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HomeSportsPro
Published: 6/14/2010

Ford still winless, but drivers optimistic

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Defiance native Sam Hornish Jr. spends time with daughter Addison before the start of the race. Hornish led for five laps at the mid-point, but it went downhill from there. He finished 26th. Defiance native Sam Hornish Jr. spends time with daughter Addison before the start of the race. Hornish led for five laps at the mid-point, but it went downhill from there. He finished 26th.
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BROOKLYN, Mich. - Ford's long victory drought continued in Sunday's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway, but the prospects for ending that uncomfortable trend are encouraging, according to Ford driver Kasey Kahne, who finished runner-up behind race winner Denny Hamlin in a Toyota.

Ford, without a victory in the top three NASCAR series this season and absent from Victory Lane in Sprint Cup since the fall of 2009 at Talladega, had five cars in the top 15 yesterday. Kahne said the new engine Ford has placed in its Fusions provided a big boost.

"We had the new Ford engine and it was a night-and-day difference compared to what I had last week," he said. "Our first time racing it, and it was a nice improvement. I think that bodes well for all of the Ford teams."

Ford driver Greg Biffle was ninth, AJ Allmendinger 11th, Carl Edwards 12th, and Matt Kenseth 14th for Ford. Edwards, a two-time winner at MIS who has gone 51 races overall without a win, said it was an encouraging showing.

"That was the most competitive I have been for a while, and it felt good," he said. "Hopefully we can build on that for when we come back here soon. Man, I want to win a race here again so bad. We'll move on, but I'm really looking forward to coming back here in August."

Kahne said that with the new engine in place, the Ford contingent expects to snap that long streak without a win before the circuit returns to MIS on Aug. 15. He is not sure of the boost in horsepower, but he said he could certainly feel it.

"I don't know the numbers, and I didn't ask and they didn't tell me," Kahne said. "But if you can feel it as a driver when you are talking 800-some horsepower on a two mile track, and you touch it all the way down the straightaway, it has got to be a decent number. Now hopefully, we can keep after it and be solid the rest of the year."

SAM'S DAY: Defiance native Sam Hornish, Jr., led for five laps around the mid-point of yesterday's race when he stayed out on the track as most of the field pitted, but he faded after that and finished 26th. Hornish, who had started 18th in the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger, said later trouble in the pits cost him a lot of positions.

"We just weren't very good today from the start of the green," Hornish said. "We did everything that we could to get track position and get the car to run better. We got the car better in the middle of the race, but just fell off late. Then we had a problem on pit road late in the race during a green flag pit stop and that cost us a bunch of spots. It was a tough day for us."

MANUFACTURER'S ORDER: The Sprint Cup races at Michigan International Speedway carry a special significance since they take place so close to the home of the American auto industry in Detroit.

Winning at MIS means more, since a lot of auto executives and auto workers are at the track, and pole-sitter Kurt Busch said he did everything in his power to keep his Miller Lite Dodge out front.

"I was pulling hard for our Dodge," said Busch, who led 60 laps through the first half of the race and finished third. "We're like David versus Goliath out there."

Busch was referencing the fact that the Dodge entries in Sprint Cup are significantly out-numbered by the Chevy, Toyota, and Ford cars in the field. He said the spirited competition in yesterday's race and the strong turnout should be celebrated by all of the teams.

"Overall, for all the hard work that's going on up here in Detroit and to see all these great fans here at Michigan Speedway, it means a lot to see our fan support out there and the support of all our manufacturers," Busch said.

CROWD CALL: A crowd estimated at about 95,000 was on hand for yesterday's Sprint Cup race at MIS. Track president Roger Curtis said the turnout was larger than last June.

"The economy is still tough out there, and to have this kind of crowd come out - that's a real testament to the racing fans of this region," Curtis said.



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