New Ford Mustang Dark Horse Tests at Phoenix Raceway

2023 NASCAR Cup Series Champion praises the new model as an upgrade for Ford Performance drivers in 2024.

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Phoenix Raceway, Phoenix, AZ — December 14, 2023

In early November, The Lasco Press introduced readers to the New Ford Mustang Dark Horse that will compete on the NASCAR Circuit in 2024. This week, Ryan Blaney returned to Phoenix Raceway, where he captured the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Championship. He and fellow Ford Performance driver Chris Buescher were invited to test the new Mustang Dark Horse that will be Ford’s Cup car for the 2024 campaign. NASCAR reported on the closed test sessions.

The two-day exhibition ran through multiple aerodynamic configurations and Goodyear tire combinations, focusing on racing at short tracks in the upcoming season. While no immediate determinations were made on-site as to what combinations may end up on the Next Gen vehicles in a couple of months, progress was made to help add clarity to the picture.

“I think our goal is to have some direction coming out of here,” Dr. Eric Jacuzzi, NASCAR’s vice president of vehicle performance, told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve never gone to a test and walked out like, ‘Oh my god, this is great. This is what we’re doing.’ It’s a tough thing to do, right?”

“But I think for us, it’s coming out of here with direction on the tire, coming out with direction on the aero package that, yes, this is going to be neutral to positive. And then any other things that we’ve learned along the way. And then (Wednesday), we’ll be running mufflers, so making sure (when) we go to LA, we’re not going to have anything unexpected.”

Ryan Blaney Shares His Impressions

The aerodynamic changes included a new splitter design in addition to a diffuser with two aluminum rakes, all implemented in hopes of reducing the effect of dirty air on vehicles in traffic. Those adjustments were met with positive feedback, notably from defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney, who returned to the site where he was coronated just one month earlier.

“Yeah, a big difference,” Blaney said Tuesday. “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.

Ryan Blaney tests the New Ford Mustang Dark Horse NASCAR edition at Phoenix Raceway / NASCAR Photo

“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.”

Tire Testing Provides More Positive Feedback

Most positive reactions seemed to stem from the different tire combinations Goodyear provided. According to RFK Racing, Chris Buescher went through 24 different sets of tires on the No. 17 Ford over the two-day session. Goodyear aimed to bring tires with thicker treading, similar to what was utilized at Martinsville and which was received well.

Chris Buescher tests the RK Racing Mustang at Phoenix / NASCAR Photo

“Tire stuff was really good,” Michigan’s Erik Jones of Legacy Motor Club said. “I thought we learned a lot with that in the beginning of the day. I think Goodyear’s got some good notes from that and probably is gonna apply to a lot of places.

“This isn’t really a tire test, but of all the tires I’ve tested over my career, by far, probably today was the biggest I’ve noticed a difference.”

The new year begins with the Busch Light Clash exhibition at the Coliseum on Feb. 4 on FOX, MRN Radio, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster.