Ford wins Crew Chief of the Race Award Prior to the start of the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, crew chief Mike Ford, Joe Gibbs Racing, was extremely confident after great practice sessions proved that his No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet had the best setup possible. As crew chief, he had done all he could prior to the green flag to give his young star driver, Denny Hamlin, every shot at winning. And it seemed his work had paid off, as Hamlin wasted no time in charging from his third place starting position to the lead after only 24 laps. However, after Hamlin was caught speeding on pit road (lap 98), and was forced to make a pass-through penalty dropping him back to 31st, Ford tightened the belts, mustered his crew and set sights on working Hamlin back to the front. An amazing effort between the crew chief, driver and team, propelled Hamlin through the field to register a hard fought third place finish. For his great pre-race efforts and hard work all night on top of the pit box, Mike Ford won the WYPALL* Wipers Crew Chief of the Race.
Having done his homework and having solid practice runs leading up to the Subway Fresh Fit 500, Ford made no adjustments to the No. 11 Chevrolet after the final practice session. “We felt the car was the best it could possibly be so we left it as it was after the final practice,” said Ford. “When we had that drive through penalty I just told the team it was still early and to remain upbeat, but I knew track position was so important.”
With green flag pit stops pending in the final 30 laps of the race, Ford opted to keep Hamlin on the track as long as possible to avoid any chance of being caught a lap down in the event of a caution. The strategy paid off as several of the leaders who had pitted early were trapped a lap down when the caution flag came out with 28 laps remaining. “We were about two laps from pitting so we got a little lucky when the caution came out,” said Ford on his decision when to pit. “It is a big price to pay if you come in early and then get caught a lap down.”
A panel of voters, including a member of the local media, Tony Eury Jr., Kenny Francis, Robbie Reiser and a WYPALL* Wipers representative were unanimous in selecting Ford as the crew chief of the race. “It was pretty obvious to most people out there that these guys had the best car on the track,” said Reiser on the Ford lead team. “It was a great effort to fight back from as far down the field as they were. Mike [Ford] and his team were very dominate all weekend.”
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