DEARBORN, Mich. – The “stock car” officially returns to NASCAR.
After more than two years of development , including extensive work by the Ford Design Center and Ford aerodynamic experts, the 2013 NASCAR Fusion will take to the race track as practice opens for the 54th running of the Daytona 500.
“This is a day so many of us at Ford and Ford fans have been waiting for,” said Jamie Allison, director, Ford Racing. “When we first unveiled the 2013 NASCAR Fusion in Charlotte in January 2012, we said we wanted to help return the ‘stock car to NASCAR.’ Without question, with this car, we have.”
The new “Gen 6” NASCAR race cars being introduced this weekend return manufacturer identity to the sport. It continues the trend of NASCAR introducing more consumer relevance to the sport the past three years, including the use of alternate fuels, fuel injection, and now manufacturer identity.
“We are a car company. This is car racing,” said Allison. “This was a great opportunity to work with NASCAR on creating cars that people see on the race track that really look like what they have at home. The opportunity to bring back brand identity to these cars is something the fans have asked for, something NASCAR led, and something we as a manufacturer enabled.
“The small experiment that showed the scale of what this could be happened with the Nationwide series when we introduced the Mustang with more identity two years ago. We saw the exciting reaction from the fans, and even from people who didn’t follow NASCAR. We knew then we were on the right track.”
The process to get to the 2013 NASCAR Fusion started more than two years ago, with the series’ manufacturers first meeting, and deciding to go to NASCAR with a proposal that they would work hand-in-hand with the sanctioning body on the next generation vehicle. Ford Racing Operations Manager Andy Slankard and NASCAR Cup Program Manager Pat DiMarco would lead the Ford team developing the new car.
At Ford, the process started at the Ford Design Center, where a team of designers, led by Garen Nicoghosian, did the initial clay sculpting of the race car, sitting side-by-side with its production counterpart. It was the first time the Ford Design Center had been actively involved in the design of a NASCAR race car since the late 1960s.
The first full-size clay model race car was shown to NASCAR and Ford drivers and teams in June 2011, and was met with an enthusiastic reception.
From there, joint projects between the Ford Design Center and Ford aerodynamic experts led by Bernie Marcus began working to match NASCAR-mandated aero targets, while still maintaining the look and feel of the new 2013 production Fusion.
In January 2012, the world was introduced to the 2013 Ford Fusion at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and two weeks later, Ford stunned the motorsport world with its unveiling and first on-track test of the 2013 NASCAR Fusion at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
NASCAR took each manufacturer to Homestead Miami Speedway at the end of January 2012 for the first joint test of the cars, and then development continued.
At Ford, development continued on aerodynamics, using both the wind tunnel and computational fluid dynamics, to start honing in on what the final car would be.
There was some re-design of the car’s front end, most noticeably in the grille area, where a full 3D version of the grille replaced what had originally only been a decal treatment.
By mid-summer, 2012, the stamping of sheet metal began in Michigan, and Roush Fenway Racing and eventually Penske Racing started building additional track testing cars.
Following a Martinsville short track test in September with Roush Fenway, and a superspeedway test in October with Roush Fenway and Penske Racing, the final versions of the 2013 NASCAR Fusion were put in place for teams to start building their cars.
Finally, one year to the day after the race car was first shown to the public, 10 NASCAR Fusions roared through the streets of Uptown Charlotte in a lunchtime demonstration run that declared the Ford version of the Gen 6 car was ready to go.
This weekend, Ford teams from Roush Fenway Racing, Penske Racing, Wood Brothers Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Germain Racing and Front Row Motorsports will debut their new Fusions, and, for fans, there will be little doubt that the sport has changed.
The Ford teams will look to continue a streak of success in NASCAR’s biggest race, where Fusions have won three of the past four events.
“We know nearly 40 percent of new car intenders are race fans, and of those fans, almost 84 percent of them follow NASCAR,” said Allison. “Racing helps drive our business. We know Ford race fans consider, shop and buy more Fords than the general public. So bringing back this kind of relevancy to NASCAR is the ‘X Factor.’ Fans may be at the races because they love cars, but then to add the relevancy of the cars we race looking like the cars they own, well, it just adds that emotional connection between us and the fans that we all seek.”