In honor of Ford’s sponsorship, the local 'F-100 Club' from the Cincinnati metro area did a parade lap prior to the start of the race. There were over forty classic and new Ford pickups that ranged from Model T’s to custom F-150s – including one 1931 Model A pickup that looked remarkably like it could have been the Ford Harley-Davidson F-150 of its time. The line of historic trucks took over 20 minutes to review before the crowd in an awesome display of Ford heritage and durability.
And while Ford invests in local races, its teams are investing in their drivers.
Travis Kvapil, the 2003 Craftsman Truck Series champ, started racing professionally in 2001 and returned to the trucks this year after spending the past two seasons in the elite NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. Kvapil is racing for Jack Roush this year.
Rick Crawford is an 11-year CTS veteran, competing since the 1997 season for Tom Mitchell’s Number 14 F-150, currently sponsored by International’s Power Stroke Diesel – the engine used in Ford’s heavy duty pickups. At Kentucky, Crawford was made his 260th CTS start.
There are six other teams driving F-150s. They include newcomers Erik Darnell and Pete Shepherd, who both participated in the Discover Channel’s 'Roush Racing Driver X' show in 2005 and were picked up by Jack Roush following the show’s end. Mr. Roush has always been closely aligned with Ford, having joined the company as an engineer in 1964. His name is also found on Roush edition F-150s that range from high performance supercharged monsters to propane powered alt fuel trucks.
Racing for brothers Eddie and Len Wood - the sons of the famous Glen Wood, one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers - Rookie Joey Clanton drives the number 9 Zaxby truck and Eddie’s son, Jon, drives the number 21 Bubba Burger and Bush’s Baked Beans truck. David Starr is Rick Crawford’s first teammate, racing in the number 14 MaxxForce International truck. And developmental driver Jack Smith rounds out Ford’s F-150 CTS racers in the number 63 Dave Porter Truck Sales pickup.
The Craftsman Series trucks are loud, fast, and a blast to watch as a spectator.
Before a crowd of almost 50,000 at Kentucky Speedway, the trucks ran the 225-mile oval course in 1-hour 46-minutes and 9-seconds at an average pace of 127-miles per hour.
While Toyota's Mike Skinner dominated much of the race and eventually won, Travis Kvapil and his pit crew struggled with several mid-race adjustments to their F-150. Kvapil bounced around the top ten before the number 6 truck was dialed-in and he took the second spot at the checkered flag, 5-seconds behind Skinner.
It was Mr. Kvapil's fourth top-5 finish, his seventh top-10, and followed an earlier victory this year at Memphis Speedway. It seems like this is one CTS F-150 whose team and driver have found their mojo and are well-prepared to place high the rest of the season. The second place win was enough for Mr. Kvapil to also move up in the CTS points standings to number three before an after-race finding by NASCAR officials docked the team 25 championship points due to a rules infraction. He remains solidly in the fourth spot.
Ford may not offer a high-performance production-ready pushrod engine, like you'll find in its CTS race trucks, but that doesn’t mean it doesn't currently rule the roost among half-tons when it comes to the power ratings some buyers are looking for in their daily ride after they leave the race track.
For the first time since 2004 a supercharged F-150 returns to the best selling truck line in the US. The 2007 Ford Harley-Davidson F-150 may not entirely make up for the pure-performance hole left by the MIA SVT Lightning, but with its twin-screw, Saleen-sourced blower cranking 450-hp and 500 lb-ft of pavement ripping torque, it goes a long way towards alleviating our feelings of unrequited love from Ford’s Special Vehicles Team.