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Makers Predict Hybrids In NASCAR Future

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 17 2018

Future NASCAR vehicles may have hybrid engines under their hoods.(RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – With hybrid passenger cars becoming more popular, executives with the three automotive manufacturers involved in NASCAR said Saturday they envisioned a hybrid-style engine eventually being used in the sport.

However, they admitted they didn’t know when that day would arrive since racing, like the automobile business, was a long-lead business.

“You’ve got to make decisions well in advance when you’re going to implement,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s U.S. vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports.

“We have hybrids around our portfolio around the world, not only with Chevrolet, but our sister divisions, all the way through center-range electrics where we have an electric battery for a certain amount of range and then we have an on-board generator for additional range … and then we have all the way battery electrics. When you think about all that is going on in the auto industry here in the U.S., North America and around the world, that is a discussion point around when do we bring these kinds of advanced propulsion technologies into the mix?”

Mark Rushbrook, Ford Performance’s global director, said the manufacturers work together as partners off the track with NASCAR and their track partners to implement new technologies.

“That is something we always talk about … when is the right time to change the car and to change the power train … there’s definitely some potential for hybrid in the sport,” Rushbrook said.

However, Rushbrook quickly noted that a hybrid wouldn’t work for a race such as the Daytona 500 where the car’s throttle was always wide open. It would be more conducive at the short tracks and road courses.

Ed Laukes, group vice president, marketing for Toyota Motor North America, believes most people would agree that the Prius set the tone for hybrid technology and “the evolution has been growing in very, very different forms relative to the different vehicles that are out there.”

Even though the popular 1960s phrase, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” isn’t prevalent anymore and the cars raced in NASCAR are now a distant cousin to passenger cars, manufacturer and driving championships remain relevant to the automotive industry.

“When you win championships, whether it’s manufacturer, driver, we find that you see a lift in brand opinion,” Campbell said. “We look at about 22 image ratings for Chevrolet every month, and we look at among the NASCAR fans and other fan bases in motorsports and how that compares to general market, and we see a significant lift on many of the image ratings.”

Rushbrook noted that Ford won the IMSA GTLM manufacturer’s championship last month and it allowed the company to connect with its customers, fans and employees.

“It means a lot on a global basis, as well, to compete in these different series and show what we can do with our technical tools and point of employee pride,” Rushbrook said.

Ford and Toyota are currently going head-to-head for the World Rally Championship in Australia.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 17 2018
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