Kevin Harvick at Kansas Speedway (photo), the production Ford Fusion (pasted image).
Photo: Brian Lawdermilk (Getty Images), Ford

The newest racing rendition of the Toyota Supra, which we still haven’t seen a street version of yet, by the way, debuted last week. It’ll head to the second-tier NASCAR Xfinity Series next year, trading the Supra’s drag-racing roots and historically customizable inline-six engine for the land of the screaming V8s.

But despite looking like a cat trying to squeeze into a glass jar because the shape of the Supra and the NASCAR body template aren’t at all alike, the Supra is one of the more fitting choices for a NASCAR race car in recent history. It has racing roots, at least, and its street version isn’t known to be a low-horsepower, front-wheel-drive family sedan—something that can’t be said about at least a few of the current NASCAR entries.

Most of the current NASCAR race cars aren’t remotely close to their production counterparts, which is the case in plenty of racing series—Honda and Chevrolet run open wheel in IndyCar, and fifth place in the NHRA Funny Car standings right now is a Toyota Camry.

Aside from the other major changes that differentiate a NASCAR race car from its road-going counterpart—the slick tires, the six-point harnesses and other racing modifications, and the fact that top-level Cup Series cars only switched from carburetors to electronic fuel injection in 2012—there are fundamental differences between the layouts of NASCAR cars and the road cars they portray. NASCAR runs high-horsepower rear-wheel drive cars with V8s and four-speed manual transmissions, while the road versions of those cars, for the most part, aren’t nearly that wild.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars are typically in the 800-HP range, with Toyota saying in 2017 that its 5.9-liter V8 in the NASCAR Camry made 725 HP. Roush Yates claims its Ford NASCAR engines can make more than 800 HP in a given race. All NASCAR race cars are RWD and manual, despite neither being an option on the Camry or Fusion road cars. A manual most likely won’t exist on the fifth-generation Supra, either.

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Chevrolet’s one carmaker that’s had the street-to-NASCAR-track transition down in recent years, replacing the Impala with the high-power, RWD Chevrolet SS in 2013. Chevy discontinued the SS after 2017, and its NASCAR replacement was the Camaro ZL1 trim that makes 650 HP on the streets. Ford’s catching on, too, with the Mustang heading to the Cup Series in 2019 thanks to Ford phasing out the Fusion (and all of its other cars).

But for the sake of comparisons, here’s what we’re working with for NASCAR:

  • V8 engine with ~800 HP (less for the second-tier Xfinity Series)
  • Four-speed manual transmission
  • Rear-wheel-drive layout

And here’s what those same cars are working with on the road:

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If we’re honest, Ford would probably sell more Fusions if they were all RWD and had V8 engines. It’s a classy-looking car for sick burnouts.

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Missed opportunity, that one.