In the halcyon days of NASCAR, men drove coupified versions of machines one could actually buy on the showroom floor: rear-drive Thunderbirds, Grand Prix coupes, and Monte Carlos simultaneously plied both racetracks and dealer lots as recently as the 1980s. Race fans know what happened by 1989, of course, when GM slapped the names of mid-size front-drivers on their V8 NASCAR racers, with Ford following suit within the next 10 years.
Last year, GM made an infinitely logical move, bringing its Camaro nameplate to to the top-tier Winston Nextel Sprint Monster Energy Cup Series. Fordâ€™s now mercifully following suit, binning the Fusion and putting a Mustang in the hands of those who choose to run the Blue Oval.
Itâ€™ll be the fourth different Ford nameplate in the â€œmodern-eraâ€�, loosely defined as beginning in 1972 when RJ Reynolds took the marketing reins and the decision was made to chop the racing schedule from 48 to 31 events in a single season. It was also around this time that a new points system was introduced (urban legend: the points system was designed on the back of a bar napkin at Boot Hill Saloon in Daytona Beach) remaining unchanged until Brian France introduced the asinine byzantine Chase system in 2004.
I digress. Back to Ford, and their new-for-Cup Mustang. The nameplate has been fielded in the second-tier Xfinity Series since 2011 but, according to Ford officials, the Cup-level Mustang is still going through testing and will be formally submitted to NASCAR for approval this summer.
Ford Performance has six organizations and a bakerâ€™s dozen teams in Cup-level NASCAR, including big names like Stewart-Haas, Roush-Fenway, and Penske. The venerable Wood Brothers still field their #21 Ford, too. That promo pic from Ford doesn’t tell us much; let’s brighten it up a bit, shall we?
That’s better. Not a bad looking hot rod.
â€œWe tried to leverage the skill across all of our teams,â€� Rushbrook said. â€œWeâ€™ve had active engagements from Roush Fenway Racing, Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing. Theyâ€™ve been the main contributors to this, but (all of the teams) are anxious to get the best car on the track in 2019, so theyâ€™ve been very active with us.â€�
History teaches us that the introduction of a new model in NASCAR will cause carping on all sides. When the Taurus showed up in 1998, GM teams experienced apoplexy. The always colorful Felix Sabates, owner of two Chevrolet teams at the time, blurted “If that’s a stock car, my aunt is my uncle,” while Darrell Waltrip, also a bowtie racer, complained to any reporter whoâ€™d listen and generally frothed about the situation all season.
GM rolled out the Camaro ZL1 name in Cup this year, giving some top Chevy drivers fits while trying to figure out the new car. Seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson is currently mired seventeenth in points, with a brace of top-ten finishes to show for his efforts in the first eight races of this season. Right now, five of the top six drivers in the standings belong to the Ford family, and the manufacturer has won four of eight races in 2018.
The first series points race for Mustang will be the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2019.