NASCAR at Auto Show: How will Fusion fare at Daytona?

Mike Helton

NASCAR president/vice chairman Mike Helton slipped into Detroit on Monday with several other top executives of stock car racing’s premier governing body to check out the 2017 Ford Fusion launch at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center.

The production car is the basis of Ford Performance’s new NASCAR Sprint Cup car that will roar into action in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 21 at Daytona International Speedway.

Today, Rochester Hills native and Team Penske champion Brad Keselowski is scheduled to run the Ford Fusion in a Goodyear tire test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“Detroit is not necessarily my favorite spot in January,” said Helton, smiling, “but once you learn the magnitude of the auto show here, it is really an important stop. It’s great to be here with a lot of folks we routinely do business with. There is opportunity for a lot of good conversation and a chance to get your year started off right.”

Helton said he was impressed with the Ford Fusion and is eager to see its racing version go up against Chevrolet and Toyota next month at Daytona Speedweeks.

“I like it,” Helton said. “Obviously, we are in the racing side of the automotive business, but getting an opportunity to work with Ford and put the Gen 6 car on the racetrack (in 2013) where it resembles the showroom car was a big moment for us. Today is just a continuation for us.”

Dave Pericak, global director of Ford Performance, said in a released statement earlier Monday “there is no mistaking we’re here to win races” on the Ford Fusion’s unveiling at the show and relevance to the race car. “We believe the new NASCAR Fusion will be a powerful tool in the hands of our teams and drivers.”

Meanwhile, Helton was positive regarding Michigan International Speedway’s two Sprint Cup weekends, this year: the FireKeepers Casino 400 on June 10-12 and the Pure Michigan 400 on Aug. 26-28.

“MIS president Roger Curtis and his team have done a nice job on the product at Michigan and getting it right,” Helton said. “Michigan has always been one of our favorite stops. When it comes to speed, safety (initiatives) and fan experience, MIS has done its fair share and then some in investing in its facility to make it better for spectators and racers.”

A night race there perhaps?

“That’s up to ISC if they want to invest in the lighting system at the facility,” Helton said.