Initially modeled after the S550 generation, the NASCAR Next Gen Ford Mustang debuted for competition ahead of the 2022 racing season. With the advent of the all-new seventh-generation pony car, Ford announced a motorsports push to be headed by the high-performance Mustang Dark Horse, pulling the veil off the new NASCAR Ford race car for the Cup Series in November. The Dark Horse race car turned its first testing laps last week, according to a recent report from NASCAR.com. And it turns out some Ford drivers have some thoughts about the retooled racer.
The test was held at Phoenix Raceway, where Ryan Blaney guided the No. 12 Mustang to the Cup Series championship just weeks earlier. In fact, Blaney was one of two NASCAR Ford drivers asked to participate in the test, joining Chris Buescher, driver of the No. 17 Mustang, along with two Toyota and two Chevy competitors. Part of the test involved running with a modified diffuser with twin aluminum rakes and a new splitter design, which NASCAR hopes will reduce the negative effects of “dirty air” – or aerodynamic turbulence in layman’s terms – on race cars in traffic.
“Yeah, a big difference,” Blaney said of the NASCAR Ford Mustang Dark Horse. “We unloaded exactly how we were here in the fall with this car, ran a couple hours on it and the different splitter, big difference. Massive. Like the way it drives. With that, there’s so much downforce taken off of it. Yeah, the first laps I had, I was like, man, this thing drives way different.”
He added, “It should. I mean, it’s a massive aero loss when you do that. And then the simple diffuser wasn’t as big of a change as the splitter, but it was still something to feel. But that front splitter was a huge change, and hopefully we can continue to tweak it a little bit, get it a little better.”
Meanwhile, Buescher was satisfied with the tire combinations provided by Goodyear for the two-day test. In fact, the No. 17 NASCAR Ford team went through 24 sets of tires during the test to get a feel for it. Goodyear was specifically interested in testing tires with thicker treads, much like what was used at Martinsville.