'Murica! Ford Bringing the Mustang to Cup-Level Racing

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
murica ford bringing the mustang to cup level racing

In the halcyon days of NASCAR, men drove coupified versions of machines one could actually buy on the showroom floor: rear-drive Thunderbirds, Grand Prix coupes, and Monte Carlos simultaneously plied both racetracks and dealer lots as recently as the 1980s. Race fans know what happened by 1989, of course, when GM slapped the names of mid-size front-drivers on their V8 NASCAR racers, with Ford following suit within the next 10 years.

Last year, GM made an infinitely logical move, bringing its Camaro nameplate to to the top-tier Winston Nextel Sprint Monster Energy Cup Series. Ford’s now mercifully following suit, binning the Fusion and putting a Mustang in the hands of those who choose to run the Blue Oval.

It’ll be the fourth different Ford nameplate in the “modern-era”, loosely defined as beginning in 1972 when RJ Reynolds took the marketing reins and the decision was made to chop the racing schedule from 48 to 31 events in a single season. It was also around this time that a new points system was introduced (urban legend: the points system was designed on the back of a bar napkin at Boot Hill Saloon in Daytona Beach) remaining unchanged until Brian France introduced the asinine byzantine Chase system in 2004.

I digress. Back to Ford, and their new-for-Cup Mustang. The nameplate has been fielded in the second-tier Xfinity Series since 2011 but, according to Ford officials, the Cup-level Mustang is still going through testing and will be formally submitted to NASCAR for approval this summer.

Ford Performance has six organizations and a baker’s dozen teams in Cup-level NASCAR, including big names like Stewart-Haas, Roush-Fenway, and Penske. The venerable Wood Brothers still field their #21 Ford, too. That promo pic from Ford doesn’t tell us much; let’s brighten it up a bit, shall we?

That’s better. Not a bad looking hot rod.

“We tried to leverage the skill across all of our teams,” Rushbrook said. “We’ve had active engagements from Roush Fenway Racing, Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing. They’ve been the main contributors to this, but (all of the teams) are anxious to get the best car on the track in 2019, so they’ve been very active with us.”

History teaches us that the introduction of a new model in NASCAR will cause carping on all sides. When the Taurus showed up in 1998, GM teams experienced apoplexy. The always colorful Felix Sabates, owner of two Chevrolet teams at the time, blurted “If that’s a stock car, my aunt is my uncle,” while Darrell Waltrip, also a bowtie racer, complained to any reporter who’d listen and generally frothed about the situation all season.

GM rolled out the Camaro ZL1 name in Cup this year, giving some top Chevy drivers fits while trying to figure out the new car. Seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson is currently mired seventeenth in points, with a brace of top-ten finishes to show for his efforts in the first eight races of this season. Right now, five of the top six drivers in the standings belong to the Ford family, and the manufacturer has won four of eight races in 2018.

The first series points race for Mustang will be the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2019.

[Image: Ford]

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2 of 22 comments
  • Iamwho2k Iamwho2k on Apr 18, 2018

    NASCAR lost me when they decided Ernie Elliott was building too good an engine for brother Bill. Not Actually Seriously Caring About Racing

  • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Apr 18, 2018

    Further proof that the Fusion is dying?

  • Vulpine Regretfully, rather boring. Nothing truly unique, though the M715 is a real eye-grabber.
  • Parkave231 This counts for the Rare Rides installment on the Fox Cougar and Fox Thunderbird too, right? Don't want to ever have to revisit those......(They should have just called them Monarch/Marquis and Granada/LTD II and everything would have been fine.)
  • DM335 The 1983 Thunderbird and Cougar were introduced later than the rest of the 1983 models. If I recall correctly, the first models arrived in January or February 1983. I'm not sure when they were unveiled, but that would explain why the full-line brochures for Ford and Mercury were missing the Thunderbird and Cougar--at least the first version printed.The 1980 Cougar XR-7 had the same 108.4 inch wheelbase as the 1980 Thunderbird. The Cougar coupe, sedan and wagon had the shorter wheelbase, as did the Ford Granada.
  • Ehaase 1980-1982 Cougar XR-7 shared its wheelbase and body with the Thunderbird. I think the Cougar name was used for the 1977 and 1981 sedans, regular coupe and wagons (1977 and 1982 only) in an effort to replicate Oldsmobile's success using the Cutlass name on all its intermediates, although I wonder why Ford bothered, as the Granada/Cougar were replaced by the Fox LTD/Marquis in 1983.
  • Ken Accomando The Mark VIII was actually designed before the aero Bird, but FMC was nervous about the huge change in design, so it followed the Thunderbird a year. Remember, at this time, the 1983 Thunderbird was the first new aero Ford, with the Tempo soon following. It seems so obvious now but Ford was concerned if their buyers would accept the new aero look! To get the Lincoln buyers warmed up, they also debuted for the 1982 auto show season the Lincoln Concept 90…which really previewed the new Mark VII. Also, the new 1983 Thunderbird and Cougar debuted a little late, in Nov 1982, so perhaps that’s why they were left out of the full line brochures.