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We don’t often hope for crashes or on-track problems for a NASCAR race. But, if there is a caution at tonight’s Martinsville Speedway NASCAR race, we’ll get to see the all-new 2024 Ford Mustang pacing the pack. Ford completely redesigned the Mustang for 2024 and the debut at the Martinsville race will be the first chance many of us will have to see the new car in action when it debuted as a Pace Car.

Why is the 2024 Ford Mustang the Pace Car?

The 2024 Mustang NASCAR Pace Car in Grabber Blue
The 2024 Mustang Pace Car for the Martinsville race. | Ford

Ford reimagined the2024 Mustang’s purpose, in some ways, with the current generation. It gave the car independent rear suspension and a sporting character that gives it handling prowess on street surfaces, not just the drag strip. For the new car, Ford doubled down. It really wants sports car buyers to look at the new Mustang as more than a car that’s fast in a straight line.

The new 2024 Ford Mustang will also pace races at Talladega, Dover, Darlington, Nashville the Chicago street circuit, and then it heads back to Darlington in September for the Labor Day Weekend races. The new Pace Car duties reflect Ford’s mission to push the Mustang is a car that can handle high-speed corners.

What does a NASCAR Pace Car do?

The Pace Car is critical for keeping the pack of racecars together in NASCAR races. The Pace Car comes out at the beginning of the race and sets the “pace” for the pack around an opening formation lap and then pulls off the track. If there is a wreck or an on-track incident, the Pace Car will come out and lead the pack a few car lengths in front of the lead car. This allows the racers to re-group and find their positions.

Pace cars, however, aren’t that fast. Most pace cars only go 50 to 60 mph on the track, or about one-third the speed of what a racecar would go. Regardless, at those speeds the racers’ cars keep their fluids, like oil and coolant, circulating so they don’t overheat, as they would if they had to sit idling in the pit lane.  

Last year, an all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning paced several NASCAR races.

What’s special about the NASCAR Mustang Pace Car?

Not much is special about the new Pace Car. It’s a 2024 Mustang GT with a lightbar and NASCAR-mandated safety gear, like a fire extinguisher. But that’s about it. The car is painted in Grabber Blue and has some special graphics. The new Coyote V8 engine in the GT now makes 480 horsepower, which should be plenty to keep the NASCAR pack in line.


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