NASCAR at Daytona

Printed on February 14th, 2020 |
by Steve Hanley

February 14th, 2020 by Steve Hanley 

“Issues on this life change very slowly in the event that they ever change in any respect,” the Eagles sang in 1979.  These lyrics completely describe NASCAR racing, which nonetheless treasures its roots within the days of Prohibition when moonshiners risked their lives to outrun Eliot Ness and his income brokers. For many years, NASCAR has remained a rock within the quick flowing stream of technological change, fiercely resisting any modifications that may diminish its attract. No twin overhead camshafts or rack and pinion steering for its vehicles. It stubbornly resisted the adoption of digital gasoline injection till Eight years in the past, many years after it grew to become commonplace on the lowliest household sedans.

NASCAR at Daytona

Picture credit score: NASCAR

Final fall, the game introduced it was contemplating including some type of hybrid expertise to the vehicles, a transfer greeted with hoots of derision from some followers, just like the one who informed a reporter from The Washington Post final week in Daytona to look out on the vehicles within the car parking zone. “You don’t see Toyota Priuses; you see diesels and vehicles. No yuppie millennials which can be fearful concerning the battery pack and gasoline mileage. The individuals who wish to come and watch racing… all probability 90 % are simply common folks.” Common individuals who drive diesel powered pickup vehicles, that’s.

To start with, let’s get one thing straight proper up entrance. NASCAR will not be contemplating the route Method One took a number of years in the past when it made hybrid powertrains with electrical motors and battery packs a central a part of its motorsports bundle. The changeover from screaming 10-cylinder engines to hybrids prompted one distinguished F1 driver to complain the brand new vehicles had been like driving a vacuum cleaner. Many followers agreed.

What NASCAR has in thoughts would make no modifications to the these thundering pushrod V8 engines in any respect. As an alternative, the present pondering is so as to add regenerative braking that will retailer vitality in a battery the place it may very well be used to offer a lift of as much as 100 horsepower at sure occasions throughout a race. The expertise can be ineffective on superspeedways the place drivers maintain their foot to the ground for a complete lap but it surely might play a task at shorter tracks and highway programs the place braking is essential.

Steve Phelps, president of NASCAR, tells The Washington Publish, “The sound of the car goes to stay the identical, for all intents and functions.” However NASCAR has an issue. No sport can thrive in at this time’s ultra-competitive leisure atmosphere with out tv. The variety of folks watching the racing on TV fifteen years in the past averaged 8.four million. At this time it is just 3.Three million. Fewer eyeballs imply much less promoting income, the lifeblood of any sport. Daytona Worldwide Speedway, one of the iconic tracks in NASCAR historical past, eliminated greater than 40,00zero seats not too long ago in a transforming program. Empty seats don’t look good on tv.

However there are different forces at work. The collection is nothing with out the producers who assist it. Toyota made a aware choice twenty years in the past to hitch the NASCAR collection to assist Americanize its model. That was a superb transfer, however like all world producers, Toyota is adjusting its product combine to incorporate extra hybrids. Ford is on the point of introduce its first all electrical SUV, the Mustang Mach E. Common Motors says it’s bringing an electrical pickup truck to market within the subsequent few years.

NASCAR has to adapt to alter or danger turning into irrelevant. Showcasing hybrid expertise might assist entice youthful followers who drive hybrid or electrical vehicles, in the event that they drive in any respect. “These are essential issues for the way forward for our sport,” Phelps says. “We’ve got a mission to get youthful and extra various. It doesn’t imply we’re going to abandon our core followers. We won’t try this.”

David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Growth, tells The Publish, “We’re all invested in these applied sciences from an environmental perspective, so we sat down with NASCAR and mentioned, ‘Why not?’ Why couldn’t we add a type of electrification to the vehicles that we race? At this time, the messaging and the expertise are such you could have your cake and eat it, too. Sure, the hybrid is environment friendly. However your automobile drives higher. It feels extra responsive.”

Mark Rushbrook, world director of Ford Efficiency Motorsports, agrees. “We’ve got to have the flexibility to race what we design and develop and construct after which use motorsports to inform the story to our followers and clients how essential what we study on the racetrack is to make out merchandise for the road higher. If there have been no connection, you’d be racing simply to be racing.” Some followers can be completely content material with that, however with out the assist of producers the game would die. Producers are in enterprise to promote vehicles, not conform to some Golden Age fantasy of what racing was like half a century in the past.

Drivers Weigh In

The Washington Publish spoke to 2 drivers final weekend at Daytona. Ryan Newman has received at Daytona and drives an electrical ATV on his farm, however he stays skeptical of the proposed change. “There’s a level the place you need to say: ‘Pay attention, I do know this isn’t good for our surroundings. However will we sacrifice the standard of our racing to make use of expertise and spend thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of {dollars} to do the identical factor with .001 much less [carbon dioxide] within the air?’ Does that make sense? Since you’re nonetheless going to throw away 1,000,000 plastic bottles this weekend that go into the ocean and find yourself on a Pacific Island the dimensions of Texas.” After all, there isn’t a regulation that claims race followers should depend on single-use beverage containers however that’s one other story.

Kevin Harvick, collection champion in 2014, says he understands the wants of the automobile producers should take precedence, even when it alienates some followers. “Generally you will have a small group of those that make quite a lot of noise. However that small group of individuals wants to know that the way in which the world turns at this time could be very a lot within the path that we’re headed with the vehicles on the racetrack being extra related to what they drive on the road, which is what made this sport nice. Win on Sunday, promote on Monday! That’s the mannequin that constructed NASCAR, and that’s the mannequin that we’re headed to.”

And so it seems electrical motors powered by vitality recaptured throughout braking might make an look within the sport starting in 2021. Will it result in different modifications? Virtually definitely. “It’s a must to crawl earlier than you stroll and stroll earlier than you run,” says Doug Yates, head of Roush Yates Engines, the first provider of Ford engines to NASCAR groups. “This can be a first step in future powertrains. It’s the fitting subsequent step, however it’s a first step.” 

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Tags: automotive technology, hybrid powertrain, NASCAR, regenerative braking

Concerning the Writer

Steve Hanley Steve writes concerning the interface between expertise and sustainability from his houses in Florida and Connecticut or wherever else the Singularity might lead him. You may observe him on Twitter however not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Fb.


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