Ford Performance Global Motorsports Director Mark Rushbrook believes the integration of its NASCAR XFinity Series drivers into Multimatic’s Ford Mustang GT4 program has been a great “team building” experience for the rising stars.
Cole Custer, Austin Cindric, Ty Majeski and Ford Performance Development driver Chase Briscoe have all been embedded within Ford’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge program this year, with the four drivers on a rotating basis in Multimatic’s Mustang GT4s alongside road racing veteran Scott Maxwell.
While all five drivers took part in January’s season-opener at Daytona in two Mustang GT4s, Briscoe and Maxwell teamed up in the second round of the season in Sebring earlier this month, with additional races on the schedule for the sprint car ace.
Rushbrook said that the diverse schedule for all four drivers, which includes partial seasons of the Xfinity Series and Trans-Am outings for Briscoe, has been a positive experience.
“It makes a ton of sense to do it in GT4, partly because where those Xfinity Series drivers are in their career” he said. “Especially [Austin] Cindric, who is having a good basis here in road racing, it was awesome seeing them at Daytona.
“Part of what we want to do is improve their driving skill by putting them in different cars.”
Rushbrook said he sees Ford’s “future in NASCAR” with Briscoe, Custer, Cindric and Majeski, making the program all the more important in the development of the drivers on and off the track.
“With team building, I want them to feel like brothers so that when they’re racing in Cup in a couple of years, they’re looking out for each other,” he said.
“Even if one is driving for Roush Fenway, one for Stewart-Haas or Penske, they’re all driving for Ford and they all feel a connection to each other.
“I think that’s a longer-term investment for that.”
NASCAR Stars in Ford GT?
Rushbrook has not ruled out the possibility for some of Ford’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stars one day taking part in a one-off race in the Ford GT, admitting that it’s been “debated” internally since the launch of the program in 2016.
“That’s the kind of thing we’re always talking about and maybe we’ll do if the opportunity is right,” he said.
Tony Stewart, whose Stewart-Haas Racing team switched to Fords in 2017, hasn’t hidden his desire to one day compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, although Rushbrook said there is nothing is currently planned for any of its NASCAR stars.
“For sure, that’s part of what we would consider as we determine the future of that program and transitioning into whatever we get into beyond that,” he said.
“We’ve got six GT race cars… There’s a future for those cars well beyond 2019.”
The manufacturer is currently committed to its two-car factory Ford GT program in the FIA World Endurance Championship through the 2018-19 season and the end of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.