Honda Has No Plans To Make
The Jump to NASCAR in 2021
It was brought up again across several social media platforms talking about Honda looking at NASCAR. Honda has said time and time again, publicly and privately, that the aren’t interested. A new, cheaper car with a hybrid powertrain would get their interest, and premium brand Acura is already racing in the IMSA series, but NASCAR just doesn’t fit Honda’s image.
The Racing Insiders Team Report / Autoweek - July 14, 2019
Hyundai Considering NASCAR for 2021, Others?
NASCAR and Hyundai have had multiple high-level talks regarding the possibility of the Korean car builder joining the NASCAR ranks in 2021 or 2022.
The bad news for NASCAR: Hyundai didn’t say yes.
The good news: They didn’t say no.
“It is something we are looking at closely,” said Thomas Schemera, who is the head of global product strategy and design for Hyundai and Kia. He joined the company in March 2018 as head of Hyundai’s high-performance vehicle and Motorsports division and was promoted to his current position eight months later.
Schemera was the third high-ranking BMW executive to jump to Hyundai, following Albert Biermann in 2015, then Fayez Abdul Rahman. Biermann was essentially in charge of BMW’s M division, which built the company’s most powerful models, such as the M3 and M5. Rahman was in charge of BMW’s M sport packaging.
And Schemera, a 31-year BMW veteran, was the head of the BMW M group in America. Those three, under the leadership of Biermann, who has been promoted to the head of all of Hyundai and Kia’s research and development, and along with the hiring of Bugatti designer Alexander Selipanov, will give the Korean giant a massive push toward doing something that has never been done before: Giving Hyundai and Kia a genuine performance and motorsports presence.
And, quietly, they have already begun. The Kia Stinger is a dead-on rival for the BMW M4 and Audi A5. The 2019 Genesis G70 (from the company’s luxury brand), developed with heavy input from Bierman, was named the North American Car of the Year.
But the most telling product is the Hyundai Veloster N, a 275-horsepower pocket rocket that, for a list price of under $30,000, will outrun the 205-horse Honda Civic Si, and gives the Civic Type R a run for its money for nearly $6,000 less. And like the Type R, the Veloster N gives Hyundai something it has never had before: A car that dealers are marking up to well over sticker price.
The Veloster N is also the basis for Hyundai’s two-car IMSA team, fielded by Bryan Herta, the former IndyCar driver, and twice the winner of the Indianapolis 500 as the car owner. In its first year, Herta and Hyundai won the TCR championship in the Pirelli World Challenge series using the European-spec i30 N, and for 2019, the team moved to the TCR class in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series, where they are second in the driver standings.
Would Herta be interested? “I’m up for anything this company want to do,” he told Autoweek, though he’d probably be more interested in a separate rumor: That Hyundai is on the short list of potential new engine manufacturers for IndyCar.
As for NASCAR, the sanctioning body is planning to roll out the Generation 7 car for the 2121 season, supposedly with a composite body that more closely resembles a streetcar. That will be a challenge since NASCAR both wants the car to look like the retail model it’s based on yet wants all the cars to fit a common template. Expect, as now, that the main differentiation will be brand-specific decals on the front and rear, and decals or wraps that give the appearance of bespoke side windows.
The powertrain may be delayed until 2022 or even 2023, as NASCAR is being told by the manufacturers that the engines must be more relevant to what is being sold. The target horsepower has already been set at 550, but that is accessible by most any hot-rodded V-6, so there is no guarantee that the Generation 7 car will be powered by anything resembling the current V-8, and Schemera said a V-6 engine was a possibility that was mentioned in NASCAR talks.
Also, manufacturers – not necessarily fans, but definitely manufacturers – are pushing heavily for electrification in every series, including NASCAR. That doesn’t necessarily mean all-electric engines, but some sort of hybrid system with an electric motor that would help power the gasoline engine. That could be on every track, or just on short tracks and road courses, where you’d get heavy use out of “regenerative” brakes, which are designed to act as generators, pumping juice back into the onboard batteries.
NASCAR has given up on trying to attract new manufacturers to the current car but is lobbying non-participating manufacturers heavily to join up for 2021 and beyond. It will create more of a level playing field for new entries; it will be cheaper to run, and it will help raise your profile in America, a major selling point to Hyundai. Keep in mind that Korea is one of the few major industrialized countries that has absolutely no native performance-car history, much less racing history, hence the influx of performance-savvy executives from BMW and elsewhere.
Which includes Hyundai’s Schemera, who has been in on the meetings with NASCAR, and was impressed. “There is still a lot to cover,” he said, and despite NASCAR’s suggestions that costs would be reduced, “it would be a very expensive proposition.”
NASCAR has not had a new manufacturer in its touring series in nearly 20 years, when Toyota entered the now-defunct Goody’s Dash series – with a V-6-powered Celica. Dodge returned to NASCAR, in the Truck series, in 1996. It left in 2012. Ford and Chevrolet have been the stalwarts in the series, while others have come and gone.
Indeed, Chevrolet’s struggle to win Cup races with the Camaro the last couple of seasons have frightened prospective manufacturers – if Chevrolet can’t win, what kind of chance do we have? Fortunately for NASCAR, Chevrolet is again showing strength, but that manufacturer may face a tough decision of its own: Rumors persist that the Camaro will reach the end of the line – again – in 2023, and then what would Chevrolet race? (The Malibu, guessed one Chevrolet motorsports executive.)
One thing is certain: When Toyota and Dodge jumped into NASCAR, the sanctioning body was strong enough to suggest that entry be made through the lesser series, such as (then) Craftsman Trucks, and work your way up. That isn’t happening as NASCAR courts new manufacturers. The path to the Cup series will be much quicker, perhaps even immediate.
With so many spec components in a NASCAR Cup car, and the likelihood of more in 2021 and beyond, the central point of contention is the powertrain. When Penske abandoned Dodge after 2012 to move to Ford and Roush Yates engines, Penske shuttered its NASCAR engine department, thus leaving Dodge – which really didn’t want to abandon NASCAR then – without anyone to build their NASCAR engines. For all the top-tier Cup cars, Ford uses the aforementioned Roush Yates; Toyota uses TRD (second-tier builder Triad quit the business in 2018) and Chevrolet uses Earnhardt-Childress and Hendrick.
Long gone are the days when most NASCAR teams built and prepared their own engines. New manufacturers coming in would either have to learn to build their own engines, an enormously expensive proposition, considering how closely NASCAR mandates the design and parts; or they would have to find a separate engine builder, of which there are plenty but very few with NASCAR experience; or NASCAR could allow “spec” engines, the way its ARCA and Truck series do by approving an Ilmor-supplied engine that is now used by virtually every top team in both those series. We questioned the heads of motorsports of Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota about that prospect, and they were unanimously, and vociferously, opposed. “Spec engines have to stop at the Truck series,” one said. “I’d have a real problem with them in the Xfinity or Cup series.”
Add to that the fact that even the current NASCAR engine builders have little or no experience with hybrid powertrains, and you’ve created a problem for every new and existing participant. Hybrid systems also require a completely different procedure for dealing with wrecked cars, and NASCAR and its network of local track crash teams, as well as race car builders, will have to address that.
All that said, a company like Hyundai could benefit from NASCAR participation, especially since Schemera said boosting its presence in the U.S. is a top priority. Also, Hyundai is solidly dedicated to cars, even though other manufacturers have been abandoning them for trucks and SUVs, although Hyundai’s very strong sales in June, which was a down month for almost everyone else, were tied largely to SUVs. Still, commenting on Ford and Chevrolet’s decision to drop most of their sedans and coupes: “It is a very big mistake,” Schemera said. What would Hyundai race? Possibly the Sonata, or any of several Genesis models.
So who besides Hyundai might be interested in NASCAR, 2021?
--Nissan, with a lean motorsports program controlled largely outside the U.S., has engines that compete in the NASCAR-owned IMSA series, but the company has declined to make the investment to come aboard as an official partner. It would take a major management change at the motorsports decision-making level to approve a NASCAR program.
--Honda has said time and time again, publicly and privately, that the aren’t interested. A new, cheaper car with a hybrid powertrain would get their interest, and premium brand Acura is already racing in the IMSA series, but NASCAR just doesn’t fit Honda’s image. Tough sell.
--Volkswagen very nearly entered NASCAR with Andretti Autosport, having submitted a list of requests to then-NASCAR President Brian France, and most of them had been agreed to when the “Dieselgate” scandal hit, and the program was cancelled, leaving Michael Andretti a bitter man, again – Dodge did the same thing to him, to the point where he even acquired shop space in North Carolina before Dodge pulled the plug. Still, there’s interest at VW, and curiosity at its corporate partner, Audi.
--Speaking of Dodge, a couple of years ago corporation head Sergio Marchionne said at a Ferrari gathering that he would personally like to return to NASCAR, and that talks were underway. The only talks were the ones he and the France family were having: Dodge promptly investigated the possibility of returning but said there were “too many zeroes” at the end of what it would cost. Dodge’s future with cars is uncertain – the Dodge Charger dates back to 2006 and a Mercedes-Benz-designed platform – and corporate partners Alfa-Romeo and Fiat are expected to supply products in the future that could be badged as a Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep (the Jeep Renegade is on a Fiat platform). Where would NASCAR fit in? At this point, Alfa is almost more likely than Dodge.
Autoweek - July 6, 2019
Chevrolet to End Production of the Camaro Come 2023, New Chevrolet Model Expected for Gen7 Car
Just weeks away from the long-awaited debut of the mid-engined Chevrolet Corvette C8, a rumor has surfaced regarding the Bowtie's other two-door performance car: the Camaro. And unfortunately, the news isn't great.
According to Muscle Cars & Trucks, anonymous sources inside General Motors claim that development of the next-generation Camaro has been "suspended," and the nameplate will "likely be shelved again" after the current car is discontinued in 2023.
The current sixth-gen Camaro sits on GM's Alpha platform shared by the Cadillac ATS and CTS. Those two have recently been replaced by the CT4 and CT5, which are based on an updated version of Alpha imaginatively known as Alpha 2. Sounds like just the thing to build a seventh-gen Camaro around, right? Apparently not.
As with all rumors circulating the industry (and the Internet), this isn't official, and a request for comment sent to Chevrolet didn't provide us with a definite answer.
“While we will not engage in speculation, we will remind you of our recently announced updates coming to the Camaro lineup this fall," a Chevrolet spokesperson told The Drive via email, listing off the new LT1 V-8 trim and the redone SS fascia that does away with its controversial droop-nose design.
If an upcoming Camaro hiatus does happen, it wouldn't be the first time Chevy's Mustang-rival takes an extended break. After the fourth-gen car's life ended in 2002, Chevy didn't produce a Camaro in production form until 2009 for the 2010 model year. That version of the Camaro sold extremely well, consistently logging more than 80,000 cars per year and became a bit of a modern pop culture icon thanks to its starring role as "Bumblebee" in the Transformers movies.
Fast forward to 2018 and things aren't so hot. The 2019 model year facelift garnered relentless criticism, that Bumblebee standalone film made less money than any other movie in the series, and Chevy reportedly moved less than 51,000 Camaros. That's 25 percent fewer than in 2017, prompting chief engineer Al Oppenheiser to go as far as admitting "[the Ford Mustang's] been eating our lunch" in an interview last September.
The Drive - June 25, 2019
What does that potentially mean for NASCAR? Well, the new Generation 7 car is expected to be released in 2021, and if we see a permanent exit from Camaro come 2023 it will be unlikely that Chevrolet will invest in creating a new Gen 7 car with that model. Chevrolet has discontinued several car models in recent years including the Chevrolet SS, Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Volt, and the Chevrolet Cruise. No word on what Chevrolet could race in the new 2021 Generation 7 race car.
The Racing Insiders Team Report - June 25, 2019
NASCAR Could Switch to a Hybird Engines in 2021
The introduction of hybrid power to NASCAR is "a matter of when, not if" according to Ford Performance's motorsport boss Mark Rushbrook.
The series looks to develop a next-generation powertrain from the 2022 season, with plans to introduce a new-specification of car - labelled the Gen-7 - for the 2021 season.
The Gen-7 will feature more single-specification parts as a means of lowering costs and being more attractive to new manufacturers.
Once the chassis side of Gen-7 is finalised for 2021, which should coincide with a revamp of race distances and the schedule, attention will then turn to the powertrain.
When asked if hybrid-assisted engines would play a part in that next generation, NASCAR's vice president of innovation and racing development, John Probst, told Autosport: "That is on the radar for sure. But we're early with that discussion."
"There's a lot of open discussion of hybrids in NASCAR.
"It's just a matter of when, not if. It's probably in the 2022-2023 timeframe."
Speaking at the Le Mans 24 Hours test, Rushbrook suggested that hybrid power would only be used on suitable tracks, such as road courses and short ovals, both of which would generate the braking energy required to power a KERS-style system.
"It doesn't need to be at every track. If you put a hybrid in for the Daytona 500, where you're wide open throughout the whole lap, it doesn't make sense.
"For a short course like Martinsville or a road course like Watkins Glen, the hybrid makes sense.
"I would expect that when it gets introduced it would be some subset of races are entirely ICE and some subset of races are hybrid."
Rushbrook also said that the hybrid would give the extra power required on road tracks and short ovals that would mean the internal-combustion engines would be the same spec at all races.
NASCAR engines are currently restricted by different-sized tapered spacers, that reduces power to 550bhp on superspeedway and ovals longer than one-mile, and 750bhp for road courses and short ovals.
"It would be the same combustion engine with an electric motor added onto it or not," he added.
"In some sense today the series is already there. At the big tracks they run approximately 550 horsepower, on road courses it's 750 horsepower.
"In many ways it would reduce complexity [in] that hybrid in the future would make up that power difference and it would be the exact same ICE at 550 horsepower at all tracks.
"Then the power [would be] added on the short tracks, so you have more air going to the engine when you put on the electric motor. It makes sense."
Last year, Ford driver Brad Keselowski penned a blog suggesting that NASCAR should embrace an F1-style KERS system, stating that it "would be more relevant to the car world than it's ever been."
Autosport - June 5, 2019