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Old 07-10-2005, 06:12   #1 (permalink)
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US:Green flag to fly for racing Fusion


Ford has participated in NASCAR for 56 years. Fusion will be its eighth-generation entry.
Source: Ford

The new Ford Fusion is replacing the automaker's Taurus model on the NASCAR Nextel Cup racetrack.

Green flag to fly for racing Fusion

With Taurus to be dropped, Ford turns to a new sedan to race in NASCAR's top series.

By Eric Mayne / The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. is putting a new face on its NASCAR Nextel Cup entry next year.

The automaker is expected to announce as early as this week that the Ford Fusion will replace the venerable Taurus on North America's most popular racing circuit, said people familiar with the plan.

After 20 years, Ford is pulling the plug on Taurus production early in 2006, and NASCAR rules require that race cars be based on showroom models. The Fusion arrives on dealer lots this fall.

Fusion will enter the midsize car segment, where the competition dwarfs even the longtime rivalry between Ford and Chevy on the racetrack. In the midsize car market, it's Ford vs. Chevy vs. Toyota vs. Honda vs. Nissan.

NASCAR fans are extremely loyal to brands that support the series, and Ford is banking on the affiliation to immediately establish Fusion in the marketplace. The 280,000 members of the Team Ford Racing club own, on average, 1.8 Ford vehicles per household, the automaker claims. Compared with other brand owners, they are nearly three times as likely to stick with Ford.

The entry-level midsize car, along with the larger Five Hundred sedan, represents Ford's latest effort to rebuild passenger car sales.

"To put the Fusion (in NASCAR) makes sense for Ford," said Kim Korth, president of IRN Inc., an auto consulting firm based in Grand Rapids. "Given that it's one of the most popular sports in the country and it's in front of a younger audience, it's a real positive."

When the Charger returned to NASCAR this year after an absence of more than two decades, Dodge recorded a 25 percent hike in its Web site traffic.

John Toppi, sales manager of Royal Oak Ford, is counting on more than stock car racing to generate interest in the Fusion.

Styling and price are more likely to lure buyers, Toppi said. Ford designed and engineered the Fusion to be more aggressive and nimble than the Taurus. It is priced starting at $17,995.

"If you're a race car junkie, sure," he said. "I just can't imagine that somebody who has nothing to do with NASCAR is going to come down."

Ford declined comment on specific plans to replace Taurus, promising to unveil details this week.

"We will announce exciting plans for our next-generation NASCAR race car, which will be instantly recognizable as a Ford product that everyday customers can drive home from our showrooms," spokesman Dave Reuter said in a statement.

NASCAR entries are subject to strict dimensional guidelines to ensure competitive racing, but to help sell the vehicles, manufacturers take great care to make certain that the cars on the track retain identifiable design cues.

According to NASCAR.com, Chevrolet is expected to roll out a new version of its Monte Carlo next year. And Toyota Motor Corp. has submitted a design, which has been approved by NASCAR, but the automaker has not indicated when -- or if -- it will compete.

While Fusion's NASCAR presence could benefit Ford's bottom line, will it perform on the track as well as Taurus?

Roush Racing, a division of Livonia-based Roush Industries, has won the last two NASCAR Nextel Cup championships using Taurus entries.

"We expect (the new car) will be just as competitive as what we have on the track right now," said Geoff Smith, president of Roush Racing.
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Old 07-14-2005, 17:48   #2 (permalink)
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Re: US:Green flag to fly for racing Fusion

Ford's New 'Face for the Chase:' Fusion will be NASCAR Race Car in '06

Ford Press Release


Ford Racing's entry in the 2006 Busch and NEXTEL Cup NASCAR series will be based on Ford Division's new mid-size luxury sedan. For more information about the Ford Fusion, go to fordvehicles.com.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ford has a new "face for the Chase."
The 2006 Ford Fusion race car, based on the production model that will hit showrooms this fall, was officially named Ford Racing's new race car for NASCAR competition at an unveiling today in Charlotte, N.C.

The 2006 NASCAR Ford Fusion will make its competition debut at the 2006 Daytona 500 in February, and Ford teams will use it in next year's NASCAR Nextel Cup Chase for the Championship, as well as Busch Series competition.

"We're thrilled to be unveiling the new Fusion," said Dan Davis, director, Ford Racing Technology. "The Fusion production car represents a fresh, new attitude for Ford in the mid-size sedan lineup. This Fusion race car has the same bold look, and it represents an all-new era in our Ford NASCAR racing program."

The 2006 Fusion will become Ford's first all-new nameplate car for NASCAR racing in 38 years, since the 1968 Ford Torino made its debut in both the showroom and on the racetrack.

"The Fusion represents the new face of Ford cars," said Marty Collins, General Marketing Manager, Ford Division. "And racing it in NASCAR competition allows us to get that new face in front of the millions of race fans who follow NASCAR racing in person and on television.

"Racing involvement will play a key role in the launch and the marketing of the Fusion throughout the rest of this year and into 2006. The great interest in NASCAR racing will help us tie the Fusion name to the Ford brand, and it's only right that we race Ford's newest car in America's flagship racing series."

The first of nine Ford Racing Innovation Drives for consumers nationwide kicks off July 16 at Kentucky Speedway, with the production Fusion headlining the Ford lineup of vehicles available to drive, and the NASCAR Fusion making its public debut for race fans.

The NASCAR Fusion will replace the Ford Taurus race car, which has captured four NASCAR championships (three Nextel Cup, one Busch), and 100 Nextel Cup victories since it made its competition debut in 1998.

"We'd like to send Taurus out with one more championship," said Davis, noting six Ford drivers are currently in contention to qualify for the final, 10-race Nextel Chase for the Championship. "But the time is right to move on to Fusion."

Ford submitted the Fusion to NASCAR officials several weeks ago, and is awaiting a final, on-track test before the car is officially certified for competition.

"We've worked hand-in-hand with NASCAR on the development of this car, and we can't thank them enough for helping us bring the Fusion forward," said Davis.

Ford took a different approach with the development of this race car than it had done with previous models in the past. This time, Ford engineers -- led by Ford NASCAR field manager Ben Leslie and Ford aerodynamicist Bernie Marcus -- did the early development with a scale model testing program that in previous new model efforts had been done by race teams.

Leslie and Marcus consulted with Ford race teams and took input on the new Fusion race car, but the duo did most of the development work over the past eight months while Ford teams competed week-in and week-out in NASCAR competition.

"Our guys did a terrific job of getting the NASCAR Fusion to where it needed to be, and we actually were ahead of schedule in getting it to NASCAR," said Davis. "The goal of any new car is to take the lessons learned from the previous model and, working within the NASCAR guidelines, bring forth a slightly better product.

"I think we accomplished that, and with the Fusion's dynamic new look, I think we have a car that NASCAR fans will easily recognize out on the track, in victory lane and in their own driveway. We're excited, and I know our teams are as well."

Some of Ford's NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers were recently in Dearborn to test drive the new Ford Fusion production car.

"As a dealer and a driver, I'm excited," said Mark Martin. "I think it's going to be really strong for us."

"I think it's a new car that is going to energize sales ... I think this is just what we're been looking for to increase sales," said Dale Jarrett, driver and Ford dealer.

"The Fusion is awesome," said Carl Edwards. "It's easy to drive. It's a fun car."

"I think the Fusion is going to be a hit," said Elliott Sadler. "I can't believe they have that much room for big guys like myself (6-foot-3) in a car that looks that small. I think they [Ford] did a great job."

"It's really comfortable ... there's a lot of room inside," said Matt Kenseth. "It's got a lot of pick-up and can really go."
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My next Ford.....
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