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Ford, Keselowski, looking for success in Detroit backyard

It all seemed so promising at the start of the NASCAR season for Ford and its teams, particularly Jack Roush’s rebranded organization with new driver/owner Brad Keselowski.

Joey Logano of Team Penske won the exhibition Busch Clash at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in January ahead of NASCAR’s shift to Daytona International Speedway and the start of the season.

It was there that Keselowski, who left Penske for an ownership stake with Roush, took the longtime NASCAR team owner back to victory lane for the first time since 2017. Keselowski drove the rebranded Ford for RFK Racing to a victory in a Daytona 500 qualifying race. About 90 minutes later, Chris Buescher took Roush back to victory lane with an RFK sweep of the two qualifying races.

Three days later, Penske rookie Austin Cindric won the Daytona 500 to give Ford wins in the first four Cup events of the year.

And now? With just a month remaining before NASCAR’s playoffs begin, Ford is bringing up the rear in the manufacturer battle. Three drivers have combined for four Ford victories through 22 points races, and Logano has two of the wins. His victory in June in St. Louis was the last Ford win, and at fourth in the Cup standings, Logano is the highest-ranked Ford driver.

Cindric and Chase Briscoe for Stewart-Haas Racing have the only other two wins for the blue oval bunch as NASCAR shifts into their backyard at Michigan International Speedway.

“Four wins is not enough. It’s not acceptable,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports.

“We need to get more wins. We need to have drivers further up the standings and hopefully at least four if not more drivers into the playoffs.

“It’s certainly going to be hard with where we are with only four regular-season races left. It’s been a struggle with the new car, the new package with getting our head around it, and how to set it up properly going to the track and optimizing it.”

RFK OPTIMISM

Keselowski returns to his home track feeling confident about RFK’s recent progress. The native of Rochester Hills believes the team is on “a little bit of an upswing” and thought he and teammate Buescher were fast on the road course at Indianapolis last week.

Keselowski has been in a deep hole since March when the No. 6 team was slapped with a 100-point penalty for modifying a single-source part on the Next Gen.

It was the harshest penalty on NASCAR’s new car until late last month, when NASCAR disqualified Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch following their 1-2 finish at Pocono Raceway, then docked 100 points from Michael McDowell for another infraction on the Next Gen.

The penalties were a relief to Keselowski because it showed him that NASCAR is treating all teams equally. But he wants more enforcement.

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