Close Competition Is A Double-Edged Sword For Jensen Ford

Close Competition Is A Double-Edged Sword For Jensen Ford

The competition is getting progressively closer in Crates, and while that is desirable it can also be a double edged sword.

Nov 13, 2017 by Dan Beaver
Close Competition Is A Double-Edged Sword For Jensen Ford

A lot has to happen for Jensen Ford to pass Benji Hicks during this weekend's final points races in the Ultimate Super Late Model portion of the Georgia State Outlaws Championship at Screven Motor Complex in Sylvania, GA.

Ford has to race hard secure a win, while Hicks would have to fall out or have two poor finishes in Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately for Ford, historically that doesn't look like how it will play out.

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“[Hicks is] going to have to end bad, which hasn't happened all year,” Ford said. “He's been running real good, and it's going to be really hard to win it. He's going to have to fall out basically, and he hasn't had a DNF all year. He’s been good since the start. He's been fast and it's been hard to keep up with him. We’ve been trying.”

Instead, Ford said his team needs to focus on what's in its control — running its best possible race and trying to take home a win from Screven.

While the slick track of Screven takes a minute to get used to compared to the heavier Georgia dirt in nearby areas, it also provides a quick racing surface that gives drivers the chance to pass.

“It's a pretty racy place,” Ford said. “We went there earlier in the year, and we struggled real bad the first night. And then we were really good the second night.”

Ford was at Screven for a non-Fastrak race. During the race, the track followed its own tire rule, allowing drivers to pick from more than the two kinds of tires allowed by Fastrak. This is what slowed Ford in his first visit to the track of 2017.

“It wasn't a tour race; it was just a shakedown,” Ford said. “They allowed a different tire to run that night, and we were using Fastrak tires. We were mostly behind because of that. We got a lot closer to where we needed to be for Saturday and we were real good in the race.”

Using the Fastrak tire, however, gave him valuable experience that carries forward into this weekend.

Ford also hopes that a rules change this week benefits him. He was one of the loudest voices calling on Fastrak to consider moving away from group qualifying, and for that reason he is excited about the first race on Friday.

“They’re trying a different format their doing A-B style qualifying instead of group,” Ford said. “I’ve been pushing it for a while, I was actually one of the racers really pushing the change. Group qualifying can be good especially if you go to race tracks that change a lot through qualifying. I like it a lot when it's like that, but the problem is with group qualifying you might get stuck with the not fastest cars in your group. You might be sixth-fastest overall and sixth in your group — it can be tough. Having bigger groups should make it better, but I don't know if [Fastrak founder and CEO Stan Lester] will go for it.”

While Ford has been championing for the qualifying change, he understands why the series and fans like the group setting and how it can work in one’s favor some of the time — on some tracks. Ford’s complaint is that the Crate Late Models continue to bunch up and run close lap times. That makes it easy for good drivers to be left out of the feature.

“This Crate class has gotten so close. From first to 10th back there’s probably a 0.1 [of a second difference] or less where it used to be 0.2 or 0.3,” Ford said. “The problem is it's so close, and that makes it difficult in group qualifying. When you have so many cars that are so close, let's say you qualify sixth overall and that hurts you when they only take four cars out of the group. I'm one of the main ones to push for the change.”

The close competition is part of what makes this series so exciting. It is also part of the reason that Ford knows he will have some difficulty closing the gap on Hicks.

Of course, that intense battle is one of the main reasons that viewers want to subscribe to this week’s race.

Ultimate Southeast Screven Motor Complex Coverage

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Ross Bailes Has Been Taking Notes In Preparation For Screven 
The Fastrak Championship Is Two Weeks Away 
Fastrak Alters The Format For The Season Finale