In two months, NASCAR’s 2013 season will begin in Daytona Beach with the Daytona Shootout, scheduled for Saturday, February 16. That doesn’t give teams a lot of time to shake down the new cars before the season starts, and all-new designs generally have some issues to resolve.
At this recent Talladega Superspeedway test session, NASCAR seemed to be concentrating on the 2013 NASCAR Fusion’s cooling, while Ford Racing wanted to focus on aerodynamics and tandem drafting. Both will be primary concerns for the season-opener at Daytona in February.
The test represented Penske’s first on-track experience in the 2013 NASCAR Fusion, as the team ran a Dodge body throughout 2012. As Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. is quick to point out, Ford has done a great job in matching the NASCAR Fusion’s appearance to that of a Fusion sedan you can buy at your local Ford dealer.
Both NASCAR and Ford hope the switch attracts new fans, since the universally-styled “Car of Tomorrow” seemed to alienate race fans. Since it didn’t look remotely like the car it was supposed to represent, it didn’t exactly send NASCAR fans into Ford showrooms, either.
It will take drivers a while to get used to the new cars, too. As Ricky Stenhouse Jr. points out, the rake of the windshield is different, the cockpit is different and even the shape of the car is different. Expect some rubbing and bumping in the early season as drivers to learn the new cars’ dimensions.
Now that Ford has created a racing Fusion that looks nearly identical to the car in dealer showrooms, its next goal is equally ambitious: winning the Daytona 500. A victory in 2013 would be a three-peat for the brand, and would give it Ford four wins at Daytona in five years.