Ford may not have a body update rolling out this season, but Brad Keselowski is looking at a new NASCAR tool to help even the playing field.
Keselowski was less than optimistic about his manufacturer’s chances to compete against the 2018 Camry body (introduced last year) and the Chevrolet Camaro coming this season. Representing Ford as part of the Championship 4 in 2017 along with Kevin Harvick, Keselowski finished fourth in the standings and then went as far as to say Ford was in for a “drubbing” if they didn’t get help going forward.
Keselowski now believes help could be coming in the form of NASCAR’s new inspection process. Hawkeye, as it’s being called, will be a faster and more efficient way to tech cars before they hit the racetrack.
“That [inspection system] will be the determining factor in what manufacturer is successful this year,” said Keselowski. “If the Hawkeye system comes in working fully, I think we will see a very level playing field in 2018 and we are capable of winning.”
Policing the cars and teams to catch things that had been getting by in the past is a sticking point for the 2012 champion.
“It is inherent to the designs of the cars that some things weren’t able to be policed before that were designed into other cars that, with this system, it will eliminate them,” Keselowski said.
“Basically, when the cars are submitted to NASCAR they have to all have the same performance criteria but there has not been a system to enforce that that is what you actually race. To fully enforce that is what you actually race. The Hawkeye stem is intended to fully enforce that.”
Other Ford drivers to share Keselowski’s thoughts included Roush Fenway Racing drivers Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing switched to Ford last season and worked hard to find the balance and competitive speed it needed. While they were not outspoken about the current Ford model, Harvick did acknowledge the Ford Fusion is now behind its competition.
“We have a car that is designed for a huge spoiler in the back and is the older car on the race track compared to the other manufacturers,” he said.
“It took us a little bit to get things situation last year with the balance. We could face those balance issues again this year that we might have to work through as we go into the year just because of the way they are going to inspect the cars with the Hawkeye system. With the new splitter rules you are looking at a few hundred pounds of downforce taken off the cars. … We may come out of the box great, but you don’t really know until you get to the race track. We worked through those issues last year. It took us a bit but we might have to work at them again.”
A body change is expected for Ford next season. However, Ford officials have been quiet as to whether it will be the Mustang moving into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.