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NASCAR’s electric racing prototype leaked; what next?

NASCAR’s crossover-shaped electric vehicle prototype has been leaked to the public.

First teased in Road & Track and then properly leaked on the NASCAR subreddit, the car features a generic body not too dissimilar to the early prototypes of the current Cup Series car while it was being tested from 2019 to 2021.

This is the car that was straight-line tested over the summer at zMax Dragway at Charlotte Motor Speedway and will be circle track tested next month at Martinsville Speedway.

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David Rodriguez Munoz / USA TODAY NETWORK

The car has been described as sharing aesthetic stylistic similarities with the upcoming Chevrolet Blazer SS EV but NASCAR told Road & Track the car was designed to be generic in the same way the NextGen was generic but looked most like a Camaro. Instead of the pony cars or sedans that currently race in the Cup Series, the EV NASCAR prototype racer is meant to resemble ‘exaggerated, ultra-aggressive takes on the (crossover) production car equivalent.

Multiple sources around the series indicate that the car is based on the Next Gen chassis in use in the top-level Cup Series since 2022, with some changes made to accommodate electric powertrain components. The rear end has been also shortened to fit the design of electric crossovers, which multiple sources have indicated as the expected body style for any NASCAR EV racer since at least 2022.


NASCAR has increasingly begun exploring the EV space since wrapping up development on the NextGen car. While NASCAR developed that car with hybridization in mind, attention has also turned towards alternative fuels, a reflection of all the directions the automotive market could go in the decades to come.

By 2040, it is expected that 60 percent of global passenger vehicle sales will come from electric vehicles, and that EVs will make up around 30 percent of all cars on the road. General Motors has targeted a complete zero emission lineup by 2035. Ford has targeted a zero-emissions lineup in the UK by 2030 with a US plan soon to follow.

To that point, this car is not being designed to replace the Cup Series platform, although it could replace a current existing national tour at some point down the figurative road. NASCAR had hoped to run an exhibition race alongside the Cup Series at the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 2024 but that did not come to fruition.

The topic came up with NASCAR chief operating officer Steve O’Donnell during the end of the year press conference at Phoenix Raceway on November 3.

“Yeah, a lot of work’s gone on at the R&D department around EV,” O’Donnell said. “We have a car. We have an alternative body style with that car. I would not look for us specifically to go racing with it. I think you could see it showcased at certain events next year. But there’s other forms that we want to look at.”

O’Donnell spent some time in Japan after the NASCAR season to explore hydrogen powered racing. He said at Phoenix that NASCAR is keeping an open mind about all kinds of futuristic power options for when the time is right.

He also expected the car to be displayed at events in 2024 as well.

“We want to kind of test each and every form,” O’Donnell said. “I’m really excited about what our teams put together around an electric car. Again, wanted to showcase that to the fans and explore other technologies, as well.”

This is also part of a larger conversation about NASCAR’s pursuit of additional manufacturers beyond Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota — and understanding what direction the larger automotive industry will take in the years to come.

“There is certainly interest,” O’Donnell said of new manufacturers entering NASCAR and the Cup Series. “I think one of the reasons we went over (to race the 24 Hours of Le Mans) with Garage56 was to continue to spur that interest.

“The challenge remains for us what engine package are we going to be running, specifically around Cup. The good news is all of our existing OEMs are very open to dialogue now about where the new technologies are going.

“As everybody here reads about the auto industry. It’s in flux, right? There’s a lot of technologies being looked at. Things change almost monthly in terms of what is going to be in the hands of consumers. We need to get that right. I think the dialogue that we’re having now with our OEMs is allowing us to have those conversations with potential new partners.”

The NextGen was supposed to be hybrid powered by its second season but those aforementioned changes in Detroit combined with the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the next-generation engine platform. That is just as pressing of a topic as what to do with this prototype racing platform.

“A lot of opportunities for us as a sport, be it alternative fuels, electric, hydrogen,” he said. “Everything’s on the table, which is unique for I think us as a sanctioning body in terms of having that Garage 56 program, having our Next Gen car designed specifically for all kinds of different power units.

“We’re excited about the opportunities and can vary those depending on where we’re at, country or continent.”

When asked about the subject of sound as part of the NASCAR experience in 2021, league president Steve Phelps said he recognized its importance to the experience.

“Sound is a huge part of who we are as a sport,” Phelps said then. “It’s going to continue to be.”

He also suggested even then what this car would strive to be.

“I don’t foresee a time in the future where we would go, with all of our series, all-electric,” Phelps said. “I don’t see that. Could we have an exhibition series potentially? We could. That would be something that we might explore.”

And Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook echoed that sentiment.

“We have four national series in NASCAR with Cup, Xfinity, Trucks, and ARCA, so not every series needs to be (internal combustion) or hybrid or electric,” Rushbrook said in 2021. “That is certainly an opportunity for NASCAR with such great depth that there could be some discussion or consideration of leaving some of those (internal combustion) and switching some to hybrid and maybe introducing electric at the right time.”

Rushbrook also summarized the importance of staying ahead of emerging technologies, because if the cars that race in NASCAR aren’t relevant to the production industry, that becomes a harder sell to those who earmark spending to participate.

No manufacturers, no racing.

“Yes, we are an entertainment sport and we have to put on great races,” Rushbrook said. “Everybody understands that, but it also needs to be relevant, not just to us as manufacturers, but also to fans and customers.

“So, 15 years from now, if everybody is driving fully electric cars, are we still going to be racing (Internal combustion engine) cars? No, we won’t. But when we do make that transition to hybrid, full electric needs to be something that the sport is planning for. It isn’t going to happen tomorrow, but there needs to be a plan and vision, so we are ready for it because it is coming quickly.”

From that standpoint, it’s no different, historically, than NASCAR running a convertible division when those cars first began to dominate the marketplace or even the Truck Series emerging in the 1990s at the peak of the pickup revolution in Detroit.

NASCAR, and motorsports holistically has always reflected the automotive industry, and those trends will continue with both EV and alternative fuels.

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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