DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Just when you thought Ford’s hot start to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season couldn’t get any more impressive, a former series champion made it so and put the scales tipped firmly in the Blue Oval Brigade’s favor entering Daytona Int’l Speedway.
Kevin Harvick not only completed a weekend sweep at Sonoma Raceway, winning both Saturday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race and backing it up with a win in Sunday’s Cup race, he wrote a page of history at the 1.99-mile California road course as the first driver in history to sweep a Sonoma race weekend.
Harvick also led a Ford sweep of the top-three finishing positions, leading home Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski at the finish.
With his win on Sunday, Harvick scored his first-career win as a Ford driver and the 36th of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, becoming the sixth-different Ford winner of the season alongside teammate Kurt Busch; the Team Penske duo of Keselowski and Joey Logano; the Wood Brothers’ Ryan Blaney; and Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Those half-dozen drivers have combined for seven Cup wins so far this year, equaling their mark from the 2015 season and sitting only one behind their eight-win season from a year ago.
It’s been 12 years since Ford had six or more different winners in a single Cup season, with the last occurrence coming in 2005. That year, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Busch and Dale Jarrett combined for 16 wins, but just missed out on the season championship to Tony Stewart.
Adding on to that history, four different Ford teams visiting victory lane – Stewart-Haas, Team Penske, Roush Fenway and the Wood Brothers – is a feat that hasn’t been accomplished for the marque since 1998.
And when you consider that Ford swept both the NASCAR XFINITY Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Daytona during February Speedweeks, finished one-two in the Daytona 500 with Busch and Blaney and is coming off their first top-three sweep since March of 2014 at Bristol Motor Speedway, it seems like a no-brainer that the Blue Ovals are the favorites to win again this weekend at the ‘World Center of Racing’.
After Busch nursed his fuel home to win the Daytona 500 for the first time in February, he enters the July race weekend as an odds-on favorite to win again, looking to become the first driver since Jimmie Johnson in 2013 to sweep the season at Daytona.
Blaney looks to deliver the Wood Brothers their first win at Daytona since Trevor Bayne’s shock Daytona 500 win in 2011, and is recently removed from his first-career Cup win at Pocono Raceway on June 11.
Keselowski is the defending July race winner, having led 115 of 161 laps in last year’s overtime-extended event to notch his first Daytona win, giving Ford the last two Daytona trophies and four of the last six, dating back to Aric Almirola’s rain-shortened triumph in the summer of 2014.
But the Blue Ovals won’t have it easy.
A retiring Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be hunting his sixth Daytona points win in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola, seeking his third win in the last four years at the track his father made famous in his final start there, while the entirety of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyota brigade has yet to win this season and will be out for blood.
However, on their strength shown so far this year and their overarching restrictor-plate prowess over the past three years (having won nine of the last 12 plate races overall at the Cup level), there’s no reason to believe that this weekend won’t see at least one Ford victory, if not a pair of them.
Of note on the XFINITY side, Ford has won the last two series races at Daytona with Aric Almirola and Ryan Reed.
Reed will be back in action Friday night during the Subway Firecracker 250, hoping to become the first driver since Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2003 to sweep the two XFINITY Series races at Daytona, while the No. 22 Ford is always a threat in a plate race with Joey Logano at the wheel.
What all this adds up to?
It’s simple. Prepare for a Blue Oval kind of weekend on the sands of Daytona Beach.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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