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Stat Sheet: Ford’s Worst Start to a Season Since 2010

As the field rounded turn 4 in Sunday’s (April 21) GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, it really looked like Ford had the win in hand.

The Blue Ovals of Michael McDowell, Brad Keselowski and Noah Gragson had cleared themselves of the Toyotas on the outside and — barring a wreck — it was going to be a battle for the win between those three cars.

But a clean finish to a superspeedway race, once again, was just a little too much to ask for.

Keselowski went high and then swooped back down low, and McDowell followed his every move. But as McDowell hastily steered his car back to the bottom, he lost control and spun off the nose of the No. 6 car.

Keselowski checked up, Tyler Reddick sailed on by to win and Ford lost yet another superspeedway race in a year that the manufacturers dominated them.

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Dominant isn’t an exaggeration.

In the three superspeedway races of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season — at Daytona International Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Talladega — Ford has won all three poles and led 379 of the 648 combined laps (58%).

None of that has contributed to a win.

Ford is winless in the first 10 races of the Cup season (Chevrolet has captured six checkered flags, Toyota four) and that hasn’t happened since 2010.

The manufacturer hasn’t hit rock bottom, at least not yet. Ford didn’t win until the 21st race of 2010, so its current drought has to more than double before reaching that infamous mark.

But a look outside of superspeedway speed shows that Ford still has a long way to catch up to the rest of the field in a year where Hendrick Motorsports and Toyota have combined to win all but one race.

Ford drivers have only combined to lead a dismal 226 of the 2,245 laps in the seven non-drafting races this season — Martin Truex Jr. alone led 228 laps at Richmond Raceway in April. Of Ford’s 226 led, 84 of those laps came from Joey Logano at Martinsville Speedway after he took the lead with just two tires in a race where it was difficult for just about everyone to pass.

In other words, the Blue Ovals have led just over 10% of the laps on tracks where the draft does not play a role in deciding the outcome. With Ford making up 39% of the chartered entries in the Cup field (14 of 36), 10% is an abysmal number.

The highest Ford driver in points is defending series champion Ryan Blaney in seventh and you’d have to go back to Chase Briscoe in 12th to find a second Ford in the standings.

A small positive is that Fords scored 30 of the possible 100 top-10 finishes (30%) this season (10 races x top-10 finishers = 100) and 12 of the 50 possible top fives (24%). But still, those numbers are still below expectations when considering how many cars they have in the field.

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The prognosis?

It may not look good now, but Ford shouldn’t be down for much longer. In that aforementioned 2010 season, the manufacturer had a decent end to the season with four wins in the final 16 races.

And in all honesty, Ford isn’t having that much worse of a start than it did last season. The Blue Ovals only won one of the first 13 races in 2023 and it came with Logano at the superspeedway of Atlanta. The manufacturer ultimately ended the season with eight wins and its second drivers’ championship in a row with Blaney.

The only question mark compared to its start last year is that unlike 2023, the start to 2024 has been incredibly top heavy. Hendrick has won five races, while Joe Gibbs Racing and its close Toyota-affiliate 23XI Racing have combined to win four.

Daniel Suarez of Trackhouse Racing has been the only other driver to break through and his win also came at Atlanta.

2022 and 2023 had organizational parity as teams were starting to figure out the Next Gen car. But now we’re in year three, and the two winningest active Cup teams have put the rest of the field away so far. There will be some ebb and flow as the season progresses, but with the current lack of parity, Ford may be in a much deeper hole to climb out of than it had been in years past.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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DoninAjax

FORD is right where NA$CAR wants them which is behind Mr. H and Reverend Joe!

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