It’s no secret that NASCAR is looking to attract new, younger fans to the sport and also get former fans to return to the couch on Sundays to watch some racing. It has implemented things like stage racing and the playoffs in an attempt to make the on-screen product more entertaining.
The series is also looking to appease manufacturers with its seventh-generation car, which will debut for the 2021 racing season. The next-gen car will enable manufacturers to design bodies that will better represent the production cars they are inspired by and will also allow for more tech transfer between the track and the street thanks to things like larger wheels with lower-profile tires.
However, manufacturers may also be pushing for the race series to implement some form of hybrid technology, with NASCAR’s Senior Vice President for Innovation and Racing Development, John Probst, telling TechCrunch they may implement electrification systems from the 2022 racing season onward.
“We travel the world visiting other sanctioning bodies and are not ignorant to the fact that the world’s going towards more hybrid technology,” Probst said. “We’re pushing to go full hybrid. I don’t know where the balance nets out for us long-term, but some form of hybrid technology is certainly on our radar… after 2021.”
Probst explained that hybrid technology won’t be on the next-generation car when it makes its on-track debut in 2021, as it would be too complicated to make so many changes all at once. Instead, it will arrive for 2022, or perhaps later. He also said that “nothing is confirmed until it hits the race track,” so it sounds as though discussions regarding hybridization within NASCAR are still in their early stages.
The hybrid systems will likely first appear on short-track and road-course cars, as tracks like these require braking. Hybrid and electric vehicles typically use regenerative braking to recharge their batteries, so having such a system on a full-throttle track like Daytona may be more complicated. Probst said he believes there are “some deployment options for intermediates and our speedways that can be explored,” although they may take a little longer to develop.
“Braking is typically used as a mechanism to get the power back into the batteries. As far as when you actually apply the power. I think that’s what we need to study… and work through with our OEMs on how it’s deployed,” he told the publication.
Probst then went on to explain that hybrid tech could be used on superspeedways or intermediate tracks to provide a temporary boost in power—sort of like IndyCar’s push-to-pass system. IndyCar doesn’t use hybrid tech to implement push-to-pass, however, instead giving drivers a temporary boost in turbocharger pressure when they hit a button on their steering wheel.
The OEMs involved in NASCAR (Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford) may be pushing NASCAR to introduce hybrid technology as they begin to roll out more hybrid and electric road cars. Ford Performance’s NASCAR supervisor Pat DiMarco said that “NASCAR looking at a hybrid for the future is of interest to us,” so the rollout of the technology in the series may help keep manufacturers interested in the sport for the future.
Team Penske/Ford driver Brad Keselowski said he was a “big fan” of the idea as well, so the introduction of hybrid cars in NASCAR truly does seem like a question of when, more than if.