From the time people began racing automobiles against one another, the very crux of auto racing has been the internal combustion engine and the fuels it runs on. But as automotive technology has advanced to the point where cars no longer rely solely on finite natural resources, auto racing has slowly begun to follow suit. And NASCAR is no exception.
According to a report by Adam Stern of Sports Business Journal, NASCAR is exploring the concept of starting an all-electric racing series in the coming years. The all-electric series, should it come into existence, would operate as a companion to the NASCAR Cup Series.
The prospect of electrification has dawned increasingly greater on motorsports over the past several years, with some electric racing series -- most notably Formula E -- beginning to gain a foothold. As stock car racing has looked towards future power models, NASCAR President Steve Phelps stated in February that while he did not anticipate stock car racing going fully electric, he would be "surprised" if a new manufacturer entered the sport without some sort of electrification and hinted at some sort of electric series.
"I don't foresee a time in the future where we would go, with all of our series, to an all electric. I don't see that," Phelps said in a February press conference. "Could we have an exhibition series potentially? We could. That would be something that we might explore."
As noted in a story by Matt Weaver of Autoweek, hybridization and electric elements are likely in NASCAR's future as stock car racing follows trends in overall automotive technology, which have placed a premium on such elements as opposed to the classic pursuit of building engines capable of producing as much horsepower and RPM as mechanically possible. While such an idea may make automotive traditionalists cringe, some form of hybrid technology is likely to come in the years following the introduction of NASCAR's Next Gen car in 2022.
In a recent conversation with CBS Sports, Cup Series star Brad Keselowski stated that he believed there was merit to the introduction of different power models despite the internal combustion engine remaining an integral and necessary part of automotive technology.
"There's still a lot of people that need your traditional gas engine, your traditional internal combustion engine," Keselowski said. "... I would have to think that we're gonna see that in NASCAR over the next decade or two where we'll start to see hybrids. Where we'll have a 550 (horsepower) engine with some kind of power recovery unit or hybrid system to take advantage of its full capabilities at more limited times."
In the past, NASCAR has sanctioned racing series that take advantage of alternate automotive technologies: The old NASCAR Goody's Dash Series, for instance, which used four-cylinder and V6 motors in place of a V8 engine.