Although it won't take to the track in anger until February of next year at the Daytona 500, the all-new 2013 NASCAR Ford Fusion Sprint Cup car made its formal debut today during the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour. While sharing little in the way of a mechanical pedigree with its street kin, there's no question that this full-on race variant has captured the stunning visual character of the upcoming production model in a way that goes far beyond the current class of Sprint Cup competitors. It serves as a harbinger of the new look of what promises to be a new era in NASCAR competition set to start in 2013.

"We wanted Fusion to be the car that helped return 'stock car' to NASCAR," stated Jamie Allison, director, Ford Racing. "This is a seminal moment in the sport where we had a chance to get it right once again and make sure the race cars are race versions of street cars. And I am proud because I believe we have accomplished just that."

One of the keys to establishing that "know it at a glance" appearance is that the 2013 Fusion Sprint Cup racer was a joint effort between Ford Racing and the Ford Motor Company Design Center, a group which provided "major input" for the undertaking. Garen Nicoghosian, Design Manager for Specialty Vehicles and a self-professed race fan savored the challenge of being asked "to design a race car with the look and feel of the production car," a process he recognized would require all involved to recognize and maintain its intrinsic design identity. "There is a size difference between the two vehicles, and the proportions are so different. The street Fusion is a front-wheel-drive, front-engine car, and race car is a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive car with a really long hood, and a much lower and wider stance," said Nicoghosian. "The fundamentally different profiles and proportions of the two vehicles, as well as other constraints, presented a bigger challenge than simply taking a Fusion and putting NASCAR stickers on it.

The 2013 NASCAR Ford Fusion Sprint Cup car began life as a series of conceptual drawings that led to several 40-percent scale clay models which were then subjected to extensive wind tunnel testing evaluation. Despite having to contend with NASCAR rules that stipulate certain common bodywork parameters for all cars, Nicoghosian and his team found ways to keep the final product true to the original mission brief."We paid close attention to the way we shaped the details on the racer, such as the headlight, grille, and foglight openings, as well as the bodyside sections, character lines, and overall surface language. When parked side by side, the racer and the street car 'feel' the same, even though the two share no common surfaces."

The 2013 NASCAR Ford Fusion Sprint Cup car will spend the remainder of this year undergoing extensive on-track testing before heading to Daytona next February to start playing for real against rivals from other manufacturers that also will display more brand-focused design cues.

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