NASCAR

Ford Fusion

The changes can come rapidly when connected to production cars.Automakers are looking for new design cues that will appeal to thebuying public. No matter how subtle, the stylistic changes lead to thereplacement of certain models from the showroom floor.

Ford Motor Company has discontinued production of the Taurus, which isthe model that had been used for NASCAR Nextel Cup racing. As such, Fordteams had to direct their efforts to the new models, a process by whichthey are not wholly unfamiliar. After all, it wasn't that long ago thatthe Taurus came onto the scene itself.

The new model is the Fusion, which is an '06 branded entry into theconsumer market. It marks the first all-new nameplate entered by Fordfor competition since 1968 and the Torino. At the time of itsintroduction into racing, the Taurus was already a familiar name to Fordcustomers.

The street Fusion will be available as a 2.3L four-cylinder inlineengine or a 3.0L six-cylinder model. Both are DOHC engines with thesix-cylinder being produced domestically. The four-cylinder model is 139ci and produces 160 hp. The six-cylinder will have 182 ci and 221maximum horsepower. The model is expected to eventually be offered as ahybrid model.

Former NASCAR champion Dale Jarrett was tabbed for shakedown duty as the'06 Fusion went into on-track approval phase in August. Final approvalcame after wind tunnel testing.

"I think what we've done with the Fusion is we built a car that's goingto be very nice on the racetrack, but it's going to be one that thepublic will go to a dealership and want to buy," said Jarrett. "That'swhat we want to achieve--something we can win with on Sunday and thepublic will buy on Monday.

"I think the biggest thing we fight with the Taurus is if we get enoughdownforce in the rear to make it where we can drive at tracks likeAtlanta, getting into the corner, then usually we fight a problem of thefront end not sticking as [well] as we need. It wants to lift up. Thiscar seems to have a better balance about it. That's what we're trying toachieve with the Fusion, and I think we've done that."

Building the New Car

C&R Racing has expanded its racing services to include construction ofthe new USAC Silver Crown Car. While most racers are familiar with thecompany and its radiator line, C&R is much more than that. The companyhas been building chassis, including sports car frames like the GT-40,for the past three decades.

"I see it as a very interesting project and foresee it as a big stepforward," says C&R's Chris Paulsen. "The new car will take Silver Crownracing to the next level. We've lost a rung on the ladder. The youngopen-wheel racer is going to NASCAR, and the thought of using SilverCrown and Midget racing as a stepping stone to Indianapolis isn't there.We've seen open-wheel racing become a bridge to NASCAR with drivers likeTony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, and Ryan Newman. The new SilverCrown Car will provide a lot better testing ground."

As the process is underway for the first C&R chassis, the company willutilize its existing resources. The skilled technicians have plenty ofexperience with CNC machine tools, metal fabrication equipment, andCAD/CAM technology. Paulsen has been involved with Indy Car teams as achief mechanic with experience in Supermodfieds and Sprint Cars.

In late October, the C&R car was in the design phase, as Paulsen makessure it is done right. "We may build four cars, maybe six," he says. "Wewant to have two cars available by PRI (December 2005) and test themafter that.

"The car is designed on the computer. The bulk of the design work willlead us to cutting the pieces, which will fit together during theassembly. There's a spec nose, tail and side pods, but the rest of it ispretty much up to us. We'll be doing some wind tunnel testing of our careventually."

Paulsen plans to build the complete car, giving the customer the chanceto add the engine and go. He will have a house car, but it will beidentical to any customer car.

Other Changes Coming

IRL

IRL will be requiring a blend of methanol and ethanol as the fuelfor 2006. In 2007, the series is expected to mandate 100 percentethanol.

F1

Rules concerning tires lead the changes. The series banned tirechanges during racing events in 2005, but has rescinded the rule toallow changes in 2006. Minimum tire allotment has also been raised.

Sprint Cars

The creation of the National SprintCar League will providecompetition to the World of Outlaws.

UPDATE: Richard Petty Driving Experiencehas withdrawn its support of the new National Sprint Car League. For astatement on why, click HERE

NASCAR Nextel Cup

Possible changes in spring regulations and testinglimits.