There will be a significant change to the landscape of NASCAR Busch Series competition in 2001 as Ford will increase it's visual presence, a move it hopes will leave the competition feeling blue.

With six full-time teams and at least six more partial-schedule teams, Ford Racing heads to Daytona looking to capture its first win at the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway in the Busch Series since 1995.

The ppc Racing teammates Jeff Green and Jason Keller, along with Roush Racing's Greg Biffle will strengthen the Ford lineup that includes steadfast competitor Elton Sawyer.

Sawyer holds the distinction of being the last full-time driver to win a Busch Series race for Ford when he captured the NASCAR Busch Series 200 on May 8, 1999, at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Q: What is the strategy behind Ford's involvement in the Busch series this year?

Greg Specht, North American Racing Operations Manager of Ford Racing: It's two-fold. One is a marketing objective. The Busch Series is very popular, and we think it's very important for Ford to be there and display our technical expertise and have a presence. Second, it's a training ground for young drivers, crew chiefs and teams that will ultimately end up in Winston Cup."

"Up until now, with our limited presence there, we really didn't have a place for up-and-coming drivers to stopover before going to Winston Cup. As a result I think we missed out on some opportunities because people got placed with a GM team and got into the GM fold. So that's why we wanted to have some really competitive teams, to have a seat for some of these drivers and crew chiefs."

Q: Are there any teams that you are looking towards to carry the torch for Ford Racing this year?

Specht: "No, not really. You have the usual suspects. The Akins' teams are always good, and having Roush come on board with a full-time effort with Greg Biffle and ppc Racing with Jeff Green and Jason Keller, I think we'll have four guys in the top 10."

Q: How can you help to get information flowing between these teams, many of which haven't worked together before?

Specht: "It's a pretty small community, which will make it easier, and that is the job of the Ford Racing Program Manager. We have a guy out there to keep abreast of what's going on and to facilitate communication. Winston Cup works a little different. It's done mostly by osmosis, in that crew chiefs, body hangers and engine guys walk through the garage and see what's hot and what's not. And the next thing you know, it shows up on their car. I think that is what's important about adding competitive teams like ppc Racing and a full-time Roush effort. It's going help out the guys who are already running Fords because they will have more teams to compare notes with."

What would constitute a good year for Ford in the Busch series?

Specht: "Winning the championship, and having four teams in the top 10. We've got teams that are capable of pulling that off, and we're committed to giving them the resources to help aid in that objective."

Q: What are your goals and expectations for 2001?

Elton Sawyer, #98 Starter Ford Taurus: "Well, our number one goal is to be a contender for the championship and win races. That's why we do this, and I think those are very reasonable expectations. For the last three years, we've been in the top five in points in two out of the three years and finished sixth last year. We feel like there are some unanswered questions going into 2001 with the new engine package, as well as the new tire situation that we have."

"We tested at Las Vegas and we thought that went extremely well. We are real pleased with the way the car handled and the way the engine ran. We'll just have to see what happens over the course of the season, but I feel like we'll be a player for the championship."

Q: You enter the season not only with a new engine package but a new engine supplier as well. Will the new Cosworth engine play a significant role in building consistency?

Sawyer: "We hope so. You hope that every change you make moves you in a positive direction, and we feel that Ford-Cosworth has a great deal of potential. They have a lot of resources at their disposal to build great engines. We don't think that we're taking a step backwards in any way, shape or form."

"The last three years we had great success with Roush engines, but we just felt like this year they have a lot of race teams they are supplying engines to, and we felt that we needed to do something to make our race team stronger. That's why we went this route, and we feel like that's going to be positive."

Q: With the greater involvement of Ford this year in the Busch series, will there be a greater amount of shared information being passed from team to team?

Sawyer: "I don't know. Obviously, we're extremely pleased that Ford and all of their people have become more involved in the Busch Series. There are more full-time teams, and they now have a bigger presence than they ever had before, so that's all positive. How information and technology is shared has yet to be seen."

"Obviously we're all competitors, and we all want to run good and be the best at what we're doing. Hopefully we can work well as a unit to make all the Ford teams stronger, but the jury is still out on that. We're really not so worried about what everyone is getting or doing; we're just making sure we don't beat ourselves and take care of the No. 98 Ford Taurus and the No. 38 Ford Taurus."

Q: Potentially, there should be a larger pool to draw from?

Sawyer: "For sure, with as many full-time teams there are more drivers and crew chiefs that can stand there and talk about certain things, where in the past we didn't have that."

Q: Will NASCAR's new engine package level the playing field?

Sawyer: "I'm not real sure. I'm pleased where our program is right now, but until we run three or four races and get some laps under our belts and get into racing conditions to see exactly where we are, I don't think that anyone can honestly say that they have an advantage or disadvantage. After we run Rockingham, Las Vegas and Atlanta, we will have a better understanding on which direction the rules situation went. It looks like it's going to be positive from both the engine specs and the tire situation, so hopefully it's going in the positive direction. But until we run some races it's real hard to make a conclusive judgement."

Q: You've tested at Las Vegas and attended the test at Daytona, do you see any manufacturer with an early-season advantage?

Sawyer: "The Pontiacs are extremely strong at Daytona and Talladega, and they've proven to be really, really fast. As a Ford team, we're going to work on the cars all we can and see if we can't get all of the speed out of them that we can while we're in Daytona. We get down there on Tuesday and the race starts on Saturday the 17th, and with that amount of time, we'll be ready to go."

Q: You attended the Daytona test where your teammate Christian Elder was also present. Did you get a chance to see how the Fords looked in the draft?

Sawyer: "Actually, we didn't do any drafting. I was down there with the No 38 team. We carried two cars for them and we tried to help Christian get acclimated to the track. We were there to get them up to speed. They were fairly pleased with their test and they're in Talladega right now testing. That's going to be our biggest resource - having two teams and being able to pool information from both Akins Motorsports teams. We want to work as well together as we saw the ppc Racing teams last year."

Q: So you have the senior role in developing Christian?

Sawyer: "I don't know about that. Christian is a great guy with a lot of talent, we just need to get him in the races first so that the can learn how to race. We'll start by putting him in a position where we can get him to qualify. That's a big undertaking there. It's one thing to drive these cars in race conditions, but trying to go out there and get them up to speed for one or two laps, you've got to do some things differently. I think he'll be OK, and he's told us that he's up for the challenge."