Hot Laps in a Ford F-150 Raptor? Heck Yeah!

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Here's a confession — until recently, I'd never been to a NASCAR race. Sure, I've been to plenty of other motorsports events, even driven on a Formula One track or two. But seeing an actual red-blooded, full-on, 'murrican-laden NASCAR race had somehow eluded me these past 42 years.

Thankfully, that's been rectified. Ford invited automotive writers to Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, for two days of race-related events with the Ford Performance group on the half-mile dirt oval known as the Big E.

Wait, NASCAR at a dirt track?

Yep. This was the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and for one race out of the season, NASCAR brings out older race trucks, grooves up the slicks and puts them on the short oval in the grime, much to the fans' delight.

How else are you going to get 22,000 race fans to brave 100-degree heat and choking dust in the middle of the Ohio corn wilderness? But racing was not the real reason we were there. The media was there because the next day we would drive that track ourselves in a brand-new 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor and get demonstration hot laps with NASCAR racing legend and track owner Tony Stewart.

Stewart on the Raptor

Stewart has signed with Ford for his racing teams, and has developed a close relationship with Ford Performance, the high-performance-car group at Ford that develops the GT supercar and the Raptor off-road, factory-built Baja truck. The pace truck for the Camping World race was a new Raptor, and Stewart sang its praises loudly.

"I went out and bought one not long after we signed our deal, and I'm just blown away by it," he told reporters before taking the wheel of some new '17 models and giving the media a few thrilling high-speed laps around the oval.

What does he like about the truck? The way it handles on any terrain, and the new truck's twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine.

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He's not wrong, on either count. Along with doing hot laps, we also drove the Raptor on a high-speed off-road course Ford created behind the track, on a grotto and hilltop normally used for the track's fireworks displays after each race. On the short makeshift course, the Raptor remained an astonishing piece of work — a truck you can drive daily in comfort and civility that becomes a jump-happy, torque-spewing, Monster-Jam-inspired Tonka toy in the dirt, gravel and grass.

Off-Road and on the Track

The first part of our driving afternoon was spent on this makeshift loop, barreling down the slippery grass sideways, throwing the truck into drifts down gravel paths and catching air after racing up a short incline before slamming down with a force that would take lesser trucks apart after just one or two launches. The trucks I drove did it dozens of times without fading, breaking, creaking or showing any signs of wear. With the Raptor in Baja mode on the drive selector, it felt like it could romp around irresponsibly endlessly.

Then we moved to the oval dirt track where the NASCAR race is held. Journalists went first, taking a few timid laps. Since I've never driven on such a surface before, I'll admit I kept my foot and ego in check. Especially since I was about to have a far better experience than any I could provide for myself. Stewart took the wheel for a few hot laps — after briefly trying his hand at piloting a new 2017 Shelby GT350R Mustang on near-slick tires around the track — and that's when I discovered how incredibly versatile the Raptor is.

With speeds approaching 90 mph, the massive truck drifted through corners with easy predictability and control, which means the Raptor can pretty much do anything except negotiate super tight trails (it's a big truck). It can be a comfortable commuter, a slow-speed work truck, a high-speed cross-country Baja racer, a dirt-track drift truck, a towing rig or a grocery getter. In the hands of a skilled racing driver, it can be one hell of a thrill ride. It can turn ham-fisted journalists like me into heroes (in my mind, anyway).

With each exposure I get to the Raptor, I increasingly find myself calling it the world's perfect pickup.

Cars.com photos by Aaron Bragman

 

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Comments

Tony Stewart's a great driver and team owner.

He won a few races at Eldora over the years too, not to mention he owns the place---if you had to see your first NASCAR race at Eldora, you did alright.

Now if we can just get Tony to buy Williams Grove Speedway.

Video or it didn't happen! :P

Too wide for anything but desert racing

Even Tony Stewart switch from Garbage Motors products to the best FORD at Nascar. He know what's good. Lol

The Raptor continues to be the pinnacle of Light duty Truck Technology and High Performance. It has no equal and even more importantly claims this title handily while also being profitable for Ford. It may just be a rich persons play thing of a truck... but its the coolest, most advanced, most high performance, play thing of a truck ever made so far.

China-FCA merger could be a win-win for everyone but politicians

NEW YORK — Fiat Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne has said the car industry needs to come together, cut costs and stop incinerating capital. So far, his words have mostly fallen on deaf ears among competitors in Europe and North America. But it appears Marchionne has finally found a receptive audience — in China.

FCA shares soared Monday after trade publication Automotive News reported the $18 billion Italian-American conglomerate controlled by the Agnelli family rebuffed a takeover from an unidentified carmaker from the Chinese mainland. As ugly as the politics of such a combination may appear at first blush, a transaction could stack up industrially, and perhaps even financially.

A Sino-U.S.-European merger would create the first truly global auto group. That could push consolidation to the next level elsewhere. Moreover, China is the world's top market for the SUVs that Jeep effectively invented, so it might benefit FCA financially. A combo would certainly help upgrade the domestic manufacturer; Chinese carmakers have gotten better at making cars, but struggle to build global brands, and they need to develop export markets.

Though frivolous overseas shopping excursions by Chinese enterprises are being reined in by Beijing, acquisitions that support the modernization and transformation of strategic industries still receive support, and the government considers the automotive industry to be strategic. A purchase of FCA by Guangzhou Automobile, Great Wall or Dongfeng Motors would probably get the same stamp of approval ChemChina was given for its $43 billion takeover of Syngenta.

To all the dodge owners a new Chinese pickup truck is coming you way.hahahahahahag

New wham pickup, how you wike?

Even Tony Stewart switch from Garbage Motors products to the best FORD at Nascar. Posted by: Chingon | Aug 15, 2017

@Chingon

Last season running Chevys, the drivers for Stewart-Haas Racing won SIX races. So far in 2017 it's only one each for Harvick and Busch. None each for Bowyer and Danica Patrick.

What are you smoking?

This must be the Mike Levine response to Motor Trends recent review of the raptor.

Gimme a break, it can be a grocery-getter? LMFAO

Not a rock crawler, but what a great mall crawler.

Can't navigate trails, but we can slide it on dirt.

Payload capacity 1200lbs?

Can't even stay planted on washboard roads, but the worlds most perfect truck?

Come on guys. It's a mission specific sandbox truck made for baja racing. It also works great for running to the mall.

You guys are killing me. I'm moving this site to the jokes section in my favorites.

Now it's a work truck? Ok then, prove it. Put it head to head against an actual work truck. Make it interesting and match it against a 2wd long bed F150. Haul tools and a bed full of lumber and concrete around, take them all in and out several times a day and drive 60 or more miles each day with several trips to the lumber yard and see which one performs better, and which one was easier to get in and out of and load and unload. Even against a base F150 which is a total pile of trash there simply is no comparison for everyday REAL work and not those fake tests you do where someone else loads and unloads a neat clean 1/3 yard sack of gravel.

Yawn, so you took it on a smooth dirt race track. Should of just drove circles in the nears mall parking lot, everyone knows the Claptor is weak!

My V6 Tacoma X-Runner would kill this Raptor on any road course... bring it on!

My wife's Subaru would kill this Raptor on a dirt track... bring it on!

Hope the fixed the frames so they don't bend with the new design.

those trucks are awesome. https://tutuapp-helper.com/pc-windows-mac/

Ahh.....look, the Raptor has side steps. Is this the "Mall Crawler" special edition?

It's amusing to see all the negativity from the usual clowns when their preferred truck manufacturer can't even build anything that come close to a Raptor....LOL

So i thinks ... The pace truck for the Camping World race was a new Raptor, and Stewart sang its praises loudly.

So i thick ... What does he like about the truck? The way it handles on any terrain, and the new truck's twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine.



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