NASCAR Reportedly Could Add Hybrids for New Manufacturers

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NASCAR Reportedly Could Add Hybrids for New OEMsIcon Sportswire - Getty Images

For the past 50 years, NASCAR has required Cup Series competitors to source all of their horsepower from a naturally-aspirated 358 cubic inch (5.8-liter) V-8. If a new manufacturer joins, a report from Sports Business Journal suggests that this could finally change with the addition of hybrid power as early as 2026.

The addition of hybrids would be part of a plan to bring in a new manufacturer, something NASCAR has publicly courted for over a decade. Honda and Hyundai are often mentioned as likely candidates and are again mentioned in the Sports Business Journal report, joining Dodge on the list of manufacturers that have reportedly considered joining Toyota, Ford, and Chevrolet in NASCAR over the past few years. Massive initial investment in technology mostly irrelevant to road cars makes the series is currently a tough story-telling sell for new OEMs, but hybrid integration would sweeten the opportunity.

NASCAR would join Formula 1, IndyCar, and sports car racing in embracing hybrid powertrains. Notably, NASCAR owns IMSA, which embraced the technology in the form of a spec hybrid system mated to unique engines as part of its new-for-2023 LMDh rule set. It signed three new manufacturers within the next two seasons. NASCAR could use the lessons learned from the development of those cars to hasten integration of a spec hybrid system, which would help the series solve some of the issues faced by IndyCar in their delayed switch to hybrid power.


Hybrid integration would be the latest major technology upgrade for NASCAR, a series that has used relatively simple tech for most of its history. The series has embraced fuel injection, rear diffusers, and a five-speed sequential transmission since 2012, so hybrid powertrains are a natural next step. The changes would create a major challenge for teams, but not one they are unprepared to face. Even when the technology inside the cars was forty years out of date, cutting-edge engineering and data science have long been a part of top-level NASCAR racing.

In addition to exploring possible hybrid strategies for its top-level series, NASCAR has also revealed the existence of a proof-of-concept EV stock car. That high-tech demo car was seen by Road & Track late last year and had a scheduled debut ahead of the Los Angeles Coliseum race in February. The debut was delayed just as the race was re-scheduled a day early, and that car has not been seen since. Both an all-electric stock car and a hybrid variant of an existing car have been a matter of public discussion since Autoweek first reported on the issue in early 2021.

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