CONCORD, N.C. – The global director of Ford Performance Motorsports would like to see a next generation car in the Cup Series and believes “it’s still possible to do something for 2021.”
During a media breakfast at Ford Performance’s offices in the Charlotte area, Mark Rushbrook said the reigning championship manufacturer is “definitely in support of a new Gen 7 car” and a next-generation engine and powertrain after the next car arrives.
NASCAR introduced the Gen 6, its most recent iteration of the Cup car, for the 2013 season. It replaced the Car of Tomorrow, which was phased in over the 2007-08 seasons.
The Gen 6 emphasized production roots, making the stock cars look more like their street counterparts than they had in years. Ford, which is rolling out a new Mustang to replace the Fusion this year, is seeking greater brand identity.
“The things we’re looking for are even more product relevance or technical relevance than what we have today,” Rushbrook said about the next generation. “As much as we like that we’ve made the new car look like a Mustang, we’d like the ability to do more. We’d like to see a few changes on the outside of the car. Nothing major. But a few changes underneath the car for a little bit of technical relevance.
“We want to make sure we can keep using our technical tools and learning like today. We don’t want to lose that with any changes. That’s the right step for the sport to take to get a new car in those different areas.”
Tommy Joseph, who spearheaded the development of the Mustang as an aerodynamics supervisor for Ford Performance, believes NASCAR could look at altering the roofline and greenhouse shape to more of a fastback style now that two of the three Cup models are coupes (Chevrolet runs the Camaro; Toyota has the Camry).
Joseph said he hasn’t met with NASCAR officials and manufacturers about the Gen 7 yet but is eager to start the process.
“We’re willing to help NASCAR, along with the other OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), as much as they can and as much as they allow us,” Joseph said. “It’s important everybody cooperates. It’s extremely difficult for anybody to go it alone or for NASCAR to go it alone. They need the help and support that OEMs like us can provide. And it’s important for all OEMs to agree on what’s the best for the sport in terms of car architecture, design, rules enforcement.
“As soon as they’re ready to get into the aerodynamic and technical field, we’re ready to help as much as we can. For sure, if it’s slated for 2021-22, we need to start now.”
Once the new model is finished, the powertrain and engine would be next, Rushbrook said, though Ford doesn’t necessarily want the engine to be as production-based.
“We like the way the rules are structured today because it does create a level playing field that allows you to compete directly with other manufacturers on the design of the engine,” Rushbrook said. “The concern we have with a production-based engine is everyone will have a different production engine, and that leads to Balance of Performance formulas.”
Balance of Performance formulas are used in other series such as IMSA, using regulations and restrictions to help prevent manufacturers from gaining an unfair competitive advantage.
Rushbrook said a form of the antiquated V8 pushrod engine still could be a part of the engine of the future.
“With the engine formula today, we get a lot of technical learning and relevance,” he said. “So even though we don’t use those exact same parts, we’re learning every day from our NASCAR engine program in ways that help even our 4-cylinder EcoBoost engines (in passenger cars).
“From things we learn in NASCAR, we still get that technical relevance and learning that means a lot to our company. We still sell a lot of V8s in our trucks, and we sell a lot of trucks to NASCAR fans. Right now we don’t think it needs to change.”
Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates Engines that supplies Ford teams in NASCAR, said he also would like to avoid Balance of Performance but add some production-based elements under the hood.
“The fans love the sound of V8s,” Yates said. “That’s important to (NASCAR CEO) Jim France. There’s a lot of production V8s we could take and race. We just need to work together. It’s a complex question. It’s not an easy one to solve, but it’s worth spending time and energy on it.
“I think Gen 7 car is Step 1, and the new engine and powertrain is coupled with that. But we have to continue to move the ball forward. We have to do it in a way that’s more efficient for the teams and make sure they’re healthy and help attract new teams and OEMs.”