Ford Motor Company had an auspicious gathering of it’s motorsports directors in Detroit to celebrate the company symbolized by the blue oval’s 110th anniversary in racing.
That’s a milestone unmatched by anyone in the business.
Ford is the only car manufacturer that can claim victories in all the world’s greatest races, including the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Heures du Mans and 24 Hours of Daytona, the U.S. Nationals in NHRA, the Baja 1,000, Rally Great Britain, the Bathurst 1,000 and even the X Games Rallycross competition.
In 1901 Henry Ford, the founder of the company which bears his name, was in financial trouble. His first company was sold out from under him and he needed a way to get attention.
In those days all races were endurance events for the fledgling automobile industry. Ford knew that the best way to attract attention to his products was to win a race which proved not only speed, but more important, the durability of his products.
That’s where “Sweepstakes” comes in. Ford entered a race against Alexander Winton, the Dale Earnhardt or Richard Petty of his day and beat him on October 10, 1901, in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. It was the only race that Henry Ford ever ran.
The notoriety created a demand for the company which has become the global enterprise it is today.
On Monday racing directors of the modern era came to celebrate a reunion with Edsel Ford II, founder Henry Ford’s great-grandson.
The directors are Jacque Passino (1957-1970), Michael Kranefuss (1980-1993), Dan Rivard (1993-1997), Bruce Cambern (1997), Dan Davis (1997-2008), Brian Wolfe (2008-2009), and Jamie Allison (2010-present).
Passino recalled some famous drivers of his era he said "the guy you can’t take anything away from is A.J. Foyt. He could drive anything with wheels. In some cases he could be a miserable guy, but most of the time he is right. When we went to Le Mans the cars were glued together and he couldn’t believe it. They were composite and all glued together, but he got with it and won. David Pearson was another good driver and, of course, you can’t discount Dan Gurney. He was golden when he went to the 500-miler at Riverside.”
Current director Jamie Allison’s highlight came this year. “It’s etched in my memory and it’s very recent because it was the 2011 Daytona 500. It was our 600th win and to have Edsel and other Ford family members sitting on the pit box with our most loyal race team – the Wood Brothers after 60 years with Ford – is something I’ll never forget. It’s our youngest driver, who just turned 20 years old the day before the race in Trevor Bayne, and to start off the year with a 1-2-3 finish at Daytona in the hands of Trevor and the Wood Brothers is all that is magical and all that is right with Ford.”