Originally created 06/18/97

Chevy teams fume over Ford's edge



Southern California is this week's NASCAR destination, and that could work out just fine because a lot of these dudes need to, like, mellow out.

Camp NASCAR was not a happy place when it took up the tent stakes at Michigan Speedway after Sunday's Miller 400.

Chevrolet and Pontiac teams are in a full-blown sulk after Fords swept the top four positions in Sunday's race.

Aside from Jeff Gordon's No. 24, no Chevrolet has cracked the top five in the four Winston Cup races since Fords had their spoilers extended to 5.75 inches before the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"(The Fords) should kill us, and they did today," said Larry McClure, team manager for Sterling Marlin's Chevrolet team, after Sunday's race.

McClure followed that with a brief commercial message to NASCAR for the engine package that General Motors teams want to have approved for use next year.

"They need to give us what we need," McClure said. "The Chevy drivers ought to have equal opportunities. You've got careers on the line."

Singing in harmony with that, here's Dale Earnhardt.

"If NASCAR would give us that (engine package), I believe we'd be able to run with them," said Earnhardt, who finished seventh Sunday. "Give us a little bit more of something on the aerodynamics. They're still beating us. I'm pushing off the corner bad and they're driving their cars off the corner wide open."

Ford teams, meanwhile, seem to be too busy fighting among themselves to worry if NASCAR is listening to the GM chorus.

Richard Broome, crew chief for Hut Stricklin's No. 8 Ford, went public last week with his complaints about the folks running the motorsports program for Ford. Broome complained to a reporter that Ford was not providing enough support for some of the teams that field Thunderbirds, focusing instead on teams owned by Jack Roush, Robert Yates and Roger Penske because those teams have enjoyed the most success this year.

Broome said Ford was not sharing wind-tunnel information and other data that could help his team and others like it. And while Broome is the only one who spoke up, sources inside the garage say his team isn't the only one put off by some of what's going on.

"Where we are right now with information is that we don't have a lot of information," said Preston Miller, head of Ford's engineering staff. "The amount of information we have to give to teams is mainly where we're going with future programs and with the parts that they're having problems with now - isolated solutions to specific problems."

Ford teams are skittish, Miller says, because of what's coming next season. Ford is discontinuing the Thunderbird model line, so the company needs a new race car. Everyone expects that to be a version of the Taurus, but nothing has been made official.

"This is a universal frustration that any group of people, whether it's three teams or 50 teams, goes through when there's an uncertainty as to what they're going to do next year," Miller said. "It has nothing to do with Ford's support, it has nothing to do with anything but a racer's mentality not to give away something that he's got that works and put his hopes in this new thing that's totally unknown to him.

"These teams work every minute of the day just to get to these races with whatever it is they have now. How can we ask them to throw away that in hopes of that the new stuff is better and them not have a chance to verify that before they show up at Daytona?"

Ford could race Thunderbirds for two more years, but racing a car that the company isn't selling in its showrooms flies in the face of every logical marketing strategy.

Imagine that meeting at headquarters, the one where you ask for several million dollars for your racing budget so you can show the world that the best car you have to race is one you can't sell.

Ford has to give its teams more than a car in time for next year's Daytona 500. It has to give them a chance to prove to themselves through testing that the new car is better than the car that's being phased out.

Ford's teams might be able to find some unity, however, if the General Motors teams can find receptive ears at NASCAR with their gripes about this year's rules.