Gas/electric hybrids don’t sound like they would be all that exciting for NASCAR … until you hear Brad Keselowski describe them.
NASCAR Cup Series drivers would be the last people you’d expect to advocate for the use of gas/electric hybrid motors in stock car racing. You figure most of them are traditionalists, the same as a large chunk of the sport’s fans. But Brad Keselowski has a vision, and the way he talks about hybrids could easily make you a believer.
Keselowski wrote a whole essay on why hybrids could help NASCAR for NASCAR.com this week. It’s a fantastic read from start to finish, but mostly because his explanations are so perfect. The way he sees it, hybrids could solve a bunch of issues all at once, from making caution periods quieter for fans to potentially giving teams some extra late race chances to pass for a win.
The first thing the Team Penske driver does is assure everyone he’s not in favor of NASCAR switching to smaller engines, as he correctly says that people want to hear “a throaty V-8 engine.” But not all the time: In Keselowski’s hybrid dream, the field could run on full electric power during cautions, meaning it would actually be possible to have conversations in the stands under yellow. That alone would be a great quality of life improvement for us NASCAR fans.
Yet when it’s time to crank it up, as Fox Sports would say, hybrids using a KERS system would go like never before.
"But the second the race goes green, the field — at least those cars in it that still have their KERS reserve power — is firing on both the electric and the gas-powered systems. They’re using the energy they’ve recovered during the race. For the next lap or two, until the electricity is used up, you’re watching the most powerful race cars ever going extremely fast."
That sounds plenty good, Brad K. Please tell us more. He goes on to explain how KERS could make the end of races more exciting as well.
"Or think about how race strategy would change as the KERS system recharged during a race, and you had that extra boost available to you at a critical point near the end, right when you needed to make a pass. You hit the button and boom. You’ve got that power, and we’ve got a kind of finish that doesn’t exist in NASCAR today — or anywhere in motorsports, for that matter."
The question is whether a switch to hybrid engines would mean the death of what little “stock” is left in stock cars. Maybe not, though, as hybrids are already a big part of what’s on the roads today.
Even there, Keselowski imagines a best case scenario where the technology used in race cars actually helps car manufacturers learn lessons they can apply to vehicles they sell to the public, something that hasn’t been true since approximately forever.
Is it a pipe dream? Maybe a little, and it’s certainly not going to happen on the time frame that Keselowski has in mind. It’s hard to deny that it sounds good, though, maybe the best hybrids and racing have ever sounded together.