Fusion will replace Taurus in '06

Updated: July 14, 2005, 5:34 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ford Motor Co. unveiled a prototype Thursday of the model that will replace its Taurus on the NASCAR circuit.

The Fusion, a model debuting for Ford in 2006, will make its first start in next season's Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway. Ford plans to phase out production of the Taurus over the next few years.

Driver Dale Jarrett is expected to test the Fusion at Atlanta Motor Speedway next month as NASCAR completes its approval process for the car.

"We've worked hand-in-hand with NASCAR on the development of this car, and we can't thank them enough for helping us bring the Fusion forward," said Dan Davis, director of Ford Racing Technology. "Our guys did a terrific job of getting the NASCAR Fusion to where it needed to be, and we actually were ahead of schedule in getting it to NASCAR."

The Fusion is Ford's first all-new nameplate car for NASCAR racing in 38 years. The last was the 1968 Ford Torino. The Taurus was already in production when it debuted in NASCAR competition in 1998.

Ford drivers have won 100 races and three championships in NASCAR's top series, as well as one Busch Series title with the Taurus.

With shape of NASCAR cars dictated by strict body templates, there are not many discernible differences among the various car manufacturers. Chevrolet and Dodge also field models.

The Fusion's rounded nose and three-bar grille will help set it apart from other race cars, Davis said.

Ford drivers said they look forward to the change in cars.

"I think it looks slick. I really like the front end of it and I think it will be fun to drive," said Ford driver Elliott Sadler.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press