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TF News Manager
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By Team Ford Racing Correspondent

After a combined 36 hours of endurance racing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 62nd 12 Hours of Sebring, the third round of the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship gets under way Saturday at The Grand Prix of Long Beach and begins the "sprint race" portion of the 2014 Tudor Championship 12-race calendar.

Whereas endurance racing might be likened to a "chess game on wheels," exemplifying the switch of racing style with its "100 minute" limit for racers to find the Long Beach winning podium's highest step, Saturday's sports car race action should be likened to a paint ball match: fast, furious and, quite probably, very messy.

It will be about as much of a change of pace as one might encounter in racing, the on-track action moving from endurance racing's lap upon lap of measured pace -- herein expected are mistakes followed by timely delays in the equipment's repair -- as opposed to a sprint race's frenetic, sometimes confused state but during which a mistake of nearly any magnitude can range from a kiss of distress to total failure.

The LBGP is the kind of race in which a driver can and has qualified on pole; led every race lap except the very last -- Scott Pruett did so and then finished 7th in a Jack Roush-owned Mercury in 1989 -- or score a Formula 1 victory on home-soil, as did Mario Andretti in 1977 when he, legendary race-car designer/builder Colin Chapman and Ford Racing together won the LBGP with a Lotus 78 R3/Ford Cosworth DFV.

The importance of fuel economy wasn't lost on Pruett -- who would also win two other Long Beach races -- and, as the driver notes, it is something he has long since appreciated, anyway.

"That was early in my career and one of my biggest letdowns at that point," Pruett recalled, adding that with a career so young it was only inevitable that other "bummers" would come along.

"At the same time, it was also a great lesson; that a waste of fuel -- too early in throttle application or too early and too heavy on the brakes -- can be costly in the end result. That's why I can appreciate that Ford engineers and Roush Yates Engines are doing all that they can to improve fuel efficiency in our Ford EcoBoost racing engine.

"When nearly three-quarters of that engine's parts comes straight from the same assembly lines as the engines for Ford cars and trucks, what we can achieve here is passed along to Ford's loyal customers and whatever is learned on the street by those same folks is passed right back to us. It's a great collaboration if you ask me."

Pruett, along with longtime co-driver Memo Rojas -- together having won four driving championships -- teamed with Marino Franchitti to deliver a stunning Ford Racing win at Sebring in March that someday may come to be as highly regarded as Ford's 1965 Daytona 24-hour win, one which ignited the Blue Oval's domination of international sports car racing for the remainder of that decade.

A decade later, a smallish-in-stature Italian American named Mario Andretti stood among the tallest when the 1977 FIA Formula One World Championship departed from its first race in Long Beach.

Riding a multi-year Ford Racing hot streak in part fueled by a 1966 sports-car win at Sebring with co-driver Bruce McLaren in the famed Ford GT 40 MkIV, Andretti all but announced himself the Formula 1 driver with whom nearly everyone needed to contend after he steered Colin Chapman's radically new open-wheel ground effects car to Long Beach's likewise sparkling new Victory Circle.

With that Long Beach win -- followed by an additional three in F1 for 1977 -- a hustling, globe-trotting Andretti would go on to win F1's 1978 driving crown, all of which were driven by a race-engine builder, Cosworth, who would undertake a course of action that built one of the world's great racing engines from everyday basic street-engine components.

Today's Ford race-engine builder is Roush Yates Engines and it is building a 3.5-liter, double overhead cam, twin turbo-charged engine named "EcoBoost," and with which Ford looks to change the racing landscape -- a change that already is well underway with last month's win at Sebring and, in the fall of 2013, when the engine powered a Daytona Prototype race car, very similar to the No. 01 TelCel Ford EcoBoost Riley DP that Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates each race places in the hands of drivers Pruett and Rojas.

Prepared and crewed by the same Michael Shank Racing team members who at each Tudor Championship race care for the No. 60 Ford EcoBoost Riley DP driven by Ozz Negri and John Pew, the EcoBoost engine pushed a Colin Braun piloted, Ford-bodied and slightly modified Daytona Prototype to six Daytona International Speedway and FIA-sanctioned and validated world speed records, some of which had stood since being last set in 1997 by Mercedes.

Situated inside an 11-turn, 1.968-mile track -- and around which a 2014 Ford Taurus SHO will pace the Tudor Championship's third round -- the Long Beach Convention Center will be hosting some of the cars made famous over the years by names like Mario Andretti -- who would go on to win a total of four LBGP's, three of them with Ford power -- Dan Gurney and Al Unser, Jr. along with some of the Ford-powered cars that turned more than a few heads along the way.

Ford fans anxiously are looking forward to Saturday's race, which will be broadcast live by Fox Sports 1 at 6 p.m. EDT, to see if the Ford EcoBoost promise has yet been realized in sprint races as much as it lasted the beating exacted by one of the world's toughest known endurance races.

"We're still racing with its development, too," said Roush Yates Engines' program manager John Maddox, who admitted to being "about as nervous as a cat in a room filled with rocking chairs" as race day approached.

"We believe we've been able to go a long way in a relatively short period of time in a program that's still in the development phase," Maddox said. "We're certainly very proud of what's been accomplished so far, but I guarantee you that's never enough for a true racer and Ford Racing is full of those, that's for sure."

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