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Camaro ZL1 Ups the Ante in Ford-Chevy NASCAR Wars

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Rivalries are the lifeblood of all sports, and the more heated, the more passionate, the angrier, the better.

Think Duke-North Carolina.

Think Dodgers-Giants.

Think Alabama-Auburn.

Think Cowboys-Redskins.

These fans loathe each other. It isn’t just dislike, it’s I’d-disown-my-own-kid-if-they-married-one-of-those-fans rage. And all that bile and all that disgust and all that hatred is a beautiful thing, because it engages fans and gets them fired up.

Now, think about the long history of NASCAR and some of the rivalries we’ve seen over the years. There have been some titanic rivalries over the years in stock-car racing.

Petty vs. Pearson.

Waltrip vs. Yarborough.

Earnhardt vs. Gordon.

Bobby Allison vs. the world.

But I would humbly submit that the most intense rivalry in the entire history of NASCAR is Chevrolet fans vs. Ford fans. The Bowtie Brigade and the Blue Oval Boys despise each other with rage and passion. They own t-shirts with cartoon characters peeing on each other’s cars.

And within that group exists a subset who might be even more fired up: owners of Ford Mustangs vs. owners of Chevrolet Camaros. If you don’t believe me, try reading Camaro6 or Mustang6g and check out the ill will each side has towards the other. It’s ugly and it’s personal.

I mention this now, because on Thursday, Chevrolet dropped a huge bombshell: Next year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Chevrolet will race the Camaro ZL1.

The production ZL1 is a weapons-grade supercar, producing 650 horsepower, with o-60 miles per hour acceleration of 3.5 seconds, and a quarter-mile taking just 11.4 seconds. This is a seriously bad-ass muscle car that along with the Corvette represents that best Chevrolet has to offer in terms of technology and performance.

And the Cup version Chevy unveiled Thursday is just stunning. It looks fast sitting still.

As for Ford, well, in the Cup series, they race the Fusion, a sensible, practical, four-door, front-wheel drive car that’s available as a hybrid.

Doesn’t seem like a very good matchup, does it?

On the other hand, Ford does have its own ZL1 fighter, based on the Mustang. It’s called the Shelby GT350 and is a tremendous high-performance car — fast, agile and sexy as hell.

You get where I’m going with this, right?

If you want fans to be fired up about Ford vs. Chevy in NASCAR, the battle ought to be ZL1 vs. Shelby GT350, not ZL1 vs. Fusion. It would be a home run for NASCAR to have these two high-performance halo cars battling each other and Toyota on track every week.

Will it happen?

I asked a buddy at Ford Thursday night and the response I got was “As of now we’re sticking with Fusion.”

As of now.

My fervent hope is that by 2019, it’s Shelby GT350 vs. Camaro ZL1.

That’s a rivalry NASCAR fans could get real, real excited about. It would be good for the fans, good for NASCAR, good for Ford and good for Chevrolet.

And boy, would it be fun.

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Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with FOXSports.com, where he was Digital Content Manager. Previously, he was executive editor of NASCAR Scene and managing editor of National Speed Sport News. Jensen served as the president of the National Motorsports Press Association and is the group’s former Writer of the Year.