Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FORD'S REWARDS; Biffle Wins 500 Pole; Ford Has 4 of Top 5 Speeds

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FORD'S REWARDS; Biffle Wins 500 Pole; Ford Has 4 of Top 5 Speeds

Article excerpt

Byline: DON COBLE, The Times-Union

DAYTONA BEACH -- The Ford Motor Co. will have a week to celebrate its sweep of the front row for Sunday's Daytona 500. That will give the other manufacturers plenty of time to form a complaint line at the NASCAR hauler.

Greg Biffle got a break from the wind that gusted up to 20 mph during his run around Daytona International Speedway to post the fastest lap of Sunday's session at 188.387 mph, giving Ford its fourth pole position in the past 37 Nextel Cup Series races.

Elliott Sadler was second at 188.355 mph. Counting Ricky Rudd's lap of 188.162 mph in fourth and Dale Jarrett's run of 187.884 in fifth, Ford posted four of the top five qualifying speeds.

Jarrett also won the Budweiser Shootout all-star race Saturday night at Daytona.

NASCAR approved a major change in the Ford design at the end of last season. The car company was allowed to change its front and rear bumper areas, as well as get a new cylinder head to improve horsepower. While the change under the hood remains under development and won't be used for several months, the new design already is showing huge benefits.

"It's hard to explain how far this 16 car has come since last year," Biffle said. "The driver does not do a whole lot here to be on the pole. It's all car."

Jack Roush said the improvements were more from hard work over the winter than any favors gained by the new rules. Nonetheless, Biffle's car owner, who was an outspoken critic a year ago that Ford was at a huge disadvantage to General Motors and Dodge, said he now expects the other car companies to start attacks of their own.

"I expect the other manufacturers will make their best appeal, as I would," Roush said. "This Taurus is the first relief we've had in the templates since 1997. Chevrolet has had a couple new models since then and Dodge got a change last year. But I'm sure there will be some complaints."

Biffle isn't worried about the politics of stock car racing.

He said a big factor in his run was a reduction in the winds in the drivers' faces along the 3,400-foot backstretch. He said the winds were at 11 mph with gusts up to 16 mph when he qualified, while it picked up to 12 mph for a lot of the other drivers with gusts up to 20 mph.

Sadler had the quickest speed in Saturday's final practice session. He said the wind was 19 mph during his turn in time trials.

"I think that hurt my qualifying effort compared to when some of the other guys went out," he said. "I think some of the guys got more of a break than others, but, definitely, the wind hurt us. I mean it almost slowed down three-tenths [of a second] from [Saturday]."

Equally important to Ford was the success of the new working relationship between the engine shops for Roush and Robert Yates Racing. The two car owners decided in November to become partners, putting every Ford engine on the circuit under the same roof. …

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