Ford’s Leslie talks about debut of COT

Ben Leslie has been the NASCAR Field Manager for Ford Racing Technology since 2004 and manages Ford’s development in the Nextel Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck Series. Leslie spoke about the debut of the Car of Tomorrow and how Ford teams are prepared going into Sunday’s debut race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

BEN LESLIE, NASCAR Field Manager, Ford Racing Technology — HOW PREPARED DO YOU FEEL THE FORD TEAMS ARE FOR THE FIRST COT RACE AT BRISTOL? “It’s kind of an unknown right now because the car is so different, especially from an aero platform. It’s somewhat different from a geometry platform, but more aero-wise. I think the Ford teams are okay and I feel like they’ve adapted and are probably among the top in the garage in adapting to new rules. It’s been a pretty lengthy process and started back in the 2000-2001 year and really accelerated around March 2005. That’s when the Car of Tomorrow project really started accelerating and we got involved pretty in depth. Ford got into doing some 40-scale testing for NASCAR as far as trying different philosophies with roof shapes and things of that nature. We took a fairly active approach at that point as far as offering up a fair amount of model time and things of that nature to at least help understand exactly what we were changing for the real world. At the same time, we were trying to keep things open that we felt we could work on to benefit our teams. Since then, it’s kind of been in NASCAR’s hands. All of the manufacturers gave NASCAR their ideas and they mulled everything over. We did a little bit of testing for them and then gave them the data. Since then we’ve kind of turned it loose to them to make their decisions on what the best route was for implementation. We counseled as much as what we felt was wanted and requested, but at the end of the day it’s NASCAR’s decision on which directions to go."

WHEN FANS WATCH THE BRISTOL RACE, WHAT CAN THEY SEE AS BEING DONE BY FORD TO GIVE THE CAR SOME INDIVIDUAL IDENTITY? “We had some flexibility to give it some individuality around the upper part of the nose. The lower part of the nose is 100 percent common for all brands because it’s a performance area, but from about the middle part of the bumper line up is 100 percent brand identity. The hood is brand identity. We did a lot of testing on what was available as far as performance gains, and then working in styling cues along with any type of performance gain that we felt like we could get. You never stop learning and testing, but right now we feel like we’ve got the best balance that we could as far as the performance aspect and putting as much brand identity as what we could into it."

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF DISCUSSION ABOUT PHASING THIS COT IN A YEAR EARLIER THAN ORIGINALLY PLANNED. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT? “It’s hard to sit here and say. I’ll probably have a better idea, realistically, after the Phoenix race. Bristol is Bristol. I don’t expect the race to be hugely different than the Bristol races that we currently have. Martinsville is kind of the same way, it’s just a short track race. If you look at the Bristol and Martinsville truck races versus Busch races versus Cup races they all kind of have the same outlook to them. The Phoenix race, however, the truck race has a different look than the Cup race with the different aero aspects, so that’s the race that I’m kind of waiting on to see what differences the Car of Tomorrow makes, if there is any, and, at that point, I’ll probably make my mind up whether accelerating the phase-in period would be a good thing or a bad thing." Ford Racing PR

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