The 2014 Ford Fusion grille will be pulled out to make it flush with front end
CONCORD, N.C. – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner Jack Roush said his organization did not seek a change to the grille area of the Ford Fusion for 2014, but neither was he against the request.
Ford teams will debut a slightly new look on the front next season, as the inset below the grille area will be pulled out to make it flush with the rest of the front end. The move, which has already been approved by NASCAR, is expected to lessen the problem of removing debris from the grille area.
There's only so many free passes, so many considerations you can get," Roush, co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing, said Thursday morning. "This is a consideration that I probably would not have asked for although it is harder to get the trash off the grille … it's not something that's given us a problem. We've not failed an engine, we've not had to pit for putting water in a car because of it even though we've run elevated temperatures somewhat more than we would like.
For my part, I would rather have waited for something that was going to be performance impacting rather than something that was just a potential nuisance item. But it was of primary interest of (Penske Racing's) side to be able to want to have that flush screen. We certainly didn't resist that but it's not something that I initiated.
Ford officials briefed both Toyota and Chevrolet before making a formal request to NASCAR. The three brands are the only three fielding entries in NASCAR at this time.
"Because our brake ducts are in that area as well as the inlet for the radiator, our car collects a lot more debris," Pat DiMarco, NASCAR program manager for Ford, said. "We knew it was a risk, we knew it was a concern going forward. It hasn't bitten us … but just to make us feel better we're just going to flush it out.
DiMarco said the area in question was part of the original design for the rollout of the 2013 Generation-6 car. "I think we saw some advantage to it during the development, but it does stay true to the character of the car," DiMarco said. "But flushing it out doesn't really take much away from the character of the car either. It's not a big deal kind of thing."
The change won't affect the car's aerodynamic numbers, he said, and that information was validated before approaching the other OEMS.
Andy Graves, vice president of chassis engineering & Toyota NASCAR program manager, said he was asked earlier this year if Toyota officials would support Ford's request. Both Toyota and Chevrolet officials requested that the alteration not be introduced before the start of the 2014 season.
"That was our compromise," Graves said. "As long as they meet the criteria, and the performance targets, which they did … then it's totally within the procedures that we've outlined for the whole (Gen 6) project in the first place.
"It's not like Ford is trying to get away with anything. They're trying to flush out their grille and not go back to the wind tunnel and re-test it. It's all done completely above board."
Graves said if Ford was having "a major issue" that impacted the car's on-track performance, such a change would have likely been allowed to be made during the 2013 season. "But ultimately that's NASCAR's decision," he said.
"At the end of the day we need that level of cooperation amongst the manufacturers to ensure that there is a level playing field and that all of us can put as much character in the car as we want without sacrificing performance."