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If Ford's NASCAR teams retire the Fusion, perhaps there's a bolder name than Mustang

Mike Reader, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

The obvious choice for the name of Ford's next NASCAR auto is, of course, the Ford Mustang, Detroit's original pony car. If they could tie in a special version of the Mustang, such as the GT, that would at least match what Chevrolet did with the Camaro. No one would get fired for picking the Mustang name.

3. A Mustang for NASCAR sounds cool, but is there a better option?

Now that the most logical choice is out of the way, it's time to have some fun.

These days, Ford is known for its sport-utility vehicles and trucks, rather than sedans. They sell better, too. In January, SUVs accounted for 34 percent of Ford sales, compared to less than 20 percent for cars. Three SUVs, the Escape, Explorer and Edge, had higher sales than the Fusion. And Fusion sales were down about 33 percent compared to January 2017.

Given that NASCAR, or at least some of its early drivers, carries historical connections to Southern bootleggers, attaching the name of a vehicle that could haul a serious amount of moonshine adds a nostalgic link to the past. If someone were to run moonshine in 2018 from a backwoods still to the big city, an SUV bursting with horsepower that could climb mountain trails like a billy goat and then tear down freeways like a rocket even in the worst weather certainly makes a better choice than a sedan.

Sure, NASCAR Cup cars look like sedans, and not SUVs, but then again, the Truck series racers don't look like they can be loaded with lumber or haul a boat trailer, either.

NASCAR fans are smart enough to know they can't buy Brad Keselowski's Ford Fusion in a dealership, no matter how much the silhouettes looks alike. The Ford Fusion running at Daytona has never carried a child safety seat, and no one's ever complained, at least not on record.

So, imagine, Keselowski making left turns in a "Ford Bronco" -- the iconic SUV that once took countless numbers of outdoorsmen off-road but also made history on Los Angeles freeways is coming back in 2020.

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Is it enough if only the front end of the NASCAR vehicle looked like the dealership model? Is anyone really going to be upset if it doesn't seat seven people and feature a trailer hitch?

Perhaps Ford could spice up a few performance models of the Bronco, something akin to the Porsche Cayenne or its current Ford Edge ST. A smart marketing department could work with that.

And if a racing Bronco starts a trend, and the tracks fill with Chevy Traverses and Toyota 4Runners, maybe NASCAR could shorten those rain delays.

(c)2018 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)

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