DEARBORN, Mich. -- He didn't flinch. He didn't take his foot off the gas. And he didn't hesitate to respond.
"How many times around this track?" Marcos Ambrose asked casually, looking at his passenger while making the red Ford Fiesta ST dance through the turns. "Just the one lap before."
The tires squealed. Often. Ambrose slung the car left and up one rise, then right and flashing past the orange cones. More quick turns, a long push down the straightaway. A big left-hander finished it off. And then it was over.
The laughing and joking, however, had just begun.
Ford officials welcomed the automaker's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owners and drivers to the company's headquarters Thursday, turning them loose on test tracks that included wet and dry skid pad areas as well as the steering and handling course at the Product Review Center.
The day-long event also included a meet and greet with hundreds of Ford employees at the company's headquarters where haulers and race cars were on display, tours of the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.
"Today's a big day," Joe Hinrichs, executive vice president for Ford Motor Company, told the assembled guests before turning them loose. "It's a big day for us, for our employees. ? (Racing) is in our blood."
On the sales side, Hinrichs said Ford "is No. 1 in growth in market share ? so our business is doing good."
On the race track, he said, "it's been a tough year for us, so far. ? We're asking for and continue to support more collaboration under the Ford umbrella between the teams. Because ultimately we all want to win; we all want to be winners.
"But today is about having fun and celebrating with our employees."
Those attending included team owner Richard Petty and RPM drivers Ambrose and Aric Almirola; Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano of Penske Racing; Front Row Motorsports drivers David Ragan and David Gilliland; Germain Racing's Casey Mears; Roush Fenway Racing co-owner Jack Roush and drivers Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.; as well as Wood Brothers owners Eddie and Len Wood and driver Trevor Bayne.
The engines revved. Tires squealed. Groups moved from wet pad to dry pad to road course.
"I just killed that lap, man," defending Sprint Cup champion Keselowski said, grinning as he slid out from behind the wheel.
"And no one got hurt!" said Jamie Allison, director of Ford Racing, chimed in as he climbed from the passenger seat.
"It's like a bunch of kids at the circus or fair," Petty said as he watched drivers jumping in and out of a wide array of Ford production vehicles. "It might be old hat for some of these folks but for some that haven't been here, it's a lot of fun.
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