SPARTA, Ky. – Ford Racing NASCAR Program Manager Pat DiMarco and Richard Petty Motorsports driver Marcos Ambrose formally introduced the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) Gen 6 car to Kentucky Speedway’s media contingent today.
DiMarco provided a Gen 6 Ford Fusion engineering overview and Ambrose delivered perspective on car’s performance in competition. Curious media were able compare a full NSCS car with a cutaway car before taking rides with Ambrose in a consumer model Fusion.
This season’s Fusion racing design was inspired by what engineers saw in the early stages of the development of the showroom model.
“We started in the Design Center with what was to be the 2013 Fusion. It was a stunning car and we knew it needed to be on the racetrack. We took those queues and worked week in and week out to refine the process based on the NASCAR rules.
“Our goal was to make it look as close to the production car as we could and I think we succeeded. I’m proud of the team we had working on it. From the Design Center, the aerodynamic team and Roush Fenway Racing until we brought Penske on board, it truly was a collective effort. I think we did right. We have a real grill on our car; it doesn’t get any better than that.
“We had the reveal in Charlotte before we hit the racetrack and I made the comment that this is the most rewarding project I’ve ever worked on. Now that we’ve been on the track, in my mind, and I’ve been doing this 15 years, it’s been some of the best racing I’ve ever seen in NASCAR,” DiMarco said.
Ambrose is pleased with DiMarco’s final product and predicts its best performances are yet to come.
“It runs faster. We’re running record speeds at these mile-and-a-half racetracks and we expected to because NASCAR wanted to make this car a little faster than the old one.
“As far as driving them, it really depends on what tire Goodyear brings because the tires are the contact between you and the racetrack.
“I think you’re going to see Goodyear bring more aggressive tires as the season wears on as it gains confidence about tire wear and tire issues that normally go on when you’re bringing something new. At Texas last week, the tire was great and the drivers put on a great show. It was great quality racing, a lot of passes for the lead and a lot of passes throughout the field. I think you’re going to see that as the season runs on,” Ambrose said.
Drivers also will help fuel competition as they become more familiar with the car’s performance.
“We have a very restrictive testing program through the NASCAR Rule Book, so teams are forced to, they have to, experiment during races. We’ll experiment the most when the season’s early, especially this year with a new car.
“A lot of teams are really trying to work out what’s good and what’s bad. About 85 percent, we know what we’ve got, but we’ve yet to come close to the limit of speed. Drivers push themselves to the limit every week, but the cars that get built around them are going to get faster and faster,” he added.
Ambrose is 18th in the NSCS standings after averaging a 20th-place finish in his No. 9 DeWalt Fusion through seven races. He knows better days are ahead as his team continues to amass Gen 6 knowledge while preparing for a Kansas Speedway that produced better-than-average testing speeds.
“Our No. 9 team got off to a bit of a rocky start and we’re building back from it. First, we had to find car speed. We’ve got that and now we need to convert that into really strong results. It’s just a matter of time, working with each other and letting luck turn around. We know good times are right around the corner and we’ve got fast cars. We’re going to continue that form coming into the summer,” he said.
The sixth-year NSCS driver from Launceston, Australia is ready to make his third NSCS Quaker State 400 start at Kentucky Speedway June 29. The 36-year-old charted his series track-best 13th-place finish in last season’s event. He also produced a sixth-place NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) finish at the track in 2008 scored a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) pole award for a 225-mile affair in the Bluegrass State in 2006.
“This track is really wide and it feels a lot flatter than a lot of the mile and a halves. It gives you a different feeling. It has a lot of speed because it’s really consistent, the corners are more open and you’ve got a lot of room to really get out and blend into the outside line. The groove changes a lot during the day, too. It’s a really dynamic place to race.
“We’ve learned a lot in the first few races (this season). The teams are getting a grip on the cars now and by the time we get to Kentucky, the drivers, certainly, will have learned how to race them better,” Ambrose said.
The speedway’s tripleheader Quaker State 400 Weekend opens with the July 27 NCWTS UNOH 225 and continues July 28 with NNS Feed The Children 300.
Race tickets, Fan Zone passes that provide close-up views of Billy Currington’s Quaker State 400 race-day concert and driver introductions, ticket packages and campsites can be purchased by logging on to http://www.kentuckyspeedway.com, calling (859) 578-2300 or visiting the speedway ticket office at 1 Speedway Drive in Sparta, Ky., just off Interstate 71 Exit 57 and Kentucky Hwy. 35. The ticket office is open Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.