Making America's favorite truck a winner on track
The 2004 NASCAR F-150 marks the second facelift for the race version of the F-150 and the first major change to the truck since 1996. For more information on the NASCAR F-150, visit the Ford Racing Web site. For more information on the prodution F-150, visit the Ford Vehicles Web site.
DEARBORN -- America’s favorite pickup truck is all-new for 2004 and the timing couldn’t be better for Ford Racing competitors in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The Ford F-Series, the best-selling full-size pickup for 27 years in a row and America’s top-selling vehicle overall for 22 years in a row, has a new look for 2004 and, likewise, the race vehicle that will debut at Daytona International Speedway Feb. 13 will mimic many of those cosmetic changes.
The F-150’s introduction to NASCAR racing coincided with the debut of the Craftsman Truck Series nine years ago, and it has posted 64 wins, one driver’s championship and two manufacturer’s titles along the way. This is the second facelift for the race version of the F-150, but it marks the first major change to the truck since 1996. The new styling on the race vehicle reflects the styling changes that appear on the production 2004 F-150, but it was process that started several years ago.
“We actually started working on the program in October of 2001 knowing that we had a new production truck due for 2004,” stated Robert Brooks, Ford Racing Technology Program Manger for the Craftsman Truck Series. “What you see on the race track in Daytona started with a scale model. With us having the lead-time to really design the truck from scratch we used a scale model so we wouldn’t have to do a lot of R&D ahead of time. The scale model pointed us in the right direction in terms of drag and downforce and it didn’t require us to use a lot of our teams’ time in building a full-scale model knowing that it would be a long, revision-filled process.”
Even in the early stages of the design process, the scale model incorporated many of the physical attributes of the 2004 F-150 production vehicle, not only for visual recognition, but also for competitive advantage on the track.
“The production truck is building off of more than 85 years of Ford truck experience and there were some aerodynamic changes in the production vehicle that we were able to incorporate on the race vehicle,” commented Brooks.
Once the new body style of the race vehicle was devised and tested on a 40-percent model, the core of Ford Racing’s truck teams were asked to provide their input into the building of the actual race truck.
“I took a little bit of all of our teams’ resources, and we focused on each teams’ expertise when it came to the design process,” recalled Brooks. “Rather than doing it entirely by committee, one team was responsible for the building of the truck, but I kept every team informed of what was going on and asked them what they wanted out of the truck. That gave us design direction, so it was a multiple-team input, but when it came to building a truck, one team could more easily make the quick changes requested by NASCAR, so that we could gain approval in a more-timely manner.
“When the actual production of the truck started in January of 2003, we were given dimensional guidelines by NASCAR. We were fortunate that most manufacturers had new trucks being introduced within a year of each other. Dodge has already had several new design changes since it entered the sport, Chevrolet was changing its truck and Toyota was coming in new to the sport. That allowed all of us to work with NASCAR as far as establishing criteria of what this truck should be. This was a NASCAR-dictated process due to the fact we will have additional common templates next year, similar to what is being done in the Busch Series. However, we were still given the leeway to produce a vehicle that incorporates many of the styling attributes of the new production vehicle. From a performance aspect, it should level the playing field for all of the manufacturers, but you will still be able to tell the difference between a Ford, a Dodge and a Chevrolet by sight.”
“It’s been a struggle for us in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series because our truck mirrors the production vehicle, whereas our competition has gone through more iterations since the truck series began in 1995,” said Greg Specht, Performance Operations Manager, Ford Racing Technology. “We’re looking forward to making up some ground in that area this year and feel this is the first step in becoming more competitive.
“We’re very happy to have the next F-150 for the showrooms and for the race track. The F-150 has been a long-time, consistent winner in the marketplace, and the 2004 F-150 is already a major hit with consumers. The F-Series is extremely important to Ford's bottom line. It accounts for nearly 28 percent of Ford Division's sales and 23 percent of Ford Motor Company's total U.S. sales. The fact that we can change our NASCAR F-150 to match the new production model should make our Craftsman Truck teams and drivers even more competitive on the track, and that’s important since the other manufacturers continue to raise the bar in terms of competition. We’re excited to show what we’ve got.”
Like its production vehicle counterpart, the new F-150 race truck has also earned the right to be the next Ford F-150.