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Ford to increase Busch Grand National presence

10/7/00


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DEARBORN, Mich. -- Ford Racing's presence in the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series is set to increase dramatically next season with at least four new teams sporting the blue oval on a full-time basis.

The newest additions to the Ford Taurus fold for 2001 are ppc Racing teammates Jeff Green and Jason Keller, currently the top two drivers in the NASCAR Busch Grand National point standings. The announcement of the team's switch to Ford was made today at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC.

While some may view it as a move long overdue, Greg Specht, manager of performance operations at Ford Racing Technology, said it's all been part of a well thought-out plan. "We took a go-slow approach, there's no doubt about it, but we really wanted to educate ourselves as to what it took to be competitive in the Busch Series," said Specht. "We feel that we have attained a position where we have some technology and some expertise to bring there at this time. The key has been finding the right situation. We wanted to partner with one or two teams that are capable of working with us and implementing that engineering technology in order to win a championship.

"We wanted to have a stronger presence in the Busch Series, but we really wanted to do it at a championship level. In other words, we didn't just want to go in and be participants. When Ford gets into a series, we're there to win. So, to that end, we spent a year or two getting our feet wet and getting reacquainted with what was going on, what the level of competition was, what the level of technology was and what we thought would be required in order to compete at the highest level."

Even though Ford has not had a major presence in the NASCAR Busch Series as far as number of teams, it has had a fair amount of success. Much of that has been due to the dominance of Roush Racing's Winston Cup stars Mark Martin and Jeff Burton, who have both run full or partial schedules since the late eighties. Martin is the all-time NASCAR Busch Series win leader with 45 while Burton has 13 career victories, including three this season. Elton Sawyer has also been a consistent performer for Ford with back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the final 1998 and '99 series point standings.

Now that Green and Keller have been added to the Ford roster, the prospects for immediate success are obviously greatly enhanced.

"I think what it does to our Busch program is put us right at the top of the heap in terms of current on-track performance as well as potential for the future," said Specht. "I'm very comfortable with where we're going to be in 2001.

"We've got Akins Motorsports, which is always one of the top teams in the Busch Series. We've got Jack Roush, who is going to have a full-time effort next year with Greg Biffle. Jack always does things at the highest level and Greg is somebody who is going to be very competitive," reasoned Specht. "Now we've got the guys who are currently running one-two in the series, so, in my opinion, I think we've got four top-10 teams right off the bat.

"Then when you add Ryan Newman (Penske Racing) coming in, along with a couple of other young teams we currently have, I think we're going to be well represented in the Busch Series next year."

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