Motorsports properties such as NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula 1 are trying to keep up with shifting demand for fully electric and hybrid vehicles as they envision how the technologies could work their way into race cars and in turn provide the research and marketing opportunities carmakers covet.

The trick in moving forward lock-step with the auto industry, however, is balancing change while still delivering the competition — and sounds — that racing fans want.

Ed Laukes, a former senior executive of Toyota Motor North America, said the rise in hybrids presents an opportunity for NASCAR to move away from its outdated engine technology and get its product back to being more relevant to carmakers. NASCAR uses an eight-cylinder gas engine that is not compatible with those used in the new cars that Americans drive, limiting the marketing potential of current manufacturers in the sport and making it more difficult to bring in additional ones, analysts say.

Car companies play outsized roles in racing relative to other sponsors. For example, Toyota was the biggest national TV advertiser during NASCAR races in 2023 at $3.8 million, according to iSpot.tv. NASCAR has been in discussions with Honda to persuade the Japanese giant to become its fourth manufacturer, joining Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford, and Laukes mentioned Hyundai as another brand that could see NASCAR as a viable marketing platform.

Prospective car companies have told NASCAR they will join only if NASCAR can offer a compelling narrative for consumers with hybrid cars or sustainable fuels, according to a person familiar with the matter.

— Sports Business Journal —

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