Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: Would an Electric Vehicle Event Help NASCAR Grow?

NASCAR is considering an electric vehicle exhibition event as soon as 2024. Would an event help the sport grow?

Stephen Stumpf: It’s a double-edged sword. The manufacturers would likely enjoy an electric exhibition because they are making the first steps toward an electric car future. Such an event may also draw new fans that otherwise wouldn’t have watched.

But at the same time, would NASCAR’s current viewers like it? It would certainly draw mixed reviews when considering that the roar of the engines is a big part of the draw, especially for people that attend in person. But to do an electric race as an exhibition? I feel that it’s certainly worth a try.

Mark Kristl: I’d support the notion of a hybrid racecar, especially if it becomes more cost-effective and energy-efficient. As far as a full-on electric vehicle event, though, NASCAR fans like to hear the roar of the engine. So it might be a nice conversation topic, but any new fans of that event wouldn’t likely tune in to watch current NASCAR races.

Andrew Stoddard: This is the right move for the sport in the long term. While there will always be a place for internal combustion engines in NASCAR’s top series, an electric car series similar to that of Formula E will help bring a new set of eyes to the sport. It will also be a good PR move for NASCAR with the increased environmental awareness in the general population.

Joy Tomlinson: It wouldn’t help it grow but it would help NASCAR to explore the environmental-friendly forms of racing. With California set to sell zero-emissions/electric vehicles only by 2035, it might help NASCAR get a leg up on what’s to come in the future, especially if it wants to continue racing in California. Obviously, there’s still a long way to go for an electric NASCAR race, but it’s a start.

Wyatt Watson: NASCAR doing an electric vehicle exhibition would certainly grow the sport; however, in the wrong direction. Fans from across the country go to the track to see loud, high-powered machines rev around for hundreds of laps. Taking away the thrill of those engines would be appalling. The roar of the engines is an aesthetic that should most certainly not be changed in NASCAR.

Mike Neff: Eh, maybe. The world is moving to EVs and the sport will eventually have to adopt them. A hybrid vehicle is not far off, but a full EV is going to be tough. The sights and sounds are a big part of racing. EVs don’t make noise. It will be a conversation starter but not sure how long the talk will last.

Did NASCAR fairly penalize Hendrick Motorsports and Kaulig Racing for its confiscated louvers?

Stoddard: NASCAR got this one right. For a frame of reference to this week’s penalties, we can look back to Brad Keselowski’s penalty last season for modifying a single-source part. When that penalty was assessed following last season’s first Atlanta Motor Speedway race, Keselowski was docked 100 driver points and 10 playoff points, plus NASCAR levied a $100,000 fine to crew chief Matt McCall and suspended him for the next four races.

The severity of that punishment aligns with the penalties given to the Hendrick teams and the Kaulig No. 31 team this week. NASCAR’s officiating has been spotty at times in recent years, but they were consistent this time.

Tomlinson: Yes. NASCAR didn’t exactly say what was wrong with the louvers but it doesn’t allow for unapproved modifications of single-sourced supplied parts. It must’ve found something that was changed on the louvers, which resulted in the penalties. The same outcome has happened before for similar infractions.

Last year, Michael McDowell and Keselowski incurred the same punishments that Hendrick and the No. 31 Kaulig teams have. So it’s not like there isn’t precedent for the penalties. It seemed harsh then and it still does now, but it does tell teams that NASCAR means business.

Watson: I consider the penalties 100% fair. I applaud NASCAR for staying consistent and ultimately fair in its penalty toward Hendrick. Just as they levied two L-2 penalties to RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports last year, they taxed all four Hendrick cars and the No. 31 from Kaulig with the same penalty (with, of course, the exception of the injured Chase Elliott). Although I believe the penalty system that NASCAR has in place currently is too harsh on teams, I commend NASCAR for following through with enforcing the penalties.

Chris Skala: It is 100% fair. NASCAR said from the start, if you modify a body part, you will pay. Since the release of the car in 2022, NASCAR has been consistent with this penalty, which I applaud. What you have to watch out for is, did these teams make this obvious, to hide something else? I think this penalty is too big of a risk. But with the elimination of the top-30 rule, all you need is one win.

Zach Gillispie: Mess with the bull, you get the horns. It’s pretty simple logic. Hendrick messed with the bull and got NASCAR’s horns. What more do you want?

Neff: Yep, rules are rules with this new car. You cannot modify parts, period. Parts were modified so you get fined and suspended. End of story.

See also
2-Headed Monster: Was The 'Fail Melon' Justified or Worthy of a Penalty?

Can William Byron win three NASCAR Cup Series races in a row? Would that establish him as the top driver at Hendrick Motorsports in 2023?

Skala: He could, but I doubt it. With the penalty, Rudy Fugle is out for four weeks. The record shows Byron is not the same without Fugle. I do think this is an appetizer for what could come later this summer.

Stoddard: Byron can win this weekend, without a doubt. After all, he is the defending champion of this race, and he has shown his prowess on superspeedways throughout his career, including his first-ever Cup Series win at Daytona International Speedway. However, even with a win on Sunday, I do not see him as the top driver at Hendrick.

Kyle Larson and Elliott both have Cup Series championships and Larson has been right behind Byron in terms of performance in recent weeks. As for Elliott, I anticipate a Kyle Busch 2015-esque story arc from him when he returns from his leg injury. Byron is off to an excellent start, but Larson and Elliott are the top dogs at Hendrick until further notice.

Stumpf: He absolutely has a chance at doing so. Byron dominated at Atlanta in March last year and he was once again one of the fastest cars in July before he got swept up in a mid-race crash. If Hendrick continues to have speed even after the louvers confiscation, he will enter as the favorite. As for Byron being the best Hendrick driver this season, not yet.

Six races is a small sample size and Larson has been right there with him in speed despite coming away empty-handed. Elliott is also out with an injury. Give a month or so after Elliott returns and the question of Hendrick’s best driver in 2023 will have a clearer answer.

Watson: Absolutely! With being the defending winner of the spring Atlanta race and the added fact that Elliott will be sidelined, Byron should most certainly be considered the favorite to win at Atlanta next week. As for him being the top driver at Hendrick now that the penalty to the Hendrick drivers have been assessed, Byron is certainly the best at Hendrick right now, being that he is the only driver to win this year for the team. Once again, however, one question still remains that has yet to be answered: Will Byron continue this dominant run into the summer and the playoffs?

Kristl: Byron absolutely can win at Atlanta. He won the 2022 event there, the first at the newly-reconfigured racetrack. He also has one win, four top fives and four top 10s in 18 superspeedway starts. But let’s slow the brakes on Byron becoming the top dog. Alex Bowman has two top fives and four top 10s in the four Cup races this season.

Larson? He won the 2021 Cup championship and took home three trophies last year. Hendrick doesn’t really need to distinguish who is its top dog because all four drivers could be the top dogs at nearly all other organizations.

Gillispie: Unbelievably, as the defending winner, he can. It’s almost comical to say, but Byron is already the top dog at Hendrick (I bet you didn’t have that on your 2023 bingo card). Elliott is out, Bowman is all over the place and Larson has played second fiddle to him in every race this season. So, what more is there to see?

Both the ASA STARS National Tour and CARS Tour begin their respective seasons last weekend. How much, if at all, should NASCAR promote these two late model series?

Gillispie: Greenville Pickens Speedway. Myrtle Beach Speedway. Peach State Speedway. Southside Speedway. Montana Raceway Park. Rockford Speedway. I-25 Speedway. Barberton Speedway. Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Just some of the many names of asphalt short tracks across the country that have closed (or are set to close) since 2020.

Even Oglethorpe Speedway Park (albeit a dirt oval), the track I grew up going to as a kid in racing-heavy south Georgia, closed its doors in 2021. The entire state of Texas doesn’t even have an asphalt short track anymore. If NASCAR doesn’t market these regional tours and tracks, they will ALL soon disappear. It would be a colossal hit for the health of the sport as so many NASCAR stars cut their teeth on these asphalt short tracks.

Kristl: NASCAR has already promoted the CARS Tour on the NASCAR Roots Twitter account. Should it promote it more? No, it should allow the new ownership group to handle the CARS Tour. If anything, because Track Enterprises’ Bob Sargeant owns the STARS Tour and Track Enterprises has a longstanding relationship with the ARCA Menards Series, NASCAR could help promote the STARS events.

Other than some social media promotions, though, NASCAR should leave the short track series alone. Focus on its own property, ARCA, as well as the NASCAR-sanctioned short tracks.

Stumpf: The CARS Tour may be owned by a mix of NASCAR team owners, personalities and former drivers, but that doesn’t mean that it is owned by NASCAR itself. Therefore, it is still a competitor. The same goes for the ASA revival. After all, NASCAR didn’t advertise the Superstar Racing Experience just because it was owned by a former driver in Tony Stewart. With that said, grassroots racing is the foundation for everything NASCAR. It would be wise for NASCAR to get involved (and then start promoting it).

Skala: I was very disappointed with the ASA debut race and it was on Racing America PPV for $30. The CARS Tour was on FloRacing for no extra cost and you saw two good races. ASA had a fight and a fire extinguisher was tossed. I see the CARS Tour being promoted, especially with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Justin Marks and Kevin Harvick running the show. NASCAR needs this kind of racing to flourish, the fans need these tracks to succeed. I think it can be a win all around.

Tomlinson: Well, they aren’t NASCAR-sanctioned or affiliated events, but it wouldn’t hurt for NASCAR to promote them, especially the CARS tour. That series is co-owned by Earnhardt, Harvick, Burton and Marks, so talking to them about the series and highlighting what viewers/fans might expect to see and how to watch would be a good integration for both NASCAR and CARS.

Neff: This just in, NASCAR doesn’t own the series. Does NASCAR promote USAC? It isn’t their job to help other series succeed.

About the author

Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.

Never at a loss for words, Zach Gillispie is a young, talented marketing professional from North Carolina who talks and writes on the side about his first love: racing! Since joining Frontstretch in 2018, Zach has served in numerous roles where he currently pens the NASCAR 101 column, a weekly piece delving into the basic nuts and bolts of the sport. Additionally, his unabashedly bold takes meshed with that trademarked dry wit of his have made Zach a fan favorite on the weekly Friday Faceoff panel. In his free time, he can be found in the great outdoors, actively involved in his church, cheering on his beloved Atlanta Braves or ruthlessly pestering his colleagues with completely useless statistics about Delma Cowart.

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Andrew Stoddard joined Frontstretch in May of 2022 as an iRacing contributor. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Richmond, and VCU. He has a new day job as an athletic communications specialist at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor and involved with photos, social media and news editing. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.

Wyatt Watson has been an avid fan of NASCAR since 2007 at the age of 8. He joined Frontstretch in February 2023 after serving in the United States Navy for five years as an Electronic Technician Navigation working on submarines. Wyatt writes breaking NASCAR news and contributes to columns such as Friday Faceoff and 2-Headed Monster. Wyatt also contributes to Frontstretch's social media and serves as an at-track reporter.

Wyatt Watson can be found on Twitter @WyattGametime

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janice

what will they do, stop every 100 laps and recharge the cars? nope, racing is the sound of the engines, and when at a race the smells and all the sounds and sights.

RCFX1

I’ve watched a couple of E-events and the lack of engine sound is horrible. The hum does nothing to get people excited about it. I think Nascar (motorsports) fans don’t really care about electric cars. They’re gas-powered engines oriented.

janice

the hum will just help lull me to sleep quicker!

Kevin in SoCal

“As for Elliott, I anticipate a Kyle Busch 2015-esque story arc from him when he returns from his leg injury.”

Yes, I expect the fans to react the same negative way towards Elliott that they did towards Busch. Oh wait….

Jeremy

I doubt it. Mainly because I don’t think the majority of people who are “in” to electric vehicles care about racing. In fact, I’d wager to say most in that bucket think of cars the same as they do their toaster – just an appliance to perform a specific duty. That’s it.

On the other end, most racing fans are not into electric vehicles. They enjoy the nuances of mechanical engineering, carb tuning, stick shifts, and the old school view of the automobile as an icon of Rebellion and Freedom. The louder and more obnoxious the better!

I tried to watch the open wheel electric series a few times (forgot what it was called). I can’t decide if it was lesser talent (more development drivers), the weird, muted sounds that barely broke the silence, or what, but I couldn’t get into it.

I give electric motors their due – they are fast and who doesn’t love instant max torque? But it’s just not the same experience as an ICE with a rowdy cam and pipes!

Bill B

NASCAR, if you want to turn off half the fans that are left, start pushing electric cars.

Dawg

As for iRacing, & E racing. i racing isn’t racing it’s gaming. My kids had an Atari & I used to play with an Activision down hill skiing program. It was fine for killing time, but nothing even close to taking the Kneissels & hitting Copper Mountain. I suppose that the generation who grew up as gamers might like it, but I’ve got better things to do with my time.

The same with E racing, It is racing, sort of. But it holds zero interest for me. I don’t watch it as F1, & ditto for NASCAR. I’d rather go play with my 800hp ’65 El Camino.

As for the penalties, the teams were warned, before the kit car hit the track. Then they had RFK & Front Row as examples. So they can appeal to their hearts content. But they don’t have a leg to stand on. I feel bad for Kaulig. But for Hendrick, it’s just a little handicap for them to help the rest of the field catch up a little.

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