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With Zane Smith Gone, Who Does Ford Have Left in Their Pipeline?

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Ford lost Zane Smith to Chevrolet. Smith was far and away the best prospect in the Ford pipeline, but, he is now gone. Ford’s pipeline is now pretty dry with Smith being gone, so, who does Ford have left among their prospects?

The Xfinity Series

This season, only five drivers drove the full schedule for Ford in the Xfinity Series including the following: Joe Graf Jr., Ryan Sieg, Brett Moffitt, Riley Herbst, and Cole Custer. Of those five drivers, only one made the Xfinity Series Playoffs in Custer.

None of those five drivers are exactly hot prospects. Herbst is the youngest of that group at 24 years old, and he has not yet won an Xfinity Series race. Custer and Graf Jr. are both 25, and Custer already has three unimpressive Cup Series seasons under his belt with Graf never being a serious Xfinity Series race-win contender.

To put it bluntly, there is nobody in the Xfinity Series that can be considered a hot young prospect for Ford. The only driver in the Playoffs already has raced with little success in the Cup Series, yet he may be their best option moving forward. If the Xfinity Series is this barren, then what about the Truck Series?

The Craftsman Truck Series

Ford has two race teams under their umbrella in the Craftsman Truck Series in ThorSport and Front Row Motorsports. Zane Smith currently drives for Front Row, so he does not count as being a Ford prospect anymore since he is moving to Chevrolet. The other three drivers are as follows: Ben Rhodes, Ty Majeski, Matt Crafton, and Hailie Deegan.

Crafton is a Truck Series lifer, so, he is likely not moving up to the Cup Series. Rhodes and Majeski are 26 and 29 years old respectively. Hailie Deegan is 22 years old, but she failed to make the Truck Series Playoffs this year. Ford also has the young Connor Jones making part-time starts with ThorSport in the Truck Series, but he has yet to win an Arca race or even a CARS Tour race.

Again, there are drivers with talent in this list, but, no young phenom for Ford to build their future around. That is someone Ford may need with Aric Almirola potentially retiring at season’s end. It just does not exist in either the Xfinity or Craftsman Truck Series.

Where Does Ford Go From Here?

Wow, Ford is in a tough spot, and it is easy to see why Stewart-Haas Racing wants Aric Almirola to return next year. There is just not a lot of options for Ford in their pipeline. Ford either needs to poach someone from another team or develop someone from a very young age to replace Zane Smith. Not only was Smith an unfortunate loss for Front Row, but it also meant that Ford’s pipeline may need to be reset completely.

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Joshua Lipowski

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