Ford Mustang Racing Info and History
The Mustang made its first public appearance on a racetrack little more than a month after its April 17 introduction, as pace car for the 1964 Indianapolis 500.
The same year, Mustangs achieved the first of many notable competition successes, winning first and second in class in the Tour de France international rally. The car’s American competition debut, also in 1964, was in drag racing, where private individuals and dealer-sponsored teams campaigned Mustangs powered by 427 cu. in. V8s.
In late 1964, Ford contracted Holman & Moody to prepare ten 427-powered Mustangs to contest the National Hot Rod Association's (NHRA) A/Factory Experimental class in the 1965 drag racing season. Five of these special Mustangs made their competition debut at the 1965 NHRA Winternationals, where they qualified in the Factory Stock Eliminator class. The car driven by Bill Lawton won the class.
A decade later Bob Glidden won the Mustang’s first NHRA Pro Stock title.
Early Mustangs also proved successful in road racing. The GT 350 R, the race version of the Shelby GT 350, won five of the Sports Car Club of America's (SCCA) six divisions in 1965. Drivers were Jerry Titus, Bob Johnson and Mark Donohue, and Titus won the (SCCA) B-Production national championship. GT 350s won the B-Production title again in 1966 and 1967. They also won the 1966 manufacturers’ championship in the inaugural SCCA Trans-Am series, and repeated the win the following year.
In 1969, modified versions of the 428 Mach 1, Boss 429 and Boss 302 took 295 United States Auto Club-certified records at Bonneville Salt Flats. The outing included a 24-hour run on a 10-mile course at an average speed of 157 miles an hour. Drivers were Mickey Thompson, Danny Ongais, Ray Brock and Bob Ottum.
Boss 429 engines powered Ford Torinos in 1969 and 1970 NASCAR racing.
In 1970 the Mustang won the manufacturers’ championship in the Trans-Am series once again, with Parnelli Jones and George Follmer driving. Jones won the drivers’ title. Two years later Dick Trickle won 67 short-track feature races, a national record for wins in a single season.
In 1975 Ron Smaldone's Mustang became the first-ever American car to win the Showroom Stock national championship in SCCA road racing.
Mustangs also competed in the IMSA GTO class, with wins in 1984 and 1985. In 1985 John Jones also won the 1985 GTO drivers’ championship; Wally Dallenbach Jr., John Jones and Doc Bundy won the GTO class at the Daytona 24 Hours; and Ford won its first manufacturers’ championship in road racing since 1970. Three class wins went to Lynn St. James, the first woman to win in the series.
1986 brought eight more GTO wins and another manufacturers’ title. Scott Pruett won the drivers’ championship. The GT Endurance Championship also went to Ford.
In drag racing Rickie Smith’s Motorcraft Mustang won the International Hot Rod Association Pro Stock world championship.
In 1987 Saleen Autosport Mustangs driven by Steve Saleen and Rick Titus won the SCCA Escort Endurance SSGT championship, and in International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) racing a Mustang again won the GTO class in the Daytona 24 hours. In 1989, its silver anniversary year, the Mustang won Ford its first Trans-Am manufacturers’ title since 1970, with Lynn St. James winning the drivers’ championship. In 1997, Tommy Kendall’s Roush-prepared Mustang won a record 11 consecutive races in Trans-Am to secure his third straight driver’s championship.
In 2002 John Force broke his own NHRA drag racing record by winning his 12th national championship in his Ford Mustang Funny Car, Force beat that record again in 2007, becoming the first ever 14-time champion, again, driving a Mustang.
Currently Mustangs compete in several racing series, including the Mustang Challenge for the Miller Cup and the KONI Challenge, where it won the manufacturer's title in 2005 & 2008, and the Formula Drift and D1 Grand Prix series. They are highly competitive in the SCCA Speed World Challenge GT Series.