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DAYTONA -- Next week at Daytona International Speedway, a new era of Mustang Racing will begin when the new, highly-anticipated Mustang NASCAR Nationwide car makes its debut on the high banks of the legendary Florida track. Since its public unveiling last October in Concord, NC, there has been great anticipation from Mustang clubs and enthusiasts about the new car and its four-race schedule for this year and full Nationwide rollout in 2011. In anticipation of the debut, Ford Racing chatted with two of the individuals responsible for helping get the new Mustang to NASCAR.
PAT DIMARCO – Ford Racing NASCAR Program Manager
Q. WHAT WAS THE THOUGHT PROCESS BEHIND BRINGING THE MUSTANG TO NATIONWIDE VERSUS SOME OF THE OTHER CARS LIKE THE FUSION OR TAURUS?
A. NASCAR came to us and wanted to differentiate the Nationwide Series from the Cup Series. Initially, we did look at the Fusion to keep the branding the same across both series, but when they really wanted to differentiate it, the natural choice was Mustang from a company standpoint. Plain and simple, the Mustang’s heritage is racing. It just made a good fit to differentiate the Nationwide Series from the Cup Series.
Q. WHAT’S THE MAJOR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE MUSTANG NATIONWIDE CAR VERSUS THE FUSION CUP CAR? WHAT DIFFERENCES WILL THE FANS SEE IN THE GRANDSTANDS?
A. The Nationwide Mustang has a lot of brand identity built into it. Working with NASCAR and our aero team, they really put a lot of emphasis on putting more of identity into the nose and the tail. It does not have the typical Cup COT splitter. It has a splitter, but the nose looks more like a production nose of a Mustang.
Q. DO YOU THINK THE MUSTANG CAR IS A GOOD REPLICATION OF THE PRODUCTION CAR?
A. I think it’s a better replication than where the Fusion is in Cup currently. My wife is on the Mustang team at Ford and she likes it, and the Mustang Brand Team likes it. I’m sure there will be people out there who will not like it, but I think it is definitely different and it brings the Mustang brand into NASCAR.
Q. AFTER MONTHS OF DEVELOPMENT, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE ANTICIPATION OF SEEING IT ON THE TRACK?
A. It’s going to be a great race at Daytona with the next generation Nationwide car, especially with Mustang on the race track for the first time. There is a lot of hype within the company, and the Brand Team is excited to see it on the race track, as are we here at Ford Racing.
BERNIE MARCUS – Ford Racing NASCAR Aerodynamics Engineer
Q. WHEN YOU RECEIVED THE TASK OF DEVELOPING A MUSTANG NATIONWIDE CAR, WHAT WAS YOUR PHILOSOPHY BEHIND IT?
A. First of all, it was a lot more difficult to do the Mustang and turn it into a NASCAR-type vehicle because the nose of the Mustang is a lot more bulky and squarer than that of a Fusion or the Taurus, and those were the sort of cars that we have done in the past. The key to make the Mustang work is that NASCAR opened up the rules in the hood height area and that enabled us to get the character lines of the Mustang into the nose without compromising performance.
Q. WITH THE HERITAGE THE MUSTANG HAS WITHIN FORD AND THROUGHOUT THE RACING WORLD, WAS THERE ADDITIONAL PRESSURE ON YOU TO GET IT RIGHT?
A. Yes, obviously the Mustang is a huge icon in the U.S.A. as far as a car goes. To turn it into a representative NASCAR vehicle within the constraints of the rules, and then obviously to get the performance out of it, there was quite a bit of pressure added on. I think we did the best job we could under the constraints. We got the performance right and we also got the looks right.
Q. DO YOU FEEL LIKE AN EXPECTING FATHER WITH THIS CAR BECAUSE IT’S BEEN LIKE YOUR BABY?
A. A little bit. The July Daytona race is a big race. It’s probably the second biggest race besides the Daytona 500. It’s a big event to roll the car out for the first time. I think it’s a good event to do it at. We can’t wait.