BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) — Ford vs. Chevrolet is always a subplot to watch when the top auto racers come to Michigan.
This past weekend, it was no contest.
Clint Bowyer’s NASCAR Cup Series win Sunday capped a weekend in which Ford dominated in qualifying and on race day. Bowyer was one of seven Ford drivers in the top eight in the rain-shortened race . The highest Chevy was Chase Elliott in ninth (Kyle Busch finished fourth in a Toyota).
“It’s just unbelievable the start to the season with the wins and success that we’re having, come here to our home track with our employees here watching,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance. “To have this performance and strength across all of our teams, to win the race, it’s just tremendous for all the company.”
The races at Michigan International Speedway always seem to take on extra significance, since it’s about 70 miles from downtown Detroit. There is a Michigan Heritage Trophy that goes to the race- winning manufacturer for Cup weekend, too.
There’s little debate over who ended up with Motor City bragging rights this time. Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and pole winner Kurt Busch gave Stewart-Haas Racing a sweep of the top three spots. Team Penske — another Ford team — finished 6-7-8 with Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney.
Blaney was the winner of the race’s first stage.
“We were really fast. We got our car better all day and won that stage and kind of got back there and a lot of guys took two,” Blaney said. “We were making it back up but then the rain came. It was a really great race car. Definitely not an eighth-place car but unfortunately that is where we ended up.”
The Fords were fast in qualifying too, taking six of the top seven spots, with Busch winning the pole .
The victory by Bowyer was the eighth of the year for Ford in 15 Cup races. It’s been a decade since Ford finished with the most victories by a manufacturer, and in that 2008 season, it finished tied with Chevy with 11 wins each.
“It’s a team effort to not have any weaknesses. We also come here to Michigan for bragging rights,” Busch said. “I’ve always driven that way. It really shines through when you see Doug Yates (of Roush Yates Engines) here, Mark Rushbrook is here, everybody from all departments, the chief aero guy was here this weekend from Stewart-Haas. We put in a full effort. It’s bragging rights to win at Michigan.”
Those bragging rights belonged to Chevy last year, when Kyle Larson won both races at MIS. This season, the only Cup victory for Chevrolet has been Austin Dillon’s in the Daytona 500. It’s been better on the IndyCar side, where Will Power won the Indianapolis 500 in a Chevy, but even in that series, Chevrolet was largely outclassed by Honda at Detroit’s Belle Isle two weekends ago .
Kyle Busch leads the Cup standings, followed by four Ford drivers — Harvick, Logano, Keselowski and Bowyer. The top Chevy driver is Larson, in 10th place. Jimmie Johnson is 12th and has only led two laps all season.
Larson said Friday that he didn’t feel Chevys have been at a disadvantage this year, and he didn’t want his team to make any excuses. After Sunday’s race, he said he felt he had the fastest car — and blamed himself for a “stupid mistake” that led to a 28th-place finish. Perhaps Larson and the other Chevrolets can rebound during the latter stages of the Cup season, but they have a lot of catching up to do.
This was Ford’s weekend.
“We’re working on all fronts of what it takes to be successful in racing with our teams and giving them the right tools, making sure they have the best engines, aero tools, CFD tools to optimize what they’ve got,” Rushbrook said. “We’re just going to keep pushing as hard as we have been.”