Ford Mustang

Joey Logano not surprised at Penske, Ford Mustang’s early success

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While many fans and teams were uncertain how the new Ford Mustang would perform upon its introduction to the Cup Series this season, Las Vegas winner Joey Logano, crew chief Todd Gordon and the rest of Team Penske embraced the change and newness.

“I think any time there’s a rule change like we have right now in NASCAR (the new aero package), it presents an opportunity to figure things out first,” Logano said to NBC Sports on Tuesday as part of a Panini/Donruss NASCAR trading cards media tour. “Like I said after (Sunday’s race at Las Vegas), we sure don’t have it figured out yet, but I’d say we’re doing pretty good with the speed we’re developing.

“You just have to figure it out a little better than the next guy, right? That’s the most important piece. I feel like we’ve made some good gains over the last few weeks as far as the racing side. Our qualifying efforts have been weak, so we have to make some more gains on that front. But I’m pretty proud of the effort of everyone to figure out the new rules package. As we keep going, the drivers are going to get better, the teams are going to get better and the racing is going to change. We just have to keep developing as fast as possible to stay ahead of it.”

Last year, several Chevrolet teams – particularly Hendrick Motorsports – struggled throughout the 36-race season. It took 21 races after Austin Dillon‘s Daytona 500 triumph last season before another Chevy won a Cup race. Chevrolet teams wound up winning just four races all season getting acclimated to the new body style.

But that’s not been the case with Ford and the Mustang. Leaving Las Vegas, five Mustangs and their drivers are in the top 11 in the Cup standings.

“First off, I think Ford’s done a great job collaborating with the race teams and everybody has made decisions together to make the best race car they can when they were designing the Mustang for NASCAR,” said Logano, the reigning Cup champion. “The other piece that is equally as big is the timing of it.

“Right now, with the new rules, everyone’s going through a development cycle, starting from the beginning again. Whether we were still racing the Fusion or Mustang, we’d still be developing at the same rate and learning things that we had no clue about because you’re asking something different out of the race car when you build it. So switching to the Mustang didn’t really have a penalty of starting from the beginning because everybody is starting from the beginning.”

Now that Logano and teammate Brad Keselowski have secured spots in the playoffs by virtue of their respective wins at Las Vegas and Atlanta, their teams can not only be more aggressive between now and the start of the playoffs in September but can also help their teammates – Ryan Blaney and Paul Menard of Wood Brothers Racing – to get on track and potentially get wins themselves.

“I think any time you have your teammate winning, it generates momentum within the race shop, which is good, and drives you to be that guy where everybody wants to be the top dog and you’re always fighting for that spot,” Logano said. “But we also work together real well to make sure we’re winning while we’re doing that.

“As far as the 12 car of Blaney, they’ve had a lot of speed but they just haven’t had things go their way in the first couple of races. So it’s early. I don’t think they have anything to worry about. They’ve got fast race cars, Blaney is a great driver. I think they’re going to be fine.

“As far as the 21 car (with Menard), they’ve been improving over the last year. With last year being their first year together with Paul and (crew chief Greg Erwin) at the Wood Brothers, it’s been a learning curve to figure things out. I can see them making gains as well throughout this year.

“As long as everyone is running good by the time when it matters the most, during the playoff time, that’s a big deal for (team owner Roger Penske). It’s nice to have two of them in, that’s great, we can race aggressive now, whether it’s pit strategy or the way I drive the car, we can make big moves, so that’s great. But at the same time, we still have to be concerned that the rest of our cars make the playoffs.”

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Ford would like to race Gen 7 car in Cup by 2021 season

Nate Ryan
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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.”

Joey Logano welcomes Mustang to NASCAR at Charlotte Roval

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Cup Champion Joey Logano and Formula Drift Champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. climbed behind the wheel of 2019 Ford Mustangs to do a little drifting on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval and welcome the car model to NASCAR.

The Ford Mustang will be raced in Cup competition next year after being used in the Xfinity Series since 2011.

For Logano, the experience gave him a chance to practice throwing his car into a drift – a necessary skill for a driver wanting to do donuts on the front stretch following a NASCAR win.

“I had an incredible time drifting the 2019 NASCAR Mustang with Vaughn Gittin Jr.,” Logano said in a press release. “The Ford Mustang is the best-selling sports coupe in the world, and I’m so excited to get to race it in the Cup series next year. This was a really fun way to be welcomed into the Mustang family. I’m looking forward to doing more Mustang burnouts and donuts on the way to victory lane next year!”

The Formula Drift Champion Gittin has more experience sliding sideways, but Logano was able to match him during the session.

“Drifting door-to-door in the new Roval infield at Charlotte Motor Speedway with Joey behind wheel of the new 2019 NASCAR Mustang was a wild and fun experience,” Gittin said in the release. “I have never seen a driver from another [racing] discipline take to drifting like Joey did. After a bit of instruction he was linking turns and I was comfortable to get super close. A true Fun-Haver at heart, Joey’s smile from ear-to-ear said it all for me! He was bit by the drift bug and I look forward to some more fun with the champ in the future!”

Watch the video above for a look at the action from the Roval.

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Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick optimistic about prospects of Mustang in Cup

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The question came quickly after Ford revealed its Mustang model for Cup competition Thursday: How would Ford avoid the slow starts that resulted from NASCAR’s previous model changes for Toyota in 2017 and Chevrolet this year?

After Toyota went to the new Camry model last year, Joe Gibbs Racing failed to visit Victory Lane in the first 18 races. Meanwhile, eventual champion Martin Truex Jr. won three times in that span in his Toyota. JGR ultimately won eight races in 2017.

Last weekend’s win by Chase Elliott at Watkins Glen was just the second in 22 races for Chevrolet with its new Camaro model. The first was in the Daytona 500 with Austin Dillon.

“I don’t think with either of those two cases it’s been the car,” Brad Keselowski said after the Mustang announcement at Ford’s world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. “I think there’s been other issues. That’s the thing about this sport. The car is super important but it’s not the only piece. You have the weekend execution, you have the driver piece, the pit crew piece. All those things have to come together and I don’t think in those two scenarios it was the car that held them back. I don’t think it will for us either.”

The Team Penske driver said Ford has learned “a lot” from what Toyota and Chevy went through.

“I think you learn as much from how others have done it as you learn from NASCAR and how they go about the process … and learn where the opportunities are,” Keselowski said.

Any misgivings Kevin Harvick has about the new model are tempered by what Stewart-Haas Racing experienced in 2017 when it switched to Ford from Chevy.

“I think the strongest part of our company is the aero side of things,” Harvick said. “In my opinion, switching from one manufacturer to another is way more challenging. Having all the teams and the people involved in the process of designing the car obviously gives you some characteristics of how the car works, what it likes, what it doesn’t like and things like that.

“As a team and as a group, Ford wouldn’t be making a change if we didn’t think there was more potential to be better.”

“I don’t have any reservations about it,” said SHR co-owner Tony Stewart about the move to the Mustang.

One question that hasn’t been answered is what rules package Cup teams will have next year.

“I think it would be foolish for me to stand here and say I’m 100 percent certain it’s going to go well, because you never know where things are going to be and apparently don’t know where there rules are going to be,” Harvick said.

NASCAR sent a proposed rules package to teams last week. Teams are reviewing it and then will get back with officials to discuss.

NASCAR has stated that it plans to use a package similar to the one used in the All-Star Race next year. The All-Star package included a restrictor plate, air ducts, a taller spoiler and the 2014 style splitter.

In the rules package sent to teams it included horsepower targets based on open throttle time and what plate sizes would be needed.

People who saw the rules proposal last week told NBC Sports it didn’t state how many races it would be used in.

“If we end up going with the All-Star package, it’s a real dart board,” Keselowski said. “Because none of the cars have been tested under that configuration. I have no idea how we’ll be competitively. But if we go or stick with a package similar to what we have right now, I expect this race car to be extremely competitive and a pretty big advancement from where we’re at right now with the Fusion.”

Of the wait for the package to be confirmed, Stewart said “It’s always been that way.

“You act like this is something new. This is their MO. This is not something we’re not used to.”

Dustin Long and Nate Ryan contributed to this report

Ford unveils Mustang for Cup competition in 2019

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Ford revealed the Mustang model that it will debut in the Cup Series next year during a ceremony Thursday at the Ford Motor Company World Headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

The announcement had all 13 Ford Cup drivers in attendance. Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart drove a version of the Mustang onto a stage at the announcement.

The Mustang makes the move to the Cup Series after being raced full-time in the Xfinity Series since 2011. It joins Chevrolet’s Camaro, which debuted this season, and the Toyota Camry.

The Mustang – which debuted in 1964 – is the longest running model for Ford. The 10 millionth Mustang rolled off the production line on Wednesday.

“Mustang has raced since it was first sold in 1964,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s executive vice president of product development and purchasing, in a press release. “After more than a half-century, it feels great to finally let Mustang run in the top echelon of America’s most popular stock car racing series.”

The Mustang first competed in 1964, when it won the Tour de France Automobile, a 4,000 mile, 10-day rally. It has also raced in SCCA Trans-Am, IMSA, NHRA and Formula Drift.

“We look forward to seeing the Ford Mustang, a cultural icon, on the track in the most competitive series in all of motorsports,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer, in a press release. “Our sport eagerly anticipates the performance, style and fanfare the Mustang will bring to the track each weekend beginning at the 2019 Daytona 500.”