The philosophy behind that phrase, popularly attributed to Rhode Island's Tasca family of Ford dealers, is what gave NASCAR its extreme popularity as early racers drove cars that looked like--and occasionally were--like they came straight from a new car showroom.
That's why they called them Stock Cars.
NASCAR's "stock" race cars haven't resembled new cars for a long time and since 2006, with the newest version, the Car of Tomorrow has looked less and less like vehicles fans could actually purchase from their Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford or Toyota dealers. Last year the esanctioning body decided to change their current philosophy and return to race cars that actually resemble the nameplates under which they compete. The new cars debut a year from February at the 2013 Daytona 500.
Of the four manufacturers, Ford was first out of the box with its 2013 Fusion Sprint Cup racer, based on the Fusion production model recently revealed at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. The design is a joint project between Ford's Design Center and Ford Racing; together they sculpted an all-new look for the racing vehicle. Both Ford Racing chief Jamie Allison and designer Garen Nicoghosain were on-hand at the Charlotte, NC NASCAR media tour to unveil the car.
"We wanted Fusion to be the car that helped return 'stock car' to NASCAR," Allison remarked. "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.
"I'd like to recognize the leadership of NASCAR that make this possible. I know we're talking about Cup cars," Alison stated, "but really, the project at Ford started when we introduced Mustang in Nationwide. That was a tipping point for the sport. The reaction we got for Mustang was tremendous, from the media, the fans and inside our company. But we always said that was the very first step," he said.
Ford had initially planned to bring Mustang to Sprint Cup, but when "we saw this Fusion at the [design] studio," the project shape-shifted. "We saw a streamlined, sleek sport roof line that is unique in the midsize segment. We saw a lightness of design, something that's about aerodynamics and efficiency and belongs on the track, a dynamic car that looks fun to drive," Allison said.
Design manager for specialty vehicles, Nicoghosian admitted, "It's not exactly an easy thing to take the proportions and the design DNA of the (production) Fusion and put it square on the NASCAR chassis. They are totally different animals! One is wide and low and longer, with a rear-wheel drive proportion, whereas our production car--though nice and sleek and sexy--is also a front-wheel drive proportion, which poses some challenges."
The new Ford Fusion--as well as its competitors in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series--is modeled in the fashion of cars now running in the Nationwide Series, where Ford and Dodge replicated its Mustang and Challenger models, respectively. The emphasis on manufacturer identity is intended to bring more fans to the race tracks and, inevitably, to dealerships.
The current COT, while it's undeniably safer than the previous racers, is larger and more squared than the models it replaced, with more of a "spec" car look to it. The rationale for the spec look was to maximize competition and the closeness of NASCAR's racing. That ideology might be successful in theory but it didn't please NASCAR's fan base that follows the cars as well as the driving stars of the sport.
"We've always understood--but we get today more than ever--loud and clearly that the NASCAR Nation is made up of car enthusiasts and NASCAR fans certainly love to pull for a brand or make of car second only to being able to pull for their favorite driver," acknowledged NASCAR president Mike Helton. "Today, I think, is a very significant landmark for us to point to as we go down the road and look back 50 years from now on the evolution of NASCAR."
Helton went on to thank Allison and the entire Ford team, and their competitors. "Thanks to all the OEMs, we're very thankful and excited about what we think the fans will get excited about, that brings back the relevancy of NASCAR on the race track to what the fans have in their homes and in their parking spots at work."
With this unveiling, Ford continues to tout its EcoBoost system that gives drivers the ability to use larger, high performance engines in their Ford vehicles that deliver the fuel economy of sailor engines. After the announcement, 2011 NASCAR Nationwide champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr and fellow Roush Fenway driver Greg Biffle performed reconnaissance laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway in two 2013 Ford Fusion race cars.
For more details on the 2013 Fusion NASCAR Sprint Cup race car, click here for our previous post.