According to NASCAR (Ford) program manager Pat DiMarco and Ford Racing aerodynamcist Bernie Marcus there were some concerns during the 2013 season about debris collection on the lower radiator inlet on the Fusion. The grille bars on the car are staying identical to what they were in 2013. It is only the lower inlet which is the dark black area on the car which will be flushed out. To the average Joe sitting and watching, they won’t even really be able to tell on TV what has changed.
What was done: The radiator screen was moved out to be more flush with the bumper. There is no performance advantage (verified in the wind tunnel). This is purely for debris collection and to eliminate the need to pit in case we have a hot dog wrapper or something on the grille and it makes it easier to get the debris off from behind another car.
The new rules package for 2014 handed down by NASCAR, doesn’t really impact the Fusion and its handling. The new aero rules add some downforce to the car which during the Charlotte testing in December the drivers felt it had given them a little more security in the car compared to 2013. Then there is the no ride-height rule in post-race inspection which will allow the team to make the cars drive a little more comfortably for the driver. It lets the springs be the springs and the shocks be the shocks on the cars, so to say.
Come post-race inspection, the cars will be inspected at a six and eight frame-rail height as they were in 2013 to make sure they meet all the rules. “Post race inspection, now, the car does not have to come back up to those six and eight frame-rail heights,” said DiMarco. Once the car leaves tech inspection, the team can put it down to whatever attitude they want it and it can come off the race track at whatever attitude the car settles in at. Continued DiMarco, “The disconnect came in trying to meet the six and eight ride-height rule for inspection and then meeting it post race. The cars are so aerodynamic, so trying to get the cars in the attitude they wanted to was causing people to use the springs and shocks for other purposes than what they were designed for.”
When asked on whether or not the teams were looking for this change, DiMarco replied, “I would say it was 50-50 in the garage. Some teams felt it was an advantage, some felt it didn’t do anything for the cars. The product on the race track will determine if it was the right move or not.”
From an engine perspective, the change to flush the lower inlet on the Fusion helps the engine builders because when you have a team that has to adjust their strategy based on getting trash on the grille and consistently getting trash on the grille, it makes the engine builder’s job extremely hard.
Source: Ford Racing Press Release/Media Transcript