It's been decades since NASCAR has raced vehicles that even remotely symbolize a 'stock car,' but at least Ford Motor Company is trying to bring some respect to the sticker-specific racing series. Starting next season, the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) will begin using the 'Car of Tomorrow' (CoT) with all Ford teams switching to the design of the Ford Mustang rather than the Ford Fusion. While the Sprint Cup series will continue to use the Ford Fusion as its CoT, the branding of the Ford Mustang on Nationwide cars will further help differentiate between the two series. Not that vehicle design has much impact in NASCAR racing, but the official Nationwide Mustang looks much better than the renderings that Ford released back in July.
Currently, the Nationwide cars use a similar shape that the Sprint Cup used to run, but the Series will begin an eventual transition to the controversial CoT. Starting in 2010, NASCAR will be phasing the CoT into the Nationwide series only the cars will look much different than their Sprint Cup counterparts. As evident from the Ford Mustang Nationwide CoT, the front end will be more upright with a less pronounced front bumper and it will have a lower front chin spoiler that juts out further. Ironically, this front spoiler actually gives the car more of a production look as it mimics the 2000 Ford Mustang Cobra R with its removable front chin spoiler. With the traditional upper grille and headlights being just stickers, the engine gets its fresh air through the lower air intake similar to the Sprint Cup CoT. The car's rear design will also change to include a lower rear bumper, but unlike the rear wing used on the Sprint Cup cars, the Nationwide cars will retain the tall, vertical decklid spoiler.
"Mustang is a proud and historic brand for Ford. This is a car born to race, and NASCAR is the next logical step for its racing pedigree," said Brian Wolfe, director, Ford North America Motorsports. "This truly marks the start of the next era of Mustang racing, [and] we fully expect this Mustang to start to enjoy the kind of success so many other Mustang racing programs have enjoyed throughout the last four decades.'
Like the Sprint Cup, the purpose of the new design for the Nationwide cars is twofold: it creates an equal template across the four competing automakers to promote more competitive racing and it helps to improve driver safety by reducing the vehicles' top speed and redesigning the safety cage and layout. It is not clear how the Nationwide rules will work, but all of the cars competing in the Sprint Cup series must fit identical templates regardless of the automaker. While most of the changes are necessary to create a more equal playing field for the Dodge, Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford teams, the new body also helps create a safer cockpit with the driver's seat closer to the middle of the car.
The 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Ford Mustang will only compete in four races next season, but it will likely phase the new car in by the following season. The first track to see the 2010 Ford Mustang 'stock car' will fittingly be the Daytona International Speedway for the midseason night race on July 2, 2010.
Photo via Ford Racing