Last summer, Rochester Hills native Brad Keselowski came to Michigan International Speedway in a bad mood, feeling Toyota had an unfair advantage over Fords, including the one he competed in for Team Penske.
He made sure everyone knew how he felt about the subject.
Keselowski now feels Ford drivers are on a level playing field because of a new rule change NASCAR has implemented for the 2018 season.
And, Ford drivers have taken advantage of the situation with Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing leading the Monster Energy series with five wins and Keselowski sitting fifth in the points standings.
“The rules changed, the big rule change that came in this year was the implementation of the optical scanning station or OSS that I think NASCAR is calling it, which completely changed the way the aerodynamics of the cars are enforced and it severely leveled the playing field,” Keselowski said after participating in a Goodyear tire test at MIS back in April.
“So, that was a pretty good game-changer. We feel like that was a pretty good change for equaling out the opportunity for Chevrolets and Fords to compete on a fair playing field (with Toyotas).”
It’s not that Keselowski had a bad season last year. In fact, he owned three wins and finished fourth in the fight for the series championship won by Martin Truex Jr. in a Toyota.
Now, the 34-year-old Keselowski, the 2012 series champion, will be attempting to earn his first win in NASCAR’s ultimate series at MIS, which would also be his first win of the season. He has four top-five finishes, including second at Atlanta where he won last season.
No doubt, Toyota drivers are still a threat every time they take the track with Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing winning four times this season, Truex twice, including last Sunday at Pocono. Ford drivers have won a series-high seven races with Clint Bowyer, Harvick’s teammate, owning one and Keselowski’s teammate, Joey Logano also winning once.
Chevrolet drivers have just one win in its new car, the Camaro ZL1, with Austin Dillon of Richard Childress Racing winning the Daytona 500, the season opener back in mid-February.
Seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports is 12th in points and still without a win in the No. 48 Chevrolet.
Harvick won the series championship in ’14 in a Chevrolet, but Stewart-Haas Racing switched from Chevrolet to Ford prior to last season.
Kyle Busch won the series title in a Toyota in ’15, Johnson in a Chevrolet in ’16 and Truex in a Toyota last season.
While Keselowski won the ’12 series championship, he won it in a Dodge before Team Penske moved on to Ford.
Ford’s last series championship came with Roush Racing drivers Matt Kenseth (2003) and Kurt Busch (2004). Kenseth is running part-time this season for Roush and Busch is driving for Stewart-Haas.
Livonia businessman Jack Roush, 76, was recently selected for the 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. He has been a longtime car owner with Ford power, but was winless in 2015 and ’16 after Carl Edwards won twice for him in 2014.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won Roush a pair of races last season (Talladega, Daytona) and would make the playoffs if the season ended today, currently sitting in the 16th and final spot.
This will be the final year of the Ford Fusion in the series, with Ford drivers competing in the Mustang in 2019. Toyota drivers are set to continue running in the Camry next year.
NASCAR at MIS
FireKeepers Casino 400
When: 2 p.m., Sunday
Support races: ARCA Series, 5:30 p.m., Friday; NASCAR Xfinity Series LTi Printing 250, 1:30 p.m., Saturday