We won't bore you with trite words on the similarities between the production and NASCAR versions of the Ford Fusion because our gift for creative writing isn't that wide or deep. However, the race car, which replaces the Taurus in NASCAR's Nextel Cup and Busch series, is more than a sticker-and-paint remake of the outgoing Taurus.
Ford Racing aerodynamicist Bernie Marcus and NASCAR field manager Ben Leslie handled the physical development work on the Fusion racer. This is in stark contrast to the development road followed with the 1997 Taurus, where Penske Racing South was contracted to be the lead team responsible for this effort. The idea was to let the teams concentrate on the week-to-week racing while Ford worried about the future. "It's a philosophical difference from how we did things in the past," says Dan Davis, director of Ford Racing Technology, "but we now have the internal capability to handle more of these projects, and take some of the load off the teams."
Leslie, Marcus, and Ford body specialist Jerry Painter went to the teams late last year and asked them for their ideas about the new car. They took a poll of the issues the teams were struggling with, and compared these notes to create a matrix of common concerns to be quantified before wind tunnel work began. Most of the work concentrated on the nose and tail sections to retain at least some resemblance with the production Fusion while developing a package that would be competitive on all of the tracks NASCAR runs.
The trio will be working with the teams throughout the season to refine the shape and keep pace with changes made up and down the pit lane. However, this is only some of the work they will be doing during the year. The greater part of their effort will be spent designing a completely new NASCAR Fusion to go with the sanctioning body's rules changes for the 2007 season. That car will be taller, and carry over little of what has been learned during the past decade of racing in terms of aerodynamics. But at least the headlight, grille and taillight decals will probably remain unchanged.—CAS