The Future of NASCAR: How will the racing series adapt to changing times?

By Jonny Amon, Calling the Audible

Motorsports face an existential crisis. As the public continues to become more climate conscious – sports are having to adapt in order to keep up. In a previous newsletter, we saw that Formula 1 is working hard to limit its carbon footprint and become carbon neutral by 2030. While this goal is ambitious, and the racing series might fall short of its expectations, the huge push itself is indicative of the direction that motorsports are heading.

Some drivers in Formula even believe that an all electric engine will become the new normal in the not-so-distant future. In an interview with Pocket-lint, the Williams driver, after discussing various engine sizes, said, “Just like the road cars you see today, it will lead into full electric. It’s gonna happen.” While the Thai driver was not sure about the logistics, it is clear that those closest to the sport sense that a big shift is coming.

NASCAR faces a similar predicament. To adapt to the changing times, the racing company will have to address some huge obstacles. For one, NASCAR currently emits about 6,000 gallons of fuel on a standard race weekend. In a 36 race schedule, that can lead to well over 200,000 gallons of fuel. At this scale, any reductions can make a difference.

And to their credit, the racing series had made some changes in the last decade. NASCAR started using E15 fuel, a biofuel blend with up to 15% ethanol. The company recently surpassed 20 million miles driven on this new fuel, a substantial number that reflects a long term strategy switch.

The company introduced NASCAR Impact, a more proactive version of its first initiative, NASCAR Green. The new project seeks to implement sustainability practices for the company. Earlier this year, the company made a similar promise to Formula 1, although with a bit more leniency in its timeline.

NASCAR committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2035, using the Impact program’s initiatives to underline the change. Some of the programs include introducing “100% renewable electricity at owned race tracks and facilities, the development of a sustainable racing fuel, expanded recycling efforts and on-site EV charging stations.”

Investing in new technology such as more environmentally friendly racing fuels is paramount to this project, as the company likely wants to avoid electric engines in its races. NASCAR teams have been developing hybrid engines, looking to keep the famous roar of its stock cars while creating cleaner emissions. These hybrid engines would work by adding a battery component to streamline the fuel process making the 6 miles per gallon engines a bit more efficient, without changing the famous roar that energizes NASCAR’s most passionate fans.

This change might not matter to older fans as much, but to entice newer, younger fans, adding a sustainability component is critical. In a sport where Formula 1 has siphoned off many racing fans, partly because of the success of Netflix’s Drive To Survive, NASCAR is looking for ways to keep its future bright.

As sports continue to change, the evolution will lead to interesting new technologies and strategies to keep fans engaged. In a position where environmental criticism runs counter to nostalgia and energy, it is up to the racing leagues around the world to determine what type of roar they would most like to indulge.

SportsDay contributor Jonny Amon is a lifelong sports fan from Daytona Beach, Fla. In college at Georgetown University, he wrote about both college and professional sports for the Georgetown Voice, the school newsmagazine. Having recently graduated with a Master’s in sustainability, Jonny is now writing a newsletter about the intersection of sports and climate, looking to highlight the increasing overlap between the two topics.

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