NASCAR has approved all four automakers' new Sprint Cup Series race car designs for next season.
Series officials announced Monday that the new Chevrolet SS, Dodge Charger, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry designs have met the necessary targets for approval based on final aerodynamic tests July 18. Manufacturers can begin making parts and pieces for the new models, which will make their racing debut at Daytona International Speedway next February.
The new cars will bring a significantly different look next season as they are designed to look more like their passenger car counterparts.
"We commend the manufacturers and our team at the R&D center on all the hard work they've put into this new car," said NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton. "With all the designs and surface areas of the car now approved, manufacturers can now move forward with building the components needed to outfit their cars. The wind tunnel testing we've had with the manufacturers over the past several months has given us the timely and necessary data we needed to come to this confirmation. We believe the new car is going to be a milestone opportunity for our sport, one that our fans will embrace."
SRT engineer Howard Comstock, who manages Dodge's NASCAR program, said developing the new cars involved unprecedented collaboration.
"In the beginning, we kind of approached NASCAR and said, it will be better for the manufacturers if we race cars that look more like the products we build," Comstock said. "NASCAR listened to that, and the four manufacturers kind of got together and said we need to make the basic framework of what this car would look like."
Ford Racing director Jamie Allison called it a "monumental moment" for NASCAR.
"The fans have clamored for the return of cars that look like cars in their driveways and NASCAR, alongside us as manufacturers, have listened to that request," Allison said.
Comstock said the new cars share only 10 percent of their body panels in common, a significant change from current Cup cars.
Dodge's long-term future in NASCAR has been subject to speculation after its flagship team, Penske Racing, announced it was moving to Ford next season. But the manufacturer's efforts for 2013 are regarded as positive sign for its continued involvement in the sport.
Will having different designs revive the once-constant lobbying from manufacturers and teams for NASCAR rules tweaks to even out competition?
"I think the tools that we have today for development are so much more sophisticated than we have in the past," Comstock said. "Over this two-year process, we've tried to apply those tools to the design of the car to make sure we come out with a more equally matched car, brand for brand."