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2012 Focus to Pace NASCAR Race

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author photo by Jeffrey Archer June 2011

The drivers at this week's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race may have to worry about conserving fuel, but the pace car won't. That's because Ford has supplied the race with a 2012 Focus, capable of achieving 40 miles per gallon and 497 miles on a single tank of fuel – more than enough to go the distance at the Helluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 without a pit stop.

The Focus will mark its pace car debut at the race, held at Michigan International Speedway, with a "celebrity" in the driver's seat: Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas. Fields will lead the NASCAR field during caution and warm-up laps, demonstrating to spectators that the 2012 Focus is just as comfortable on the racetrack as a neighborhood street.

"Bringing the 43-car field to the green flag will be an honor, but the real highlight of my day will be showing millions of race fans at MIS and across the country how much fun the new Focus is to drive," said Fields, 50, who formerly headed Mazda. "Focus delivers on high-speed ovals, challenging, twisty roads and everything in between."

Despite the Focus's on-road prowess, Fields will have to keep the hatchback – an SEL model decked out in bright orange with a roof-mounted LED light bar – to a set speed limit. NASCAR says the pace car speed limit is 5 mph higher than the speed limit on pit lane, generally around 45 or 50 mph. That means the Focus will be stuck driving below highway speeds – though the slow pace will allow it to conserve fuel. With an EPA rating of 40 miles per gallon on the highway, Ford figures the Focus could do about 250 laps of track – or about 50 more than the racers will do.

Despite the huge differences between the 2.0-liter four-cylinder-powered Focus and the 5.9-liter V8-powered race cars it will pace, the compact hatchback isn't the smallest car Ford has provided to pace a NASCAR race: a 2011 Fiesta paced last year's Carfax 400, also held at Michigan International Speedway. The automaker's Explorer SUV and sporty Mustang have also set the pace at NASCAR races earlier this year.

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2012 Focus to Pace NASCAR Race - Autotrader