With automotive firms more and more distancing themselves from inner combustion engines in favour of hybrid or fully-electric powertrains, NASCAR has discovered itself in a quandary over its use of V8 engines whereas attempting to keep up relevance to potential new OEMs (unique gear producers) coming into the sequence.
Since Dodge withdrew from Cup on the finish of the 2012 season, discussions with potential new manufacturers to join Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota have been commonplace, however such talks haven’t led to any firm committing to enter the sequence.
“I might be stunned if a brand new OEM got here in with out some form of electrification, and I’m not speaking about all electrical, I’m speaking a few hybrid system,” Phelps defined forward of this weekend’s season-opening Daytona 500. “It’s clearly one thing we’re exploring proper now with our present three OEMs. The query is what’s it, and what’s the timing of it?
“I don’t have both of these solutions at this level, though [senior vice president of racing innovation] John Probst and [chief racing development officer] Steve O’Donnell plus the OEMs and our engine-builders are all engaged on that proper now.
“I don’t foresee a time sooner or later the place we might go to – all of our sequence – would go to all-electric, I don’t see that. Might we’ve got an exhibition sequence doubtlessly? We may. And that may be one thing that we’d discover.”
Phelps additionally believes that NASCAR is now “in a greater place” to draw new producers, believing that this was not the case within the current previous.
“I consider new OEMs and the relevance of this sport, and the place this sport now ranks when it comes to the sports activities leisure panorama, it’s simply so completely different from the place it was a yr in the past, two years in the past, three years in the past,” he mentioned. “With that, in addition to the Subsequent Gen automobile popping out subsequent yr, I feel there’s going to be some renewed curiosity from an OEM perspective.”
He additionally added that the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t hit automobile producers fairly as onerous as they’d initially feared.
“I feel all of the OEMs final yr have been type of in survival mode and attempting to determine how they offered numerous vehicles, nevertheless it was a troublesome interval for them,” he mentioned. “They most likely did higher than they thought they have been going to do when COVID began, and that half is rewarding, however as issues get again to regular, we’ll proceed to ramp up our discussions with OEMs.”
Chris Buescher drives the NASCAR Subsequent gen automobile
Picture by: NASCAR Media
Because the automotive and world financial system takes time to recuperate from the impression of the pandemic, lowering prices might be an essential issue for any producer embarking on a brand new racing programme, with Phelps of the opinion that the Gen-7 Cup automobile in growth might be a optimistic in the long term for the sequence.
“There are a lot of issues that Subsequent Gen will do for us as a sport when it rolls out in 2022,” he defined. “The styling goes to be superb. I feel the racing goes to be higher based mostly on the aerodynamics of the automobile, the prices related to the automobile might be decrease when it comes to its absolute prices in addition to the numbers of vehicles it is going to be essential to run and run up entrance.
“These are all wins for us. One of many issues that I challenged the business to do was to proceed to maneuver as one firm, one entity with one voice and the business is doing that.
“Racetracks that we’ve got invited [for discussions] that aren’t our racetracks, the connection we’ve got with our groups, our OEMs, our broadcast companions, it simply has by no means been higher. The belief exists at this time versus the place we have been two years in the past, three years in the past it was in a really completely different place.
“The momentum type of feeds on itself.”