Ford driver Erica Enders
As Chevrolet and Chrysler continue to struggle with the pitfalls of the teetering economy, Ford is embarking on new endeavors. Though they too are behind on sales with unsold cars filling up lots of dealers and plants, Ford, unlike GM, has not taken a government bailout. Instead, they are working out the blueprints on how to survive as one of America’s staples and they are doing it within; by retooling their company outline, cutting back unnecessary costs, and digging into proven forms of advertising such as drag racing.
"Motorsports is definitely part of our fate," said Brian Wolfe, Director of Ford North American Motorsports. "I grew up a racer. I love it. I also realize from a corporate development, if these weren’t avenues that didn’t turn around the marketing dollars that we spend, I would be the first to say we couldn’t do it. It really does provide us 57-percent of Ford owners that also classify themselves as race fans. Seeing us in there helps build loyalty."
Despite the company’s long-standing history within racing, the economic downturn has forced them to scale back more than usual in racing. However, one aspect that has been seemingly abandoned up until now, based on advancing technology, is the Pro Stock division.
Recent rumors have Ford and famed NASCAR team owner and engine builder Doug Yates partnering up to build a new motor. Wolfe confirms that Ford is in fact working with Pro Stock team owner Jim Cunningham to step up the program. Yates however, is not yet part of the equation.
"It all started last year," Wolfe said. "Jim Cunningham has been running a Ford Pro Stock for years. He came to me and said, 'We really want to be competitive.' But the stuff he is running is from the Bob Glidden days, the 1990s. He’s done a really good job with what he’s had but I explained to him that the budget has been going down because our revenue is going down. No matter how much I would like to, because I was a Sportsman drag racer myself before I could drive legally, there was nothing we could do."
With Cunningham and driver Erica Enders running the first half of 2009 in research and development mode as the only Ford team in the division, Cunningham stepped up to the plate in order to make his team better long-term.
Things will soon turn brighter for the Dragstar team.
Chip Wells, go2geiger Photographer
"Jim offered to cover the tooling bill if we could help with the engineering," Wolfe said. "That was something we could do. Since then, Jim has been real excited. We put Mose Nowland on the program. He’s been with Ford for more than 50 years. He’s worked on most racecar engines ever built. So he’s been engineering the block with an outside (group) that’s been contracted to do the cylinder heads. We’re very excited where this is going."
Wolfe did squash the rumor that Yates is part of the equation once and for all.
"We have not contracted Doug Yates," he said. "He does a great job on all of the Sprint Cup programs and all of the other programs in NASCAR but he is not under contract with us to develop the (Pro Stock) motor. I cannot speak for him, but Doug I think is looking at it as a possible way to expand their business, he’s gotten offers on drag motors, but that is his decision as a business."
Yates has had his hands full as of late, focusing on finding sponsorship for his Sprint Cup Series team which was forced to shut its doors two races ago without the needed funding as well as working out a few kinks that have popped up early this season in his Sprint Cup engine program.
Still, taking on new various avenues of racing outside of NASCAR is nothing new. The Roush/Yates engine company is currently working on Pro Cup and ARCA stock cars, and producing additional horsepower for CAMMER, boats, open wheel, and off-road racing.
Furthermore, the other half of the company, championship-winning car owner Jack Roush, is deeply rooted in Pro Stock, having owned an entry in the 1970s with then business partner Wayne Gapp. The duo competed in the NHRA and IHRA, winning multiple events along the way.
To say that the Roush/Yates engine branding may eventually be a part of Pro Stock is feasible. But as for the current development, Ford is 100-percent behind the production of a new Pro Stock motor for Cunningham, which Wolfe confirms should be nearing completion "by June or July."
"I think they will be seeing castings in June but I don’t think we’ll be seeing motors until late this year," he said. "Probably around the last couple of races they will start shaking them down.
"I can’t emphasize enough about Jim Cunningham coming to us and really wanting to take the step forward. To start very late last year to have the castings in the team’s hands the second half of this year is pretty quick."
Also in development, the 2010 Mustang, which has all ready been to the wind tunnel.
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