Mustangs Headed To Cup

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 18 2018

Ford will race Mustangs in the NASCAR Cup Series next season.

Ford Motor Company’s iconic Mustang nameplate and emblem will be the focal point in two of America’s most popular forms of motorsports in 2019.

Stock car racing’s most brand-centric rivalry will return to its “Muscle Car” roots on NASCAR’s premier tour next season, when Ford campaigns its Mustang in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series opposite the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

Ford also announced Wednesday it will compete with a new Mustang Funny Car body during the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

The Mustang will go head-to-head with the Camaro ZL1, currently in its first Cup campaign, beginning with NASCAR’s season-opening/point-paying Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 17, 2019.

“We’re combining America’s favorite sports car with America’s top stock car racing series,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “Mustang always has been about affordable performance, which can be traced to innovations we’ve made competing in racing, like NASCAR. Mustang is a perfect fit for our racing heritage today and tomorrow.”

This will be Ford’s fourth different Cup model in NASCAR’s Modern Era (1972-present), following Thunderbird, Taurus and the current Fusion and the first true two-door since the T-Bird last competed in 1997.

The Camaro ZL1 has replaced the four-door Chevy SS in General Motors’ Cup lineup.

Mustang has competed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series since 2011, winning championships in all but one season. Mustang has taken Team Penske to four owner’s championships in the last five years and carried Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to consecutive driver’s titles in 2011 and 2012.

“This announcement makes me very happy,” said Edsel B. Ford II, a member of Ford Motor Company’s board of directors. “Mustang is a car that is woven into the fabric of our country, and it’s only right that we put it on the track in NASCAR’s most visible series. I can’t wait.”

Ford has six organizations and 13 teams in its NASCAR lineup _ Wood Brothers Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Team Penske, Stewart-Haas Racing, Front Row Motorsports and Go Fas Racing.

Mustang is going through initial testing and will formally be submitted to NASCAR officials for approval this summer. A public unveiling of the finished product will follow.

Meanwhile, Ford officially returned to the NHRA Funny Car ranks this season with Bob Tasca III after a three-year hiatus. Rushbrook announced the new Funny Car body as part of a week-long Mustang birthday celebration from corporate headquarters in Deaborn, Mich.

Ford Performance engineers and designers will utilize many of the same technical tools and resources employed in the NASCAR and IMSA Ford GT programs to create a Funny Car body emphasizing aerodynamic efficiency.

“We’ll be applying all our advanced aerodynamic tools in the development of this new Mustang Funny Car,” Rushbrook said. “These are the same tools and resources such as CFD, scale model and full-size wind tunnel testing that we have used to develop the Ford GT race car and are using to develop the new Mustang for NASCAR.  These are the exact same tools we use in our production car process, so it allows us to use racing development as a way to create better cars and trucks for our consumers.

“It has been quite a few years since we last did a Mustang Funny car body for competition, so we are very confident we will be bringing a competitive car to the track next year.”

The current NHRA Funny Car class features a mixture of Chevy Camaro SS, Dodge Charger R/T and Toyota Camry replica bodies. This will mark the first new body for Mustang in Funny Car since 2009. Ford loyalist Tasca III, driver of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang, will be involved in development of the new “flopper.”

“I’ve seen some of the early aero numbers and it’s absolutely incredible how slippery the car is going to be on the racetrack,” said Tasca, who has advanced to the final round 11 times in his NHRA Funny Car career and posted four victories. “When you’re trying to find hundredths and thousandths of a second on a race run, having an aerodynamic piece like the Ford Performance engineers are giving us will make all the difference in the world.”

Ford has a storied heritage in NHRA Championship Drag Racing, having won 238 overall events in Funny Car and 16 titles.

The new Mustang Funny Car is in the early stages of development, and after approval by NHRA, will be shown to the public later this year.  It will make its competition debut at the season-opening NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., next February.

These dual racing-related developments come on the heels of news that global demand for the new 2018 model has driven Mustang to its third straight year as best-selling sports coupe in the world.

Global Mustang registrations in 2017 totaled 125,809 cars, according to Ford analysis of the most recent new light vehicle registration data from IHS Markit. This data _ compiled from government and other sources and capturing 95 percent of global new vehicle volumes in more than 80 countries _ put Mustang ahead of all other sports coupe competitors worldwide.

Sports coupes, as defined by IHS Markit, include two-door and convertible models.

“The world loves Ford Mustang,” said Erich Merkle, Ford sales analyst. “For years, Mustang was unobtainable for customers on most parts of the planet. It could only be found on TV or the internet, and now it rolls down streets from Beijing (China) to São Paulo (Brazil).”

Of the nearly 126,000 vehicles registered worldwide, Ford reported 81,866 of those were registered in the United States, meaning just over one-third of all Mustang registrations are occurring in export markets. Demand remains particularly strong in China, where Mustang was the best-selling sports coupe last year based on 7,125 registrations.

The most popular configuration worldwide is the Mustang GT powered by the iconic 5.0-liter V8.

While sports cars traditionally have skewed toward male buyers in the United States, Mustang is increasingly finding favor with women. In an environment of relatively flat sports car sales to women, Ford research shows a 10 percent gain in women buying Mustang in the last five years. Since global exports began in 2015, through December 2017, Ford has sold 418,000 Mustangs in 146 countries around the world.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 18 2018
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