What seemed to be a series of unfortunate events during the 2022 season actually led to good fortune for Jensen Ford. After his usual ride had suffered extensive damage in a crash during a World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series event held late last summer at Smoky Mountain Speedway and his car owners decided to step away from racing, it looked like the Johnson City, Tennessee driver’s racing activities would have to be put on hold. However, a new opportunity arose that would pair the 35-year-old racer up with a new team for the World 100 at Eldora Speedway.
Ford went to the Rossburg, Ohio track to wheel the MasterSbilt Race Car owned and maintained by brothers Pierce and Mack McCarter. The new pairing worked well together and has remained together ever since.
“The people I was racing for before, the Whiteheads, had decided they were done racing there toward the end of the year,” Ford explained in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “Luckily this opportunity came up with the McCarters and we’ve all clicked well together and worked well together. They’ve been good to me and I’ve been good to them. It’s really a good deal for all of us.”
A pair of feature wins in the 602 Late Model division at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park back in January serve as evidence of how well the relationship between the driver and McCarter Brothers Racing is going. A win in a Valvoline Iron-Man Late Model Series event held last November at Tennessee’s Duck River Raceway Park provides further proof that the relatively new team is bonding well.
Ford believes that will only continue as the 2023 season progresses. He cites the cooperation between MasterSbilt leader Tader Masters and crew chief Cody Duncan as evidence of the team’s evolution.
“These guys have been working hard on this car, Tader and Cody have been working well together,” Ford declared. “They had the cars really close to begin with. We’ve tested a lot since then and we’ve gained some more speed. We’re getting to where we’re really good. We’re all right there, as soon as we latch together on everything we’re going to be hard to beat.”
An unlucky break ruined what could have been good night for the No. 83 car on its first night in action with the Lucas Oil Late Model Series last month at East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa. Ford was running within the top-10 against the best drivers and teams in the sport when things went wrong.
“When we were at East Bay that very first night, we were running sixth and had contact on a restart and had a flat tire,” the driver explained. “I feel like we were going to run in the top-5. We’ve had speed but things haven’t aways gone our way sometimes and the driver has messed up. Like I say, we’re all learning together and we’re all growing. I think we all feel pretty confident that we’re going to have a really good year.”
Part of that growth was reveled following a Castrol FloRacing Night in America event at the Tri-County Race Track in Brasstown, NC. Ford took to the McCarter Brothers Racing page on Facebook and personally accepted responsibility for the team not making the feature race that night.
“You’ve got to admit when you’re not right,” he said. “I make mistakes, I make more mistakes than these guys make. It’s just part of racing. When we get some more laps under our belt and the driver straightens up a little bit we’ll get better. We’ll be tough on all these big events. These regional events, I feel like we can go run really well in them and we’ve got some World of Outlaws and stuff like that and I think we could win one of them too.”
The McCarter Brothers operation plans a busy month of March for the No. 83 Super Late Model crew. Ford looks to be in action in the $15,000-to-win Schaeffer’s Oil Spring Nationals race at 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tennessee on March 11th. From there, a trio of World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series events at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tennessee and Boyd’s Speedway in Ringgold, Georgia on March 16-18 will add to the schedule. And one show Ford especially has circled on his calendar is the $100,000-to-win XR Super Series weekend at the Volunteer Speedway not far from his home.
If things go well at the Bulls Gap, Tennessee event, it could lead to more lucrative races in the future.
“Barry Braun has done a good deal with that XR deal,” Ford stated. “We’ve looked pretty hard at their points fund. That might be something we look at that we might want to do. It’s a good deal and having Bulls Gap right there in our back yard, $100,000, we can’t miss that race. I feel like we’ve got a good shot at running good, and heck, these big deals have a lot of luck involved. If everything falls our way, we might win the dang thing, you never know. We’re excited, we’ve got a good schedule coming up here.”
For the vast majority of his career, before joining the McCarters, Ford had driven TNT Race Cars built by the company owned by his father and mother. But because this opportunity with his new team would place him in a MasterSbilt, there has been a bit of a transition period.
“It hasn’t been real difficult,” Ford said. “Everybody has a pretty good car right now. Me and Tader have been working well together. It’s hurt my dad a little bit but he understands that I have to do what I have to do to make a living and support my family. Me and Tader have hit it off and we’ve been bouncing ideas off each other. They’ve got a good car and he has a lot of knowledge and experience and he’s passing a lot of that on to me and it’s helping a lot. I’d say we’re all growing together.”
Whether it be MasterSbilt or TNT, there is a challenge for the lesser known brands of race cars to carve out a niche in this highly competitive marketplace. But Ford believes there is still room at the table for all.
“These bigger companies get the best guys in their cars and, of course, they’re going to run better. When you’ve got twenty cars at a race, you’ve got a way better chance of winning that race. At one time, MasterSbilt was on top and now it’s shrunk down a little bit for them but they still have a lot of knowledge. We’re trying to get them back to what they used to be and we’re all working well together.”
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