
In Nextel Cup, we had both Edwards and Matt Kenseth qualify for The Chase. Although we’re pleased for that, it’s probably one or two drivers short of where we feel we need to be. There’s no question our program got behind at the beginning of the year, with the rollout of the Car of Tomorrow.
But I think you saw a great effort by our engineering team, and the engineers at Roush Fenway, to make great strides and make our program much more competitive the second half of the year. That hard work on the CoT will pay off in 2008.
In Truck, we had some very strong efforts from the Roush Fenway and Circle Bar Racing camps, and Travis Kvapil rebounded from a slow start to make a run for the title.
• In NHRA, this may be seen as a season to forget, but it will be remembered for many reasons.
For me personally, it was very hard. We lost Eric Medlen earlier this year and my good friend John Force was badly hurt in Dallas a month ago just as he was making a championship run.
On the positive side, Eric’s death gave us the opportunity to put Ford resources to work on the safety side of the sport in NHRA, measures that may have saved John Force’s life in his recent crash.
We’ve been enthused and determined and focused to make the NHRA nitro cars safer, and our Blue Box crash sensors, and the computer modeling on the chassis and driver cockpit areas we’ve been doing with the help of John Force Racing and others is so gratifying.
John said it best when he said that this initiative would be the best way for Eric’s legacy to be carried on, and my team at Ford Racing fully supports that.
I’ve also been so gratified to work with John Medlen, Eric’s dad, on both the safety program and the launch of the new Ford BOSS 500 nitro engine, which we debuted at SEMA Oct. 30. The BOSS 500 project is something I’ve wanted to do with JFR for some time, and to be there when it made its first test runs was thrilling for me.
• Outside of our two major programs, we’ve made great strides in the grassroots side of the sport — launching the new Mustang FR500S race car at SEMA, along with the 2008 Mustang Challenge Series with Miller Motorsports Park.
Our Mustang FR500C was competitive again in KONI Cup competition, and we introduced the FR500C and FR500GT Mustangs to European GT racing with some success out of the box.
I’m also quite pleased that Frank Kimmel won his ninth championship in ARCA this year. Frank and his brother’s team are class acts all the way. We’re proud they carry the Ford oval.
The funny thing about the end of this season is that it really only means that the 2008 season is ready to start. The hard work from the countless crew members, engineers, designers, and fabricators has already started, and it won’t be long before testing begins at Daytona.
But one final thought: this weekend officially marks the end of a great racing career for Robert Yates. Although he never drove a car to victory lane, his handiwork and leadership allowed some of the greatest drivers in the sport to do so.
We at Ford are pleased to call him our friend, and we wish him well in his retirement. His loyalty and honesty will always be something we treasure.
(Original Print Date: November 14, 2007)