Go over the wall and get behind the wheel with Ford Racing’s renowned and respected drivers.
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When most people think of potential hotbeds for stock car racing’s top series, Vancouver, Washington probably isn’t at the top of many lists. However, the success Greg Biffle has achieved since joining Roush Racing in 1998 might make talent scouts look closer at the Pacific Northwest.
Biffle has made a major impact in NASCAR as he became the first driver in history to win driver championships in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck and Busch Series. In addition, he joined a select group of drivers who have won races in all three of NASCAR’s major divisions. Biffle completed the Truck-Busch-Cup trifecta by winning the Pepsi 400 at Daytona last season.
Jack Roush has said that when Jeff Burton retires from racing he should run for political office because in his 10 years as a member of NASCAR’s top division, he has become one of the sport’s most respected spokesmen.
If you need to talk to a driver about safety, you talk to Jeff Burton. If you need to talk to a driver about the point system, you talk to Jeff Burton. If you want an analysis of the latest rules change, you talk to Jeff Burton.
In other words, whenever a major issue comes to light one of the first drivers that reporters go and seek out is Jeff Burton because they know he will always give them a well thought out response that fans will be able to understand.
The Ford Racing roster is stocked full of veteran drivers, but there is plenty of young talent as well led by Las Vegas native Kurt Busch. In just three full seasons on NASCAR’s biggest stage, Busch has already emerged as a championship contender despite being only 25 years old. After an up-and-down rookie season in which his biggest moment was a pole-winning run for the Southern 500 at Darlington, Busch blossomed into a consistent frontrunner.
He won four races in 2002, including three of the final five, and then followed that up with four more checkered flags last season – most among Ford drivers and second overall behind only Ryan Newman.
First it was Ricky Rudd and then Rusty Wallace. Now it’s Dale Jarrett’s turn.
What, is it you ask?
Jarrett holds the distinction of holding the longest active streak of posting at least one victory per season, entering the 2004 season having won in each of the last 11 seasons. Both Rudd and Wallace had their streaks ended at 16, which is two shy of the all-time NASCAR record of 18 straight seasons set by Richard Petty from 1960-77.
Matt Kenseth, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion.
From now until the day he retires that’s how Matt Kenseth will likely be referred to whenever he is introduced at race tracks and personal appearances.
Even though many will point to the fact Kenseth won only one race in ’03, there’s no denying that he won the championship much the same way Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte won theirs – consistency. After getting off to a good start that saw him win at Las Vegas in the third race of the season, Kenseth went on to post a series best 25 Top-10 finishes. He grabbed the points lead after the spring event at Atlanta and never let go as he held the top spot for a remarkable 32 consecutive weekends.
When it comes to winning races, whether it be in any of NASCAR’s major divisions or other disciplines, it’s hard to find anyone who has been more successful than Mark Martin.
For anyone who doubts that statement, all they have to do is look at the statistics.
Martin ranks 17th on the all-time Cup series win list with 33 and is the winningest active Ford driver, trailing only Ned Jarrett (43) and Bill Elliott (40) on the manufacturer’s win chart. Martin has finished 10th or better in the final Cup standings 13 times in the last 16 years, including eight seasons where he was second or third. Martin is the all-time victory leader in the Busch Series with 45 career victories. Martin was the first driver to win the IROC Series championship four times, which included three straight from 1996-98. It doesn’t matter whether he’s racing on a superspeedway, short-track or road course, Martin has the ability to run hard and fast every lap.
Ask someone what they were doing back in 1975 and you’re liable to get a blank look. Ask Ricky Rudd what he was doing back then and he’ll tell you that it’s the same thing he’s doing now – racing on NASCAR’s biggest and brightest stage.
Rudd’s longevity and consistency is something this sport may never see again and even though he acknowledges that he may only have a couple years left behind the wheel, he still possesses the same desire to be competitive and win as he did when he got behind the wheel for Bill Champion at Rockingham in 1975.
There may be no more charismatic driver on the NASCAR Netel Cup circuit than Elliott Sadler, who will be in his second season as driver of the No. 38 M&M’s Ford Taurus for car owner Robert Yates.
Getting the Yates ride was a dream come true for Sadler, but his first campaign proved to be filled with ups and downs. There was no better qualifier among Ford teams last season than Sadler, who ended up being the manufacturer’s top starter 13 times. Included in that were pole-winning runs at Darlington and Talladega – two of the three poles won by Ford all season.