The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season is now over. Martin Truex Jr. was crowned the season champion on Sunday night at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. He and fellow Toyota driver Kyle Busch had an intense battle over the final 18 laps, as the duo came home 1-2 in the race as well as the final standings too. It was fitting, because both were the top two drivers all year long as well.
But, one driver warns that his manufacturer is set to get walloped in 2018.
Once the checkered flag flew, Brad Keselowski warned that if Ford doesn’t do some drastic upgrades to their cars in the offseason, that they’re set for a down year across the board in 2018. He warned that it wasn’t surprising that Truex and Busch were 1-2. He cited the new 2018 Toyota Camry that they were racing this season for that. Then, he set a stern warning that with Chevrolet getting a new Camaro model for 2018 now too, that Ford is set to be stone ages behind.
“When that car rolled out at Daytona, and I think we all got to see it for the first time, I think there was two reactions: One, we couldn’t believe NASCAR approved it; and two, we were impressed by the design team over there,” Keselowski said on Sunday of the new Toyota. “You know, with that said, I don’t think anyone was really — ever had a shot this year the second that thing got put on the racetrack and approved. It kind of felt like Formula 1 where you had one car that made it through the gates heads and tails above everyone and your hands are tied because you’re not allowed to do anything to the cars in those categories that NASCAR approves to really catch up.
“As to what will happen for 2018, you know, I don’t know. I would assume that Chevrolet will be allowed to design a car the same way that Toyota was for this one, but Ford doesn’t have any current plans for that. If that’s the case, we’re going to take a drubbing next year, so we’ll have to see.”
This wasn’t the first time Keselowski was outspoken about Toyota’s performance advantage this season. Prior to the race at Michigan in August, he tweeted that Toyota had a real leg up on everyone else and was surprised that NASCAR allowed this to happen. A few weeks later, he’d say those comments again.
But, he’s actually right and now that Chevy has modeled what Toyota did and will roll out a new car next year too, coupled with Ford still using the same model themselves, they could be leaps and bounds behind their rival counterparts moving forward.
During the season, Toyota led 5,557 laps. That was more than what Chevy and Ford had led combined by nearly 1,000 more laps led in fact. Ford led 2,447 laps in 2017 with Chevy leading 2,377 circuits. As far as the last three playoff races of the season, Ford led a combined 51 laps.
As far as wins go, Toyota had 16 trips to victory lane while Chevy and Ford had 10 each.
But, it’s not like Toyota stormed out of the gates hot. Other than Truex, the rest of the Toyota camp struggled a bit. During the first half of the regular season (Daytona to Daytona), Toyota only had two wins in their back pocket. On the flip side, Ford had eight victories and Chevy had seven. But, over the final half of the season (Kentucky to Homestead), Toyota had 14 wins over the final 19 races. Chevy had three, none in the playoffs compared to Fords two wins. In fact, three of the final four wins for Ford came on either restrictor plate tracks or road courses. Furthermore, half of Ford 10 wins came on those unique courses (Daytona, Talladega and Sonoma).
Now, with Chevy getting a new car, you can be sure that Hendrick Motorsports will improve on their numbers. Add in Kyle Larson and Chip Ganassi Racing not going anywhere and a possibility of Richard Childress Racing improving too, and you can see why Keselowski and his Ford teammates are worried.
What happens if Chevy finds the speed/power that they were lacking the last few years? What happens if Toyota remains the same? That’s eating into Ford’s pie, which logic states that their numbers will be the ones most affected.
So, Keselowski has some truth to what he’s saying. The only move Ford can make it likely tinker with their 2018 car to the best of their ability and roll out a new 2019 model the year after.