Tag Archives: Daytona

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Premium

Jet Gray Mustang Mach 1 ready to break the sound, er, speed barrier …

Speed hooked many of us on cars, that raw power to go faster than our brains can barely imagine, or cope with. It’s the reason for racing and racy cars, for high-horse engines, and it’s why NASCAR’s Darrell Waltrip says things like “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity.”

Ford’s Mustang Mach 1 Premium oozes speed, power, grunt and boogity all in a hot fastback design wrapped in a Jet Gray paint scheme with non-glare black hood and side stripes trimmed gloriously in orange.

There’s no way you see this car and don’t immediately think of speed.

Of course that’s what Ford wants. It’s the reason Mustang is the only remaining car in its lineup. Speed sells, and even if we can’t hit its top speed of 168 mph on the highway, buyers want to know they could. Or they want you to know they might.

For my money the looks alone could persuade me to consider a Mustang, but shoehorn in a throbbing 5.0-liter V8 that sounds like it’s ready for Daytona and the Mach 1, which is available in limited quantities for 2021, is a no-brainer.

If you fancy yourself a star-spangled racer wannabe, one that wants to put American metal on the pole or put a whoopin on other makes, the Mach 1 is calling your name.

Watch Mark’s review: Mark Savage reviews 2021 Mustang Mach 1 – YouTube

That V8 pumps out an impressive 480 horses, 20 more than an already muscle-bound Mustang GT and packs parts engineered by Shelby American for its GT350 and GT500 models. This racier Mach 1, a throwback name, takes the place of previous Bullitt and GT350 Mustangs and the GT with Ford’s Performance Pack 2.

At $52,915 it’s a relative bargain for a track-ready racer, and a darn sight easier on the wallet than a full-on serious racer like the GT500 that lists at $71,495. Mach 1 is about $10 grand less than the new Chevy Corvette too.

What do you get for your hard-earned cash?

Mach 1 uses the race-engineered GT350’s subframe for its suspension hookup, retunes the power steering for more precision, uses 6-piston Brembo (orange to match the racing stripe trim) brakes on 15-inch front rotors and 13-inch rear rotors, and has a toggle at the center stack’s base to engage, or switch off, traction control.

There are several steering and drive mode toggles too, including Sport+ and Track, and even a Drag Strip setting if you plan to blast off at your local drag strip. You can engage Line Lock there to spin and warm the tires before a race launch too.

Ford’s MagneRide adaptive suspension helps set the car up for normal city driving, which you’ll likely do mostly, or firm things up for the track. In any case, the Mustang handles quickly and precisely and the 19-inch Michelin ZR Pilot Sport S tires give excellent grip in high-speed turns. It’s easy to set this before hitting an apex and then rocketing straight away with little or no tail wiggle in this rear-drive hot rod.

Amazing too, for a race-oriented model, the Mach 1 rides well on our crumbling southeastern Wisconsin roads. There’s some jiggle to be sure, but no rough or severe jolts. Not all racy coupes can make that claim, even some costing twice as much.

A six-speed TREMEC manual transmission is standard on Mach 1, which would make it more challenging to drive and add to the race car dynamics. But this one featured a slick-shifting 10-speed automatic ($1,595 extra) and the Shelby American folks assured us auto writers at a test session last year that today’s automatics are as quick, or quicker at shifting than anyone but a pro racer, and even better than some of those. With all the city driving most of us do, I’d opt for the automatic.

Orange Brembo calipers look sharp on this gray Tang.

Cool too that the automatic reads your RPM and such to know exactly when to blip the throttle and downshift. Don’t tell your friends it’s an automatic and impress them with your innate racing ability as you brake hard for a turn, downshift, and accelerate away!

Just because performance is king here safety is not ignored. Ford’s Co-Pilot360 safety system is standard including all the usual electronic safety devices we’ve grown to expect. It includes forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beams, and a 360-degree camera. While there is cruise control, it is not adaptive, so a bit of a disappointment.

This Premium model also comes with Sync3, Ford’s fine infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and an 8-inch touchscreen. The system works fine, but this screen looks a tad small compared to other current touchscreens. Many models now offer 10 to 12 inch screens. Also part of the Premium package is FordPass, an app that allows you to start, lock and locate your car via a smart phone.

Mach 1’s cockpit is racy, but comfortable with supportive primo Recaro seats.

Inside the test Mustang was mostly black, the dash and seats being that, but with gray stitching and seat backs feature an orange Mach 1 logo. Cool! Trim is mostly satin chrome, as are buttons and knobs, plus there’s a brushed smoke black insert on the dash. The manual tilt/telescope steering wheel is leather-wrapped.

Seats are Recaro race-oriented numbers that are very comfy and supportive with power controls, mostly. The seat back has a manual handle to adjust angle. Front seats are heated and cooled, three settings each and there are three driver’s seat memory buttons are on the door, all part of an option package.

Sharp looking layout and easy function make up for Ford’s smallish info screen. I like the toggles at the center stack’s base too.

Mach 1 includes a back seat, although that’s deleted from the GT500 to save weight. It’s small and cramped, but could hold a couple foldable friends for short distances.

Mustang’s instrument panel is wide and easy to see, plus changes appearance depending on what drive mode is selected. For instance, the Track mode puts a tachometer bar across the top to show revs. I liked the layout and everything is easy to see and use. Plus the $1,295 Elite package adds a fancy Bang & Olufsen stereo and enhanced security system.

Sadly there’s only a plug-in phone charger outlet, no wireless charging.

Not much says Mustang like three-bar taillights!

The test car added several other packages, including a voice-activated nav system for $595, snazzy painted aluminum wheels for $395 and then the Mach 1 Appearance package that includes those orange brake calipers, orange seat trim, the racy striping and the Jet Fighter gray paint scheme, for $1,000.

A $1,595 Deluxe group adds the driver’s seat memory, aluminum-clad pedals, leather console and premium trim plus the heated and cooled front seats.

All told the Mustang Mach 1 totaled $59,390, but there’s not much more you could, or would, want to add. For serious racers a $3,500 Handling group could make sense. It includes a tire upgrade, front splitter, performance rear spoiler with Gurney flap, fancier wheels, revised chassis tuning and adjustable strut top mounts.

The styling is pure Mustang and even in a closeup the muscle cars looks ready to attack.

As is, the exhaust tone, looks and performance of Mach 1 are exceptional, and all in a car weighing less than 3,850 pounds. Spend more if you like, but Mustang’s Mach 1 has all the boogity most of us can handle!

FAST STATS: 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Premium

Hits: Hot fastback looks, monster power, racy handling, decent ride, substantial safety equipment. Sport+ and Track modes, automatic downshifts, efficient 10-speed tranny, wonderful exhaust tone, comfy supportive sport Recaro seats, heated/cooled seats, easy toggles to adjust steering/drive modes and traction control. Wide instrument panel with various layouts and nice stereo.

The exhaust tone from the dual twin pipes is inspirational!

Misses: No wireless charger, smallish screen and no adaptable cruise control.

Made in: Flat Rock, Mich.

Engine: 5.0-liter V8, 480 hp

Transmission: 6-speed TREMEC manual

Weight: 3,844 lbs.

Wheelbase: 107.1 in.

Length: 188.5 in.

Cargo: 13.5 cu.ft.

MPG: 14/22

MPG: 17.7 (tested)

Base Price: $52,915 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $51,329

Major Options:

10-speed automatic transmission, $1,595

19-inch magnetic-painted aluminum wheels, $395

Voice-activated touchscreen nav system, $595

Mach 1 Elite package (Bang & Olufsen premium stereo, enhanced security system), $1,295

Mach 1 Appearance package (Fighter Jet gray w/matte black strips w/orange trim, orange Brembo brake calipers, seat and interior orange trim), $1,000

Deluxe equipment group (driver’s seat memory, aluminum clad pedals, premium trim and accent group, leather console, heated/cooled front seats), $1,595

Test vehicle: $59,390

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Savage Racing

Running the Milwaukee Mile with the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience

The guttural roar of a stock car engine and the resulting vibration transmitted through the seat of my racing jumpsuit as I approach Turn 1 at the Milwaukee Mile nearly makes me feel as if I’ll pass out.

I feel woozy in a way I’m unfamiliar with. It’s not fear, it’s not noxious fumes. I don’t feel sick, it’s just the rumble that shakes my innards and maybe my brain stem a little that gets my attention. A person needs to pay attention. Some don’t and they tag the wall. One did at my stock car class mid-May.

This is the Rusty Wallace (yes, that Rusty Wallace) Racing Experience (RWRE). It’s a traveling circus of stock and exotic car classes and experiences for would-be racers, but mostly it’s for those of us who have missed our calling, those who WISH we’d have tried our hand at racing super-modifieds, stock cars or even Indy Cars.

The RWRE travels to 80 race tracks across the U.S. and Canada each year, visiting Milwaukee’s famous one-mile oval at State Fair Park twice a year, in May and September. It’s here just one day each time. Pray for no rain.

I drove 12 laps (well 15 really, but more on that later) after my dear family decided it was time for the old guy to bury the pedal on a race track, not the highway, and in a real stock car, not the family Subaru. It was sort of a belated 65th birthday gift after that marker was Covidified a year ago April.

The day was a blast, but not without its challenges.

Pensive racer Savage before slipping behind the wheel.

I was in the 10 a.m. grouping, which meant a 9:30 arrival to sign away my life and those of my loved ones who came to watch. My 12-year-old grandson was hoping I’d crash because that would be “cool.” It wouldn’t!

Participants who arrive a few minutes early get to watch as pro drivers take paying customers on ride-alongs. That allows you to get used to the bark of the two No. 18 M&M paint scheme stockers blasting around the Mile in the good hands of experienced racers. They look, and sound, fast.

Then it’s into the media center for about 45 minutes of class time explaining the intricacies of driving a 1-mile flat oval. It’s trickier than, say, Daytona where the huge banking in the turns makes driving those turns easier in some ways, but not all.

The key here is timing.

Turns at the 118-year-old Milwaukee Mile are flat and treacherous. Keep the inside wheels on the darker pavement!

Accelerate hard down the straights, then let off the throttle just before the sharp barely-banked turns. (The Mile started as a dirt track, being paved in 1954.) The RWRE folks painted big orange rectangles on the track to let drivers know the optimum spot to get off the gas. Thanks!

Then brake hard when entering the turn, slowly letting off the pressure. That sets the car, moving the weight to the front tires so it steers easily through the turn. A bigger (greater inflation) right rear tire also assures the stock car always wants to turn left, even on the straightaways. Let off the brake when nearing the turn’s apex, then get back, gingerly and smoothly, on the throttle. The car will naturally push up toward the outer wall when exiting the turns. Orange and green stripes have been painted at intervals in the turns and on the straights to give you a precise idea of where you should be.

See Mark’s in-car video: Mark drives a stock car at the Milwaukee Mile

At the Milwaukee Mile, the nation’s oldest continuously operating race track (sorry Indy!), right side tires should be on the lighter, older asphalt track in the turns, and the left side tires on the darker apron down low.

Our instructor made sure we knew that, and that when the spotter on the 1-way radio said Lift and Left, we stayed to the left as let off the throttle, another racer was about to pass. Safety first! Don’t worry, the other drivers were gonna get those same instructions once I caught up to them. I got to pass four cars (never more than 6 on the track at once), two in turns. That’s pressure!

Much of the class involved going over the safety issues, such as how to quickly unhook the HANS device that keeps your head and neck safe (pull two release cords attached to the helmet’s sides), how to flip the latch on your tight five-point safety harness, and how to unhook the window’s safety net. Those are the three essential steps to a safe car exit, should, uh, a problem arise.

Oh, and the instructor passed around a steering wheel so we could get the feel of pulling on the center ring at its base to slide it on and off the steering column. You can’t get in or out of the car with the steering wheel attached. It’s that tight of a squeeze!

A few more tips and questions from the 20 or so other would-be drivers and it’s time to suit up. I chose a black jumpsuit, one because it came in short so I’d fit and didn’t have to wad up the legs, and two, the black is much sexier than the red suits. Those look like you’re on the safety crew … not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Next I grab a sanitized helmet (they ran large), and a balaclava to keep my hair out of my face (not really necessary). Then it’s out to the track to stand in line. This is a good time for pictures with the family as they stand with you in the pits (behind a short wall) until it’s your turn to drive.

“Trophy wife” hugs this racer before he risks his life. Yes, the insurance is paid up! Meanwhile the pit crew stands at the ready, anticipating track action.

Then you wait. The Rusty Wallace school here had five or six Nationwide and Cup series cars for drivers, plus the two for its pros to provide high-speed rides. All was well and but my mind starting playing the game of figuring out which car I’d get. I was hoping for the yellow and black Matt Kenseth style No. 17 DeWalt car, he being our home state hero.

It takes at least 10 (often more) minutes to load a driver aboard a racecar, take pictures, strap in, put on the helmet and ear pieces that let a spotter up in the scoring tower talk to you, and then get the HANS device hooked up properly. It takes a little less time when getting out, depending on how big a rush the conditions dictate.

So you wait and watch as this is repeated and you inch ever closer to the front of the line. Some folks trundle by at what appears to be city street speeds. Others hustle up to racier speeds quickly. You can tell visually, but also much by the sound of the racers as they rocket toward Turn 1. Some backfire at lower speeds.

There was one Oops moment this day, but fortunately it wasn’t My moment.

On my Saturday, the day turned from gorgeous warm spring morning to ugly black skies with a strong wind and sliding temperatures. When I was sixth in line to go racing, it started to sprinkle. Figures!

For safety, the racing was yellow flagged, then stopped.

We waited, tried to stay warm and watched the skies that alternated between sunny and demonic black. The track was directly on the edge of a line of storms moving through. Our phones predicted 100% chance of rain, but we caught a break and after 45 minutes were back to the track. But skies were still threatening.

The group ahead of me started slipping into their cars. Second driver out and the yellow light blinks on. The walkie-talkies crackled with the news. He’d hit the wall exiting Turn 2 on his first lap. Wow!

A closer look at the Oops moment experienced by one racer. Advice? Buy the crash insurance!

We waited some more. The skies darkened further.

A tow truck brought his car back. Ouch! Then an emergency vehicle returned the driver to the pits, none the worse for wear physically. Mentally, well? Crashing is the ultimate embarrassment. Folks applauded lightly as he got out and walked through the crowd. I’m not sure if it was because he could walk, or they were just being kind.

Finally, it was nearly my turn. An older gentleman got to go before me because he was tall and fit the next available car. Who knew there were tall and short cars?

Ready to climb aboard, and doesn’t it look like I belong here?

Then the Blue 2, as the pit boss called it, pulled in. This thundering blue and black Dodge Charger in Rusty Wallace livery, complete with his No. 2 all over it, was to be my beast.

Feet first into the window and onto the seat. Sit on the door frame for a couple pictures. This feels natural, like I should have been doing it for years. Slither inside the 500-horsepower racer and strap into my helmet, loosely. The steering wheel is still on the roof as a RWRE worker cinches up my belts and makes sure the HANS is attached. Then he hands me the wheel and I slip it in place. Turn it a couple times to make sure it’s latched. I needn’t have worried, the spotter will ask me to do that again just before heading on to the track.

Fasten that helmet and get the ear phones in there so I can hear the spotter.

Next my crew member hooks up the window net as I fiddle to slide the ear pieces under my helmet so I can hear the spotter. Now I tighten the helmet and flip the Ignition and Start buttons up, giving it a little gas. The Charger’s engine fires. It’s go time.

Well, almost!

Waiting, and waiting, in the pits. Ready to roll!

Now the pit boss, a Hoosier like me, runs through some final instructions to make sure my radio works, the wheel is attached and I understand Lift and Left. A lot of thumbs up here. OK, I pull up behind the car in line before me as it sits in pit lane. Let the clutch out, but keep those revs up. I don’t want to be the driver that kills his engine in the pits.

I sit anxiously behind the earlier driver for a minute or more. He finally pulls into the merge lane that brings a racer out of the pits onto the back straightaway. Then I wait in radio silence. Where’s the spotter? When do I go? Is my radio working? That huge black cloud is moving over Turn 1 now. Is it gonna rain again? Not now, please!

The cockpit is pretty sparse. HANS device laying on the dash now, but will go behind the head and neck soon. Minimal gauges and a bare steering column awaits a wheel.

After a two-minute wait I hear, “You’re good to go.” Finally!

Slip the stocker into first, then quickly to second to get it rolling and assure I won’t stall in front of the crowd, well, mainly the family. It’s easy into third gear and finally fourth as I pull into the racing line on the back straight. I’m done shifting for now, and there are only four gears anyway.

Take it easy the first lap. Feel the car. It’s heavy. Tap the accelerator on the straight, never a turn. Someone had already learned that lesson today. There’s plenty of giddyup. Then let off into the turn and feel the brakes. They are pretty grabby and squeal at low speeds. I’m probably going 40 mph, a low speed.

Out on the front straight for the first time and I can see the grandstands, the pits, the people in the pits. This is the last time I’ll pay any attention to all that until I pull into the pit lane.

I look like I’m nailing the throttle on this lap!

Lap 2 I accelerate a little harder out of the second turn and then hear Lift and Left. The pro driver rockets by on the outside. Next lap I pick up the pace a little more. Maybe I’m going 60 now. There’s no speedometer in the car, just a tachometer and I’m not really watching it. I’m keeping my eyes on the track. The instructor told us to look where we want to go, never at the wall or you’ll hit it. She told us of a shy driver doing about 30 mph that tapped the wall after being told the session was over because he looked at the wall. Really?

Several laps in now and starting to get the feel, but a yellow light. Shoot, is it raining on the track? I have no moisture on my windshield. Hmm, no rain, no cars stalled. Three laps later it’s green and I’m back in the groove. I pass a car in Turn 3 with the spotter assuring me, “You’re much faster, just go around.” Of course the outside lane in a turn is much closer to the cement wall. I know what it can do to a car. I’ve seen that already today and even though I took out the crash insurance ($75), I don’t want to shell out the $1,000 deductible.

Pass complete, I race down the front straight. A few laps later I catch another car going into Turn 1. Again the spotter advises the high line. I get by as I exit onto the back straight. Still feeling a little iffy in that high groove, but now I’m a racer, I’m passing folks, possibly the older gentleman (he was 80), but still!

Eventually it’s time to pit and let someone else fulfill a dream!

A few more laps and I’m holding the throttle down all the way to the cutoff point, doing heavier braking and feeling that my timing is at least acceptable now. I pass another car as I come out of Turn 4 on the main straight. Did “everybody” see that? What a move!

Just a couple more laps and I was feeling like the revs, the sounds, the roar and the shudder of the steel on jig-built chassis stock car was about to make me pass out. Darn it, this was my chance to shine, but the final lap I took it a little easier, just one last full throttle shot down the back straight before entering the pits.

Easy, really, except that while I was hitting maybe 100 on the straights and averaging about 70 mph on the track, the pros do it much quicker. RWRE doesn’t provide times, but my pit crew said I got better as I went and did 52 second laps, about 70 mph. The lap record is 185 mph or 20 seconds, but that was in an open-wheel Indycar back in 1998. I don’t see how.

Not a bad run for a semi-old-timer with a heavy right foot.

As I climbed from the car, first the window net down, then the wheel off, then release the HANS device, then the belts, then take that now hot helmet off my head. Pull my feet up into the seat and push myself out the window. Ah, fresh air, and a wave to my “fans” before reuniting with the family and taking my place on the victory podium. No autographs please!

That yellow? My brother-in-law and favorite pro photographer had snuck down to the first turn to get some photos of me lapping at speed. The RWRE folks didn’t care for that, so asked him to move and threw the yellow until he was back in the pits.

Everyone’s a winner at the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience!

Hey, but that got me a few extra laps on a track that I’ve known about since I was a kid, worshiping the likes of Tony Bettenhausen, A.J. Foyt, Roger Ward, Jim Clark, Bobby Unser, and my hero Jim Hurtubise. Herk was seriously burned here in a 1964 Turn 4 accident, but came back to race for years after that. That’s what heroes do.

Dreams do come true and Rusty Wallace, the 1989 NASCAR Champion, knows how to make that happen. It’s an experience I’ll cherish until I can’t crawl into or out of a race car anymore. But I’ve seen that it can still be done, even when that racer is 80!

Photos: Patrick McSweeney

2020 Dodge Durango SRT 392

Durango SRT rocks the SUV world …

Dodge’s Durango SRT is the truck version of a NASCAR stocker.

SRT is all about power, muscle and grunt with an engine grumble that sounds like a stock car ready to bust out of the pits and head up the banking at Daytona. Otherwise, it’s a fine, luxurious mid-size SUV that will haul a family, or a load of friends in comfort all the while satisfying their need for speed.

How so? Continue reading 2020 Dodge Durango SRT 392

2013 Dodge Charger R/T Daytona

Muscular Charger R/T Daytona offers kick-ass HEMI powerCharger1

Gone are the days of the crude old muscle cars that were horsepower heavy hogs good only for drag racing in a straight line.

Welcome the new muscle car generation, summed up nicely by Dodge’s Charger, now a distinctly muscular looking four-door sedan, but with a hefty HEMI V8 tucked under its creased and nearly bulging hood. Charger seats four adults comfortably, has a big trunk and all the bells and whistles you’d expect on a luxury car.

Oh, it still is rear-wheel drive, and it’ll still accelerate like a moped with a rocket strapped to its back. Yet its interior is a mix of racy and comfy. This is a muscle car for the high-tech family that has a bit of an attitude, and a love of speed, and tradition.

Charger comes in seven trims, from the base SE at $25,995 all the way up to the SRT8 Superbee and SRT RWD, both in the mid-$40 grand range. My test car was the R/T, or Road and Track model ($29,995 base), bathed in a bright Daytona blue paint job and featuring black Daytona labeling on the rear quarter panel, and a black rear spoiler. Yes, it looked fast! Continue reading 2013 Dodge Charger R/T Daytona