Ford has unveiled the Mustang that will replace the current Fusion body shape in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races from 2019.
The Dearborn manufacturer announced in April that it was intending to switch to the Mustang in the Cup Series, reflecting increased global marketing for the muscle-car. The decision also reflects a move to more performance-style cars in NASCAR – Chevrolet replaced its previous SS with the Camaro from this season.
While always presented as one of Ford’s most performance-orientated models, the Mustang has never competed at the top level of America’s leading motorsport category, although when the second-division NASCAR Xfinity Series adopted its ‘Car of Tomorrow’ regulations in 2011, Ford chose to build its new car to the Mustang body shape.
“Mustang has raced since it was first sold in 1964,” said Ford’s product development head Hau Thai-Tang at the unveiling of the Cup Series car. “After more than a half-century, it feels great to finally let Mustang run in the top echelon of America’s most popular stock-car racing series.”
Ford Design and the brand’s motorsport arm Ford Performance have been working closely to translate the Mustang silhouette into a race car that meets NASCAR regulations. Effectively the only change between the Fusion and Mustang race cars is in body styling – the Mustang road car’s body needs to fit within the template NASCAR issues for its competing series. A NASCAR race car ‘body’ consists of steel panels over a tubular racing chassis, the three different brands of car broadly similar under their exteriors.
However, the resultant changes in aerodynamics could present Ford with a challenge – Chevrolet has experienced difficulties in adapting the Camaro to the Cup Series in the 2018 season.
Having won 10 races in 2017 with the SS, Chevrolet took the opening Daytona 500 in February, a race in which the aero differences between cars are minimized due to engine restrictors. The brand then endured an unprecedented 21-race streak with no victories, before Chase Elliott won on the Watkins Glen road course on August 5.
In contrast, Ford has so far taken nine of the 22 2018 Cup rounds with its current Fusion model, the other 11 won by the Toyota Camry.
Ford fields 13 contracted drivers in the Cup Series, with one of them, Kevin Harvick, currently one of the ‘big three’ favorites for the 2018 championship alongside Toyota drivers Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jnr. Harvick has won six Cup races in 2018.
According to Ford Performance Motorsports global director, Mark Rushbrook, NASCAR fans will welcome the arrival of the Mustang. “Ever since we announced in April that Mustang would be going to the Cup level in 2019, we’ve heard nothing but positive feedback,” he said.
“Our Ford Performance team has worked hard with the Ford Design team to create a Mustang that will be competitive on the track while remaining true to its proud heritage,” Rushbrook added.
The Mustang will make its Cup Series debut in the 2019 Daytona 500 on February 17.