Ford Racing drivers share their Mustang memoriesThu, 17 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0700
April 17 marks the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang, and recently Ford Racing asked some of its drivers and racing personnel, including Jamie Allison, director of Ford Racing, and Edsel B. Ford II of the Ford board of directors, to talk about their favorite Mustang memory. Here are some of those Mustang memories:
Jamie Allison, Director, Ford Racing -- “My Mustang moment story is simple. As a kid who grew up in Dearborn and went to Fordson High School on Ford Road it was inevitable -- all I wanted to do was work at Ford and drive a Mustang. My dream came true in 1987 when I was hired as an engineer at Ford and I bought my first new car, a 1987 Mustang GT convertible with a 225 HP 5.0L. Wow, I was in heaven every day I drove it. Every time I see or drive a Mustang it just reminds me of the feeling of joy a Mustang brings to our customers. That spirit of Mustang is what guides me as we develop performance parts or go racing with Mustang. Happy birthday, Mustang!”
Edsel B. Ford II, member, board of directors, Ford Motor Co. -- “My favorite Mustang memory, certainly like many others, is the day I got my first Mustang.
"For me, it is still a very vivid memory. It was Christmas morning, 1964, and I was just 16 years old at the time.
"I came downstairs that morning with my sisters, and my father indicated I should take a look outside. There was a brand new 1965 Mustang fastback sitting in the driveway with a big red bow on the hood. I immediately grabbed my coat and ran outside to check it out.
"Of course, just looking at it was not enough, so I jumped into the car and proceeded to take several laps around our neighborhood. The rumble of the high-performance 289-cubic-inch V8 was intoxicating. I only drove it for a few minutes that first day because there was snow on the ground, but as soon as the roads were cleared, I drove it almost every day.
"My father, Henry Ford II, had the car specifically prepared for me. It was a very special Mustang painted in a pearlescent white finish with slim blue racing stripes over the top of the body and along the rocker panels.
"It also had a functional hood scoop, chrome trim on the three gills in the headlamp buckets, and fender-mounted rearview mirrors similar to the ones on the Mustangs in Europe at that time.
"My father also did something special for me. The rear fuel filler cap, which normally had the pony logo, had my initials on it -- 'EBFII.'
"That car was special for sure. I drove it through high school and then one summer afternoon on Long Island I let a friend borrow it. He was driving the car home, lost control and rolled it in a potato field near our house. My beautiful Mustang was destroyed. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the car was totaled.
"That Mustang was my first car and my favorite. Seeing the recent photos of the car that were discovered in the Ford archives brought back many fond memories.”
Greg Biffle, NASCAR No. 16 3M Ford Fusion -- “One of my favorite Mustang memories that sticks out in my head is my new Shelby Mustang. I guess it isn't new anymore. It is a 2007 GT 500, and that Mustang has been so much fun for me over the years. I built an engine for it and have done all kinds of stuff to it. That is by far my favorite car to work on and tinker with or take to ZMAX Dragway. I just love to drive it on the street, to the shop and back, and it is by far my favorite car. I bought it because I really wanted one bad. I started doing modifications to it. I changed the blower pulleys and did all sorts of stuff. I have had a ton of fun with it. Mustang is such an iconic part of American history, not just when it comes to cars, so the 50th anniversary is a big deal for sure and I am glad I have been able to make memories with my own Mustang.”
Carl Edwards, NASCAR No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion -- “The first neat car I had was a 1985 Mustang GT with T-tops and it was great. We put a clutch in it. My dad and a guy named Bobby Williams and I worked on it and painted it and my buddy Ray Owen helped me work on it and he was a big Mustang guy. I was like 19 years old and I had a Mustang. It was neat. I had a lot of fun in that car. It was a great car. Mustangs are fun, period.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., NASCAR No. 17 Nationwide Insurance Ford Fusion -- “One of my favorite memories is obviously being able to win the two Nationwide Series championships in a Mustang. That was really cool and will be something that obviously I always remember because up to now it is my biggest accomplishment in racing. When I was growing up though, my Dad, he builds engines for a living and a friend of his had a Mustang Mach 1. I was young, about 7 or 8, so I don't remember the exact year of the car. I believe it was a 1969, though. He took me for a ride in it one day and we got sideways. We were staring right at the back of a big truck and right at the last second he turned it and we spun around the other way and kept going. That was so much fun. I loved it. That was probably when I fell in love with Mustang.”
Brad Keselowski, NASCAR No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion -- “My favorite Mustang story is when the Nationwide Series went to the Mustang and we went to Michigan and the Mustangs were there and they were the first cars to have the decals on the side that made it look like the production car. That was really cool. I felt like when the Mustang came into the Nationwide Series it really beefed it up and made it look like a real race car, a real car. I thought that was really awesome. It is such an iconic part of car history and racing history, so to have Mustang come to the Nationwide Series and to have it look like a Mustang, was a big deal.”
Joey Logano, NASCAR No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion -- “I have raced a few Mustangs in my day. I think getting my first win for Roger Penske in a Ford Mustang was pretty sweet. I did that last year at Dover and it was a great feeling. To put yourself on a list of all the drivers that have won with Roger Penske is really neat and to add my name to the list of drivers that have won a race in a Mustang is really great. I need to get a Mustang to add to my stable of cars for sure. I love the old Mustang Mach 1 series. Those cars are just iconic. I would love to get behind the wheel of a Mach 1 for sure.”
Aric Almirola, NASCAR No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion -- “A memory that sticks out to me about Mustang is that I had a friend in high school that had a Cobra Mustang. I had an old ratty pickup truck and he let me drive that Mustang. I was driving a race car at the time in high school and he said he wanted to see what his car would do with a race car driver driving it. So my buddy in high school let me drive his Cobra and we put black marks around the street of our high school everywhere. I mean everywhere. That was a lot of fun. That was probably one of my fondest memories of a Mustang, him letting me tear up the streets around our high school in a Mustang.”
David Ragan, NASCAR No. 34 Taco Bell Ford Fusion -- “Mustangs are close to my heart, being a lifelong Ford fan. I grew up with my dad or uncle having some project Mustang cars around. We never really had new, fast Mustangs. They were always the mid-'60s. They really liked the midyear cars. Just here recently, getting to race a Mustang some in the Nationwide Series has been special but I also got to do the Mustang 1,000-lap challenge at Bristol Motor Speedway to see how many laps we could do on a tank of fuel. It was remarkable with the V6 Mustang. It is kind of ironic that a race car driver's coolest memory of a Mustang is in a V6 at Bristol. I also did a speed challenge in a Mustang GT at Bristol which set the track record in a production car. We averaged about 100 mph in a stock Mustang, which proved that the stock Mustangs you get off the showroom floor are pretty special.”
John Force, NHRA Funny Car -- “My brother Louie in 1966 came back from Vietnam and he bought a Ford Mustang 289 automatic green fast back. I had just purchased a Lincoln Continental with suicide doors, an older model like a '60 or something. Louie knew I was a hot-rodder so he swapped me for the Mustang and he took the Lincoln because he was a family man. Actually. I swapped the Lincoln and a pick-up for the Mustang. I drove it for years. It wasn't my first Ford, though, because in high school I bought a Ford Fairlane. It was British racing green and really a cool car.
“I have owned a number of Mustangs over the years. It is just a great car. It can be a family car or it can be a cruising car or a hot rod. My favorite that I have now is a 1965 red convertible 289 Automatic, and it is in my museum in Yorba Linda, Calif. I love that car and it was the first collector car I ever bought.”
Scott Pruett, Telcel Ford Ecoboost Riley prototype -- “It's always difficult for me to say 'my favorite story,' because I have so many great stories. With that being said, there's truly one that comes to mind. It was 1986 and it was the Miami Grand Prix. Willy T. Ribbs was leading and I passed him for the lead with two laps to go. Putting the car in the lead was for sure, as a new driver, as new to Ford as I was, as new to the Mustang as I was, and all the things together it was a pretty sweet moment. I don't have a favorite Mustang at home yet. Me and a good friend of mine, early, early on we spent a lot of time working on and fixing 1965, '66 coupes and convertibles. There actually is a '65, '66 original race car that I have my eye on. Happy birthday, Mustang. It's been a great ride, and many, many more to come.”
Vaughn Gittin Jr., Formula Drift -- “My first Mustang memory goes back to around 1986 or 1987 when I was 6 or 7 years old. My father was a wholesaler and he brought a 1970 Mach 1 home on his tow truck. He let me sit in the driver's seat on the short trip to his shop. I remember standing on the seat and moving the wheel back and forth, making noises like I was driving it. It was the COOLEST thing ever at the time. My dad was pretty awesome for letting me do that, you would probably go to jail today for letting your kid do that. I always reflect on that and wonder if that was the subconscious beginning to my love of the Ford Mustang.”
Bob Tasca III, NHRA Funny Car -- “Mustang has been a staple throughout my whole life. My first new car was a 1992 high-performance Mustang that had a white interior and a custom motor. It was the first car I ever took down a drag strip. That was at New England Dragway.
“All of my racing wins, in alcohol and nitro, came in Mustangs.
“Two other things really stand out. The first was at a Ford event in 2008 where Parnelli Jones, Carroll Shelby, John Force and I were standing in front of a line of historic Mustangs. The other was being involved in the design and direction of the 2015 Mustang as part of the dealer product committee. We worked on that project for more than three years. The dealer influence on that car is significant. To see that car really being born again has been a really cool, memorable moment for me. I'll be able to look back decades later and say I had an impact.”
Brittany Force, NHRA Top Fuel -- “I have always loved the Mustang. When I turned 16, a Roush Mustang was actually my first car. I loved it and it was a beautiful car. It was a white convertible with a roll bar and black interior. I had four people in that Mustang every time I took it out. I remember when I got the car I was driving my mom home from the dentist and she kept asking me why I was driving so fast. I told her I was driving a normal speed, I was just anxious to get home. What I didn't know was my dad had picked up the Mustang and was backing it into the driveway when we turned onto our street. He saw me coming up the street and he slammed on the gas and got it to the end of the driveway and he jumped out. There was a big red bow on it and I was just blown away in shock. I was so excited I was going to be driving a Mustang to high school. I would drive a couple of my friends to school every day and we would put the top down and turn up the music. We thought we were so cool.
“I remember we were racing Super Comp at the time and I was going 165 mph down the track. When we got our driver's license our parents had a rule -- we could only drive in a 5-mile area around our house. I wasn't allowed to go on freeways, either. I couldn't believe I had this beautiful car and I couldn't take it to the beach. Vonn's Shopping Center was the farthest I could drive and I remember coming up with a reason to go to Vonn's every day that summer after I got my license.”
Courtney Force, NHRA Funny Car -- “My best Mustang memory is when I went with my dad to pick up his Mustang GT, and I was so excited because I am really into fast cars. He had been looking at the GTs for a long time and we really talked him into it because we thought it was such a cool car. The look of those cars was so awesome and we were so excited he was getting it as a birthday present. I remember being with him in the passenger seat when he drove it home from the dealership. We pulled up to the first stop light and I couldn't believe it, but he stalled it at that light. He had one of the fastest Mustangs out there, but my dad of all people was one of the slowest drivers.”
Justin Pawlak, Formula Drift -- “My best Mustang memory was 2011, the first time I won a Formula Drift event at the Long Beach Grand Prix in my Falken Tire Ford Mustang. That was the day I realized the true potential of the Mustang platform and since then has solidified my love of the car. Although I'm not a long-time Mustang enthusiast, I appreciate the history of the Mustang and am amazed at the strong following of Mustang enthusiasts at every event I attend. I'm excited to be a part of that following and am extremely excited for the 50th anniversary of such an iconic American muscle car.”
Robert Hight, NHRA Funny Car -- “My favorite Mustang memory was winning the U.S. Nationals in Indy in 2008. Ford had just come out with the Ford Drive One campaign. On my top end interview after I won I was pretty amped up, and at the end of the interview I looked right at the camera and said, 'I drive a Ford Mustang and you should too!' Everybody went nuts down there from the camera people to all the Ford people. I got a lot of calls from people thanking me for using the Ford Drive One slogan. I had just won the biggest drag race of the year in a Ford Mustang and I was really proud of that. I wanted the fans to know how special that was for me.”