Car electrification gets a chance to shine in NASCAR

When NASCAR driver Eric Almerola won the pole at Bristol Motor Speedway Friday ahead of the Cup Series race, he drew attention to a new sponsor for the sport.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is part of the Ford racing program, and as such the brand uses its sponsorship to highlight Ford products or services at events. With that said, Almerola’s sponsor of the Bristol Night Race was an extraordinary sponsor, not a Ford product or service, but a venue.

It is no secret that the automotive industry is transitioning to a more environmentally friendly world of electricity. This turnaround has seen increased activity this year due in large part to higher oil and gas prices. In the first quarter of 2022, Ford reported a 139% increase in electric vehicle sales. This growth is attributed to the Mustang Mach-E and E-Transit, which are currently the only EVs in stock. The company began shipping its F-150 Lightning pickup truck in the following months as growth shows no signs of slowing.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Ford is working on the infrastructure to support the growth of electric vehicles in the coming years. One of the latest investments is BlueOval City, a 3,600-acre campus covering six square miles that will produce the new electric truck and the batteries to power future Ford and Lincoln cars when it opens in 2025.

So why is BlueOval City advertised as a NASCAR race car at a race in Bristol? BlueOval City is being built in Stanton, a town in western Tennessee less than 500 miles from the track. Ford’s $5.6 billion investment in BlueOval will make it one of the largest manufacturing parks in US history and will create about 6,000 jobs.

Traditionally one of the best-attended races on NASCAR, the Bristol Night Race has given Ford a chance to showcase BlueOval City to thousands of fans, many of whom live in the area.

“We know how much Tennessee loves motorsport,” said Kel Kearns, BlueOval City Electric Vehicle Center plant manager. “Being aboard Eric’s car this weekend for one of the season’s most popular events is a great way to spread the message of who we are and the arrival of BlueOval City.”

Ford along with its Korean battery partner SK innovation will invest a total of $11.4 billion in BlueOval City and two battery plants in Glendale, Kentucky.

Almerola has been a Ford driver for most of his 11-year racing career full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series and has seen how the brand has evolved when it comes to electric vehicles.

“It was so much fun for me to be able to see behind the curtain,” Almerola said. “This is yet another opportunity to be involved in the future of Ford Motor Company and to be able to shine a light on BlueOval City and what a great place they are going to build there. They are going to create 11,000 new American jobs among BlueOval SK. It’s incredible and it was really fun to be along for the ride throughout. the trip “.

More from ForbesNascar’s Next Gen is preparing the sport for electric

While it may seem odd to showcase the future of the electric car at NASCAR’s race, electric isn’t something NASCAR strays from. The next-generation race car, which debuted in competition this season, is designed with architecture that supports a future hybrid system. In fact, the sport has already done some testing with the new system and there is talk of a hybrid race car that could be shown in the next couple of years.

And NASCAR drivers are already involved with EVs.

“I drove Mach-E a little bit,” Almerola said. “The people at Ford were generous enough to let me have one for a week and the kids loved it. We raced everyone we could from a pit stop in Mooresville, Cornelius and Kannapolis, North Carolina. Whoever was willing to race us from a pit pit we raced, at least to the extent The maximum speed. So from zero to 45 or zero to 55 I don’t think there was a race we lost, so we had a lot of fun with that.”

Almerola sees the transition to electrification in the automotive field as a natural progression as we have seen in previous times.

“I feel like we’re living in one of those eras where you’re getting ready to see something amazing and you’re getting ready to live in it,” Almerola said. “Think back when we transitioned from those big, heavy muscle cars to a lighter weight, more advanced aerodynamics, more electronics, electronic fuel injection and all that stuff. My dad and grandfather lived through this transition, so here we are preparing to live through the transition. of seeing more electricity and what capabilities.”

As a professional racer, the only thing Almerola cares about is what happens behind the wheel. He says what’s under the hood isn’t that important.

“I think that’s the most impressive part from my point of view is that for someone who likes to grab the steering wheel and mash the throttle, you want it to be an exciting experience,” he said. “You want to have fun driving and I’ve only been amazed and fascinated by the electric cars that Ford has launched.”

Almerola drove the field green in Bristol on Saturday night and showed off the Ford Blue Oval City to the world of NASCAR. And it probably wouldn’t be the last time electrification of the car was shown to NASCAR and its fans.

“It’s a great opportunity to show what’s happening at BlueOval City in Tennessee in Bristol and to partner with an amazing event with NASCAR, Aric and his Ford Mustang,” said Kearns.

“Electrification is the future. It’s the next generation. It’s an exciting new technology, but that doesn’t change what Ford is. Ford is all about Ford performance and racing is part of our DNA, so that’s what we’ll be showing this weekend as we go ahead and showcase BlueOval City in 10th place. at the end of this week “.

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