It’s been 50 years since the first-generation Ford Mustang, the vehicle that basically created the pony car class, debuted at the New York World’s Fair. This year, after five generations and even more stylistic changes, a new chapter beings for America’s iconic muscle car. One that comes with many new features, including an independent rear suspension, a new platform, and a brand-new design that still echoes its primordial ancestor.

As the Mustang’s 50th anniversary celebrations continue in Michigan, Ford is sending its brand-new, 2015 model year muscle car to lead the field at the Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on June 15th.

Ford’s vehicle of choice is a GT model, which is powered by a 5.0-liter V-8 engine that sends at least 420 horsepower and more than 390 pound-feet of torque to the pavement and wears a Race Red suit. A set of special NASCAR decals and the mandatory strobe lights will help change its standard appearance and keep drivers on their toes whenever the yellow flag is out.

Besides the NASCAR logos and the Quicken Loans 400 emblems, the Mustang pace car is also adorned by a couple of "50 Years" decals slapped right above the rear wheels and Shelby-style white stripes. Driving the vehicle around the Michigan International Speedway will be Ford Motor Company president Joe Hinrichs.

The Quicken Loans 400 is the 15th event of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and will commence with veteran Jeff Gordon leading the drivers’ championship.

Interestingly enough, Ford never raced a Mustang-themed car in the Sprint Cup Series, although the 1969 Boss 429 helped homologate the 7.0-liter, Semi-Hemi V-8 for the Torino Talladega, that went on to win the 1969 season with David Pearson behind the wheel.

Click past the jump to read more about the standard Ford Mustang.

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Ford Mustang Pace Car History

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The Ford Mustang has a rich pace car history attached to its name. The pony paced the iconic Indy 500 race as early as 1964, when three 1964-1/2 convertible models had been prepped for track duty by having Holman-Moody-built 5.0-liter V-8 engines mounted under their hoods. The Mustang returned to the Indy 500 with the third-generation model in 1979, and once again in 1994, when a highly modified Cobra showed up to take care of the yellow flags.

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The pace cars made such a big impact on the track that Ford eventually decided to build limited-edition replicas after each race, selling as many as 10,000 in 1979 and 5,000 in 1994.

More recently, Ford returned to pacing duties with the fifth-generation Mustang, a model that got to lead more packs than its predecessors. In 2010, for instance, the muscle car was dressed in a Hurst suit and sent out on the Miller Motorsports Park for the Ford Racing Mustang Challenge. A rather awkward appearance for the pony considering Hursts’ traditional link to General Motors and Chrysler products.

2010 was another big year for the Mustang. A red-painted GT model acted as a pace car for the Daytona 500, marking the company’s return to the famed event after 40 years. The following season saw another Mustang lead the pack, this time at the Kentucky Speedway. For this race, Ford prepped a white GT Convertible adorned by red and blue stripes. Naturally, the unique ride became a production model limited to only 43 units.

2015 Ford Mustang

2015 Ford Mustang High Resolution Exterior
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Set to go on sale in the fourth quarter of 2014, the 2015 Ford Mustang will greet its customers with independent rear suspension (a first for the muscle car), a revised front suspension, and an array of new technologies and features. Unlike its predecessors, the sixth-generation pony will go global, looking to attract more buyers by means of a new, efficient 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine. Besides the four-banger, the 2015 Mustang will also be available with a 5.0-liter V-8 and a 3.7-liter V-6, although the latter will remain an entry-level choice in the United States only.

Press Release

In a fitting tribute to the continuing 50-year celebration of the iconic pony car, the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang is about to make its pace car debut at Michigan International Speedway. A Mustang GT fastback will lead the field to the green flag for the Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race June 15.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford Motor Company president of The Americas, will drive the Race Red fastback equipped with 5.0-liter Ti-VCT V8 engine around the track in Brooklyn, Michigan.

Built in nearby Flat Rock, Michigan, Mustang is all-new from the ground up. This sixth-generation, rear-wheel-drive car has the long hood and short rear decklid proportions of its most iconic predecessors, as well as that low, wide stance, but its design is very much 21st century, with state-of-the-art engineering and technology.

“Ford is very proud to have the 2015 Mustang GT pace the Quicken Loans 400 this Sunday,” Chantel Lenard, director, U.S. Marketing, Ford Motor Company. “With its proximity to the Motor City, Michigan International Speedway is a showcase for the auto industry. To have Mustang – a brand born of racing – in this special anniversary year, leading some of the world’s best drivers to the green flag, is special. We know our fans will enjoy seeing it out on the track.”

Among the many new features on the 2015 Mustang GT is an independent rear suspension engineered specifically for this new platform and car. It also features an all-new state-of-the-art front suspension.

Mustang GT’s 5.0-liter Ti-VCT V8 engine generates more than 420 horsepower and more than 390 lb.-ft. of torque. Two other engines – a 3.7-liter V6 and 2.3-liter EcoBoost® – will also be available when the car hits showrooms later this year.

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