When rumors broke last week that NASCAR will be pursuing hybrid technology for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series possibly as early as 2022, another wave of dissension was created among some fans who have grown resistant to change in recent years (despite not changing when what was being tried clearly wasn’t working), while others welcomed it as a sign of NASCAR getting with the times.
Hybrid Engines Will Make NASCAR More Boring
Hybrid engines? Seriously?
My biggest pet peeve with NASCAR over the last decade or so has been its push to have the biggest and best in technology. I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the fans at all. Hybrid engines will affect the sport more than some people think, and it will be for the worse. It will change the noise, the smell and even pit stops and take another element away from the sport.
Some of the technology that NASCAR has instituted over the years has hurt key elements of the sport. For example, NASCAR now allows drivers to see their competitors’ braking points and where each driver picks up the throttle. That may seem like the worst thing NASCAR could do but I believe hybrid engines will hurt the sport worse.
There’s no doubt there are some positives that hybrid engines would bring to the sport but the negative far outweighs the positives. Sure, it may help the environment and it may help save teams money on fuel costs, but how will the engine sound? One of the coolest things about NASCAR is the roar of the engines. So many fans love when a car goes by and when you hear the sound the cars make when they drive by. It’s an incredible rush and an incredible feel. Hybrid engines will change that.
Another neat thing about our current engines is the smell of the fuel. Every year, one of the things I look forward to when I go to the racetrack is the smell of the engines. I can remember going to my first race as a kid in 1993, and that smell was there. There’s nothing else like it. That smell is the same today as it was back then. There’s nothing better. Of all the changes that has happened over the years, the smell has remained the same. Hybrid engines will change that as well.
How about pit stops? Hybrid engines will mean less fuel consumption and in the end that will mean less pit stops. There are some tracks that teams will pit for tires more frequently than others but it will certainly change the strategy of races. For example, since the implementation of stages, sometimes we see teams split stages in half because they can’t run the entire stage on a tank of fuel.
That would change because teams would no longer pit under green and wait for the stage breaks to make their pit stops. Having hybrid engines would mean that green-flag pit stops would almost be nonexistent. It would remove another element of the sport. Teams would only pit when their tires fall off. How does taking strategy away from the sport help its entertainment value? Here’s the answer: it doesn’t.
In the end, hybrid engines will change NASCAR substantially, and it will be a change for the worse. The sounds and smell of the engines will change drastically, and it would change the strategy and pit stops of NASCAR races forever. Hopefully, NASCAR will come to its senses and realize that hybrid engines will just make the sport more boring and duller. In a sport where that has been the reputation for the last decade or so, that can’t be a good thing. – Clayton Caldwell
Putting the “Stock” Back in Stock Car Racing
Usually when there’s a controversial topic swirling in the garage area that we tackle here in 2-Headed Monster, it’s not always a black-and-white, yes-or-no discussion. With some of the radical changes that have happened over the last couple of seasons, coupled with those that are in process over the next few years, there is some definite nuance to staking out a position with many of the issues.
One item that rose to the surface last week was the confirmation from NASCAR that hybrid technology has been given approval to proceed with planning and execution for the 2022 season. This is a bit more clear for me to take a more-than-tacit endorsement of.
I’m all in.
If you’re part of any Reddit or Facebook NASCAR groups or scroll through Twitter, you’ll see the usual knee-jerk negativity that has become the default position of a substantial number of fans lately. “Hybrids in NASCAR? Oh that’s it, I’m done.”
Or my favorite, “Just another nail in the coffin. It’s all about greed!”
What? What does that even mean? Then you’ll see the usual “Return to The Rock and North Wilkesboro!” threads, and it derails from there. Before things go equally astray here, let’s look at why this is a positive thing for NASCAR.
Let’s pump the regenerative brakes for a second and recall what the “SC” in NASCAR represents: Stock Car, i.e. production models competing on the track. Yes, the much-romanticized sport that everyone pisses and moans routinely about having gone away from its roots because they aren’t “stock cars” anymore.
Images of Richard Petty’s Superbird come rushing to mind – the same cars that sat on dealers’ lots well into 1972, some having to be retrofitted with a grille out of a Dodge Coronet and wing removal just to get them the hell out of there. NASCAR isn’t introducing this just to spice things up – it’s what manufacturers are building and have to build to remain competitive in the retail landscape.
Last year, Ford announced that they were ceasing production of every passenger car in the US, with the exception of the Mustang and Focus – both of which are global models. Customer demand has shifted to SUVs and crossovers almost exclusively, while the four-door sedan has been replaced by the crew cab pickup truck as the lease value of choice for millions of buyers each year.
It was also mentioned last year that the next-generation Mustang would feature hybrid technology (battery assist – so it still will feature a gas-powered engine that will provide the majority of the range) in the upcoming S650 refresh due in the next couple of years. Hybrid Camrys have been around since 2006, and the Camaro … well, the rumor is it’s going away again. But with the new Corvette that was discussed so much at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend becoming a mid-engine car, perhaps it can continue to make a case for itself within the Bowtie portfolio.
For the naysayers, it could be worse given current trends. Mustangs, Camaros and Camrys could very well become Equinoxes, Escapes and RAV 4s if the decision was to race what was selling.
This isn’t exactly new technology either; this stuff has been around for neigh on 25 years, an eternity in engineering. Formula One has been using it since 2009 when the KERS systems were first introduced. For a series like NASCAR, whose premier series dropped carburetors in 2012 – despite the last carb-equipped car being produced 24 years earlier in 1988 – people were equally antsy about it for no apparent reason. Some thought it would make traction control easier to sneak in (despite it having already been used by some a decade earlier), but everyone seems to be quite pleased with it almost eight years later.
The sanctioning body and manufacturers have gone to great lengths over the last few seasons to produce cars that are more identifiable with their street-going brethren. For manufacturers to make the business case for continuing to participate in NASCAR, they need something tangible that they can draw a line with connecting what is on track to what is being produced. NASCAR can’t survive as simply a marketing exercise anymore like it did 10 years ago.
Remember when everyone threw their hands up in (justifiable) righteous indignation when the Car Of Tomorrow common-template car came to be? Every car was the same, save for some brand identification stickers, and we are still trying to recover from what resulted.
That said, there’s still a core contingent out there that will find fault with anything new being attempted, despite nothing new being tried for almost 10 years, while attendance, sponsorship and manufacturer involvement was precipitously whittled away. This same bunch will argue that “NASCAR died when Dale did…” (despite the seven years of unprecedented growth that occurred up through 2007), and what is going to be raced isn’t a real stock car. Not like back when Dale drove those rear-wheel drive, V-8-powered 700hp Luminas with a Ford 9-inch rear end that you could buy…
Skeptics, take heart – we’re not racing spaceships yet. We’re still going to be racing cars using technology that’s almost 30 years old. – Vito Pugliese
About the author
Clayton has been writing NASCAR for the last seven years and has followed the sport for as long as he can remember. He's a Jersey boy with dreams of hoping one day to take his style south and adding a different kind of perspective to auto racing.
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