AVONDALE, Ariz. -- After a mediocre NASCAR season with its current Mustang, Ford Performance said Wednesday it will use its top-of-the-line Dark Horse in the Cup Series next year.
The Dark Horse is considered the blue-ribbon model of the Mustang lineup, with a starting price tag for consumers close to $60,000.
Joey Logano won the Cup title last year in the Mustang and Ryan Blaney will be in a Ford on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway when he challenges for the championship in the final race for the current model. The Dark Horse will make its NASCAR debut in the February exhibition opener at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Ford has won just eight of 35 races in the current Mustang this season, and although Ford qualified six drivers for the 16-driver playoff field, defending champion Logano and Kevin Harvick were eliminated in the first round and top team Stewart-Haas Racing is winless this season.
"We think we've got a great road car lineup with the Mustang, but also took the decision to commit to a seventh-generation Mustang on the road and also race it around the world," said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports. "Now to be on the cusp of showing the new Mustang Dark Horse for NASCAR Cup racing is exciting, and we want to compete and win around the world with Mustang and most of the versions around the world are the Dark Horse."
The Mustang will be eligible to race on six continents next season, from Bathurst to Le Mans and Daytona to Silverstone.
The Dark Horse was unveiled just over a year ago as the first new performance nameplate for Mustang since 2001. It is the most track-capable 5.0-liter V8 street-legal Mustang ever and was the inspiration for the Mustangs racing this year in Australia and the Formula Drift series.
The Dark Horse will be eligible to compete in GT3 and GT4 classes globally next year, and the Dark Horse R will compete in the Mustang Challenge Series and many grassroots racing events.
"If she gallops as fast as she looks, it's going to be a good year," said Brad Keselowski, driver and co-owner of RFK Racing. "Mustang is an iconic American car made famous around the world. I think of how Mustang has evolved over the years and how NASCAR has evolved along with it and they're just two brands that go together. I'm proud to get to drive it and proud to be able to compete for the win in this car."
The Mustang has competed in NASCAR since it entered Xfinity Series competition in 2011. The Mustang has won a driver's or owner's championship in nine of 12 Xfinity Series seasons. Ford won the Xfinity manufacturer's titles in 2011 and 2013.
The Mustang entered Cup in 2019, and in 2021, when NASCAR introduced the Next Gen car, Ford's design was widely regarded as the sleekest of the muscle cars. The current Mustang has won a manufacturer's championship, a series-best 18 races in 2020 and a driver's championship with Logano in 2022.
The Mustang has twice won the Daytona 500 and has wins in the Southern 500 and Brickyard 400. It also won the inaugural Clash at the Coliseum in the debut of the current Next Gen era.