After Brad Keselowski put a Ford in Victory Lane at Sunday’s Clash, Roger Penske confirmed that the manufacturer will have a new body in 2019.
With Chevrolet rolling out the Camaro ZL1 in 2018 and Toyota running its 2018 race model in 2017, Keselowski repeatedly warned that Ford could “take a drubbing” in 2018. When asked about the challenges of driving the oldest body of the manufacturers, Penske rejected that notion as an excuse.
“There’s no reason to [use that as an excuse],” he said. “I think we thought the same thing coming out of St. Petersburg last year with our IndyCar, that we might not have the power that Honda had, and we won 10 races. That’s just – I keep reminding the team of that. We’ve got to race all year.
“We’ll have a new body next year. I think one thing that’s going to be different is that this LIS system is going to be sure that all the cars are on the same platform, and I think that’s going to bring us closer together.
“I think that Ford understands that, but we are absolutely all over this from the standpoint of our aero program, our engine, and certainly from a handling [standpoint]. But just think about that one piece, it starts to bring everybody together, and I think that’ll certainly help us if we have any disadvantage. But I’m not going in crying the blues for sure.”
Asked if that meant the Penske team would have a development lead, Keselowski would only say: Trust my boss.
“Well, they don’t tell me those kind of things because they know I’ve got a little bit of a big mouth, and they don’t trust me, which is probably smart,” he said. “So if he says it, I would say, go with him. He’s always pretty trustworthy.”
Penske – and many in the garage – have been complimentary of NASCAR’s new Hawkeye at-track inspection system, which replaces the previous laser inspection system and claw template station that measured vehicle bodies, and which he believes will help level the field.
“One thing I will say, that the LIS process has really made a whole different week out of this,” he said. “There’s been less work on the cars. The machine says where you are, and everybody has got to be there. So I feel that we’re all racing on a level playing field, which is a big step for NASCAR and what they’ve tried to do. We have an LIS machine at the shop, and I know before we came here, we wanted to make sure that we were right, and I think that paid off for us today.”
Added crew chief Paul Wolfe, “Obviously we had our work cut out for us starting at the back, and coming into the whole weekend or Speedweeks so far, there’s obviously been a lot of change from, like the boss said, the inspection process to pit road and the crew members, and then the new drop-tight rules here. There’s a lot of unknowns, and we did as much work as we could in the off-season, but until you really get on the racetrack, you never really know what you’re going to have.
“It was a good day. I mean, obviously there’s still a lot to be learned. I feel like we’re in the ballpark, and we’re going to go to work here this week before we come back on Thursday and hopefully make our 500 car even a little better.”