Win on Sunday, sell on Monday. It's a marketing motto nearly as old as racing itself, but while today's NASCAR stock cars may have about as much in common with the cars they represent as a Halloween superhero costume from Walmart will actually give your kid superpowers, NASCAR remains the biggest spectator sport in America. So you can imagine that participating automakers would think themselves foolish to pass up the opportunity to make the connection in fans' eyes to cars they can actually buy at their local dealership.
That's why the "stock cars" packing Chevrolet engines carry the name and tacked-on fascia of the Impala SS, Dodge racers that of the Charger, while Toyota models are made to look like the Camry and Ford makes its racers resemble the Fusion. The Blue Oval has gone with the Fusion since 2006, but before that it was the Taurus, and for the better part of two decades prior, the Thunderbird. Now that Ford has released a radically redone Fusion, however, it has updated its NASCAR racer to reflect its new look.
Unveiled today at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the 2013 Ford Fusion NASCAR Sprint Cup car is the product of a year's worth of design and aerodynamics work, and it's intended to bridge the widening gap between production and race car. It will undergo what you can bet will be rigorous testing throughout this year in preparation for its race debut at the Daytona 500 in February 2013, but you can check it out now in our high-res image gallery and the pair of press releases after the jump.
Related Gallery2013 Ford Fusion NASCAR Sprint Cup
New 2013 Ford Fusion NASCAR Sprint Cup Car Brings the "Stock Car" Back to NASCAR
- Ford Racing unveils 2013 Fusion NASCAR Sprint Cup redesign at Charlotte Motor Speedway during NASCAR Media Tour.
- 2013 Sprint Cup car features full redesign by Ford designers to mirror 2013 Fusion production car and return brand identity to the track.
- New Fusion race car will debut at Daytona 500 in February, 2013.
CONCORD, n.c, Jan. 24, 2012 – Manufacturer brand identity is back in NASCAR.
The 2013 Ford Fusion NASCAR Sprint Cup car, unveiled today as part of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour, was worked on by Ford designers in an effort to bring brand identity back to the sport. The result is undeniable with the 2013 Sprint Cup car mirroring the recently unveiled 2013 Ford Fusion production car.
Featuring a completely redesigned sleek new silhouette and fresh face, the 2013 Fusion Sprint Cup car was designed to be the face of a new era of stock car racing.
"We wanted Fusion to be the car that helped return 'stock car' to NASCAR." stated Jamie Allison, director, Ford Racing. "I think fans, when they see the car, are just going to smile and cheer. It is going to reengage them with the sport and make the sport better because there is just something natural about seeing race cars that look like cars in their driveways."
This marks the third time Ford simultaneously launched production and NASCAR versions of a new model. The first dual launch came in 1968, with the sleek fastback Ford Torino. Legendary NASCAR driver David Pearson drove the Torino to back-to-back NASCAR championships in 1968 and 1969. The second time came in 2006, when the then newly introduced Ford Fusion appeared in showrooms and on the track.
Ford took a different approach with the development of the 2013 Fusion racer. Ford Design Center staff, led by Garen Nicoghosian, and Ford aerodynamicist Bernie Marcus, spent the past year doing the early design development, freeing up the Ford race teams to concentrate on weekly NASCAR competition.
"This is a seminal moment in the sport where we had a chance to get it right once again and make sure the race cars are race versions of street cars. And I am proud because I believe we have accomplished just that," continued Allison. "The 2013 Fusion is a stunning car and the 2013 NASCAR Fusion is even more stunning and I can't wait to see it perform on the track and connect with race fans."
Ford designers, led by Nicoghosian, addressed three main issues to mirror the 2013 Sprint Cup Fusion to the 2013 production Fusion found on showroom floors.
Design Features of the 2013 Fusion Sprint Cup Car
- Designers addressed the overall proportion of the race car to reflect proportions found in the production Fusion.
- Brand and design cues in the side of the vehicle.
- An identifiable front end grill with the distinctive look of a Ford.
"It looks fun to drive and very much eager to go and tear up the track. It has a very aggressive stance from the outside and the inside. From all angles the vehicle exudes performance and I think it reflects our general attitude of how we go about setting up our cars very, very nicely," said Nicoghosian. "It brings a certain level of nimbleness and lightness and agility to the NASCAR platform, much like we do in our production cars, because all of our production cars have that nimbleness and agility and eagerness about them."
The new NASCAR Fusion entries will be tested throughout the 2012 campaign in preparation for their racing debut at the 2013 Daytona 500 in February.
2013 NASCAR Fusion Sprint Cup Stock Car
Sculpted by Ford Design Center
- The all-new 2013 NASCAR Fusion was developed by Ford Racing with major input from the Ford Motor Company Design Center.
- The design process included 40-percent and full-scale clay models to help assess the overall look and aerodynamics of the car.
- This will be the second version of the NASCAR Fusion, which debuted as Ford's flagship model in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2006.
DEARBORN, Mich., Jan. 24, 2012 – World-class design is something that has made Ford Motor Company one of the top automakers in the world, and now NASCAR fans are going to have a chance to see the latest example up close and personal with the all-new 2013 Ford Fusion stock car.
"Back in the day, designers influenced race cars because they were essentially stock cars," said Jamie Allison, director, Ford Racing. "The more we went away from 'stock car' racing, the more the role of design diminished. However, the role of the aerodynamicist and the motorsports engineer increased because we were designing purpose-built race cars."
The process behind developing the 2013 NASCAR Fusion was much different than some of the previous models when race teams actually built and designed the car. For example, Penske Racing, along with Roush Racing, did the majority of the development on the NASCAR Taurus prior to its debut for the 1998 season while also having to maintain their current fleet and concentrate on winning races.
"We started going back to our design community and nosed around with guys that have been with the company the longest and we can't remember the last time designers have been involved with helping NASCAR," said Ford Racing NASCAR Operations Manager Andy Slankard. "This time, we have had the luxury of support from the Ford Design Center to give us these sleek shapes and new look. Only designers could do that, not a bunch of engineers or race car guys."
One of the people heading up the Design Center part of the project is Garen Nicoghosian, Design Manager for Specialty Vehicles. A self-professed race fan, he embraced this opportunity and called it one of the highlights of his time so far at Ford.
"It was a passionate project for everybody that worked on it," said Nicoghosian. "Those who contributed their time did so because they wanted to and, as a result, everybody went above and beyond the call of duty."
Some of the challenges the design team faced centered around various NASCAR rules and common areas that all of the manufacturer vehicles will share, but there were other more obvious ones that had to be overcome.
"There is a size difference between the production and the race car, and the proportions are so different. The street Fusion is a front-wheel drive, front engine car, and race car is a front engine, rear-wheel drive car with a really long hood, and a much lower and wider stance," said Nicoghosian. "The fundamentally different profiles and proportions of the two vehicles, as well as other constraints, presented a bigger challenge than simply taking a Fusion and putting NASCAR stickers on it.
"The challenge was to design a race car with the look and feel of the production car," Nicoghosian said. "To do this, you have to rely on design identity. We paid close attention to the way we shaped the details on the racer, such as the headlight, grille, and foglight openings, as well as the bodyside sections, character lines, and overall surface language. When parked side by side, the racer and the street car 'feel' the same, even though the two share no common surfaces."
"We've really embraced the Design Center's philosophy and process of how they would design a car for the street," said Pat DiMarco, Ford Racing NASCAR program manager. "We started with some conceptual drawings that our design team did, and worked with the aerodynamicists to see what was feasible and what was not."
That resulted in some 40-percent sized clay models that helped assess the overall look of the car and how it would react aerodynamically in the wind tunnel. Eventually, a full-size clay model was constructed and reviewed in the design center, much like production models are assessed. Top Ford executives, including Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally, President of the Americas Mark Fields, and Board of Directors member Edsel B. Ford II all viewed the car.
"It looks fun to drive and very much eager to go and tear up the track. It has a very aggressive stance. From all angles the vehicle exudes performance and I think it reflects our general attitude of how we go about designing our production cars very, very nicely," said Nicoghosian. "It brings a certain level of nimbleness and lightness and agility to the NASCAR platform. Our production cars have that nimbleness and agility and eagerness about them as well."
Even though there is still a great deal of performance testing to be done throughout the 2012 season, the overwhelming impression is that from a design standpoint, the 2013 NASCAR Fusion is already a winner.
"I don't think we could do any better. With help from guys like Garen and the whole design community, every time we went in there they shaped that car a little better," said Slankard. "You can't imagine the talent these guys have and how they're able to make that car look so good. I think this is a nice sporty version of the Fusion, and a lot of people will be excited about it."
"I am most proud that it looks like the 2013 Fusion, plain and simple. I think this will bring back the fans to NASCAR," said DiMarco. "A lot of people have said the cars all look the same and they can't tell the difference. There is very little brand identity in the sport right now. In 2013, they will not be able to say that."