Ford teams cap great weekend with 1-2-3 sweep in Bristol

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One day after Chip Ganassi Racing took a Ford-powered Daytona Prototype to victory in the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, the Blue Oval’s troops in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series turned in a stellar result of their own at Bristol.

Ford teams nabbed four of the Top 5 finishing positions in tonight’s Food City 500, with Carl Edwards victorious, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in second, Aric Almirola in third, and Marcos Ambrose in fifth.

Additionally, Edwards and Stenhouse’s efforts marked a 1-2 finish for Roush Fenway Racing, a team that had been overshadowed by fellow Ford squad Team Penske in the opening three races of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship.

Throw in a Ford victory for driver Robert Hight and John Force Racing at the NHRA Gatornationals and it’s one heck of a triple play for the manufacturer, which lost its director emeritus, William Clay Ford, last weekend to pneumonia at the age of 88.

“Ford has deserved this kind of result for their effort,” said RFR team owner Jack Roush. “They’ve committed a lot of engineering resources to us. They give us a lot of support with cars and trucks and support vehicles and things, and we have not been able to do as much for them as we needed to in the last six months.

“I was glad we could get Carl into the Chase tonight. [I’m] looking forward to getting Ricky qualified for the last 10 races and Greg [Biffle], as well.”

As for Stenhouse and Almirola, they each were able to post their best career Sprint Cup finishes. Stenhouse’s previous top mark was a third last fall at Talladega, while Almirola’s had been a pair of fourths at Homestead in 2010 and Martinsville (fall) in 2012.

Still, Stenhouse apparently couldn’t help but wonder ‘What if?’ after the race. With three laps to go, a malfunction with one of the track’s caution lights forced NASCAR to throw the yellow and presumably set up a green-white-checkered finish.

Unfortunately for Stenhouse, the skies promptly opened up and the race ended under yellow and in the rain, with Edwards taking the checkered flag.

“I was thinking that I would use the bumper if the opportunity was there [laughing],” Stenhouse said on what he would’ve done with one last attack on Edwards.

“If you get the win, you’re in the Chase and you can let the rest take care of itself later. That’s what I was really thinking if we went back green.”

However, he then admitted that “we weren’t going to get to Carl no matter what, so really it was only going to help us have the opportunity to get that one more spot [second].”

As for Almirola, he had an opportunity to battle Edwards for the lead on a restart with 39 laps to go. But Edwards was simply too quick and pulled away while Almirola and Stenhouse had it out for runner-up.

“It’s frustrating because I had one shot to race Carl for the lead, and these races are so hard to win, obviously,” Almirola said. “And it was a great day for us – I’m not disappointed at all with third.

“But when you see it and you can taste it and it’s that close, you wonder what could have went different. If our car would have taken off a little bit better, things might have went different.”

Ambrose was able to overcome tire issues and falling a lap behind to turn in his fifth-place result, his best run since finishing ninth last fall at Kansas Speedway.

“We got a bad set of tires where they de-laminated and started to [show] cord really bad, so we lost a lap and then got it back,” he said. “I passed Kyle Busch to get the lucky dog and worked our way back up to the front.”

MRTI: pre-season testing Day 3 notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Day 3 of pre-season testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway saw the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda continue testing for the second day in a row, with each series completing three sessions on what was their final day of running.

Quick reports on both series are below.

Pro Mazda: Cunha Surges to the Front

While Saturday saw Pro Mazda newcomers like Oliver Askew, Parker Thompson, and Rinus VeeKey lead the way, Sunday saw a pair of second-year Pro Mazda drivers take their turns at the top of the speed charts. In the combined results, Juncos Racing’s Carlos Cunha turned the fastest lap of the final session, also good enough to be the outright fastest lap of the weekend, taking advantage of a fresh set of Cooper Tires to do so.

“I’m really happy, Juncos Racing is an amazing team,” Cunha said of the team’s performance. “On track, we are always improving, never going backwards and that’s very good. We have tested a lot but we still need to learn a lot about the car, though we are almost to a perfect setup. The team has given me everything I need to be comfortable inside the car, to know what the car needs, and to know what I need to be a better driver. We have time to improve and we are moving forward quickly.”

Fellow sophomore driver Sting Ray Robb, now with Team Pelfrey, was right behind Cunha in second.

Combined results across both Saturday and Sunday can be found here.

USF2000: Kirkwood, Cape Motorsports Stay On Top of Deep USF2000 Field

New Cape Motorsports driver Kyle Kirkwood, who topped Session 2 on Saturday, stayed on top of the combined speed charts across the weekend on the strength of his best lap from Session 3 of the weekend on Saturday.

Pabst Racing’s Rasmus Lindh was right behind Kirkwood, on the strength of his quick lap from Session 1.

However, Sunday’s running saw a different driver assert his authority, with Kaylen Frederick, Lindh’s teammate at Pabst, turning the fastest lap during the final session.

Frederick ended up fourth in the combined results, which can be viewed here.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires will take to the Homestead-Miami road course on Monday for the final day of testing for the Mazda Road to Indy.

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