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VOL. 46 | NO. 18 | Friday, May 6, 2022

Days of whisper: NASCAR, Indy join EV push

By Tom Wood

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NASCAR plans to introduce hybrid powertrains in 2024, joining Formula One and IndyCar.

-- Photograph Provided

When – not if – NASCAR and the NTT IndyCar Series enter the electric era of motorsports racing, will the traditional race command be replaced by “start your motors”?

Better yet, try to imagine NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip shouting, “boogity, boogity, boogity … let’s go green, boys,” to start a Cup race.

The electrification of the two major American motorsports organizations is inevitable, and both appear to be amping up preparations for their own E-series — much like FIA’s Formula 1 international racing series did in 2014 when it successfully launched its Formula E series.

NASCAR’s new chief operating officer, Steve O’Donnell, recently said his organization is exploring an all-electric exhibition series but didn’t give a timetable.

“We’re looking to stay in step with the way our world is moving and the auto industry is moving. And there are couple of ways that we’re doing that,” says Erik Moses, president of Nashville Superspeedway, which will host NASCAR’s Ally 400 Cup series race June 26.

“From a sports standpoint, I think NASCAR will be looking at every opportunity to make certain that we’re in lockstep with what our fans want to see, with what our industry partners are doing, so that we can hopefully bring those two things together. We want to make certain our industry partners are happy who are ultimately trying to sell cars and that our fans are happy who want to see really great racing.”

Moses says both he personally and the superspeedway are transitioning to the EV era.

“There is quite a bit of activity around the auto industry in this state. I would imagine that we will see – especially now, given what’s happening with gas prices and the conflict (between) Russia and Ukraine – that there’s going to be more of a push nationally, I would think, for us to start to make that transition to EV,” Moses says.

“I am waiting on my EV (a Ford Mustang Mach E) to be delivered, so that maybe I should stop showing up at the pump and spending all my money to fill up my car right now,” he adds with a laugh.

“I think that we will end up having charging stations at the track for our patrons and others who drive EVs to the track. We want to be able to accommodate them, obviously, and then we can get something like that that could be useful not only for our patrons, but also potentially just to use the superspeedway as a place where the travelers and those who are visiting Middle Tennessee are able to recharge their electric vehicles.”

IndyCar’s green initiatives have been marked by stops and starts.

Three years ago, IndyCar announced it would debut its hybrid technology engine for the 2022 season. But in March, officials blamed global supply chain issues for a delay until 2024.

IndyCar recently unveiled plans to go green this year, beginning with the Indianapolis 500. Electric vehicles will be used to deliver all tires to the famed Indy track. That initiative also will impact the Aug. 7 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.

A Firestone press release stated that its Firehawk guayule race tire will be used during Indy’s Carb Day pit stop challenge and will also serve as the alternate tire for the Nashville race. The tire is described as having “new sustainable natural rubber derived from guayule, a desert shrub grown in the American Southwest.”

“We are proud to support our partners at IndyCar and Firestone with their various environmentally sustainable initiatives for the NTT IndyCar Series,” Music City Grand Prix president Chris Parker says.

“Given that Nashville is the corporate home of Firestone, we particularly embrace the company’s innovation with the Firestone Firehawk guayule tire and having its competition debut come at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in August as the event’s alternate race tire.”

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