CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR took the step of launching its 2019 rules package Tuesday for the Monster Energy Series. But it’s the next stages that may bring even more significant change.
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, says the sanctioning body continues to have talks with new manufacturers to compete alongside Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota, with a 550-horsepower target providing a more attractive entry point for automakers over the current 750-horsepower baseline. O’Donnell also indicated that progress continues to be made toward a seventh-generation stock car, the next evolutionary step for the vehicles in NASCAR’s premier series.
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The 2019 rules package — featuring aerodynamic and engine changes intended to heighten the competition level next season — is designed to be a bridge to both of those developments, O’Donnell says.
“I think if you look at our current partners, it’s important to speak with them first and I think they’re very happy with where we are in the sport, but we always want to grow,” O’Donnell said. “And when we talk about growth, that means being more relevant, potentially introducing more technology into the sport, especially around the engine. As we’ve had discussions with new OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), the direction we’re going in for next year’s rules package really opens up a variety of options for us to bring in new OEMs, to have our current OEMs potentially accept a new direction.
“So a lot of thought went into this that this isn’t just a 2019 rules package, it’s something that we believe really sets us up for the future — not only for our current partners, but growing the sport, which hopefully leads to more healthy ownership as well where we can bring some new OEMs in.”
NASCAR introduced the current sixth-generation car — labeled “Gen-6” — in the 2013 season, taking competition and safety cues from the previous model while strengthening the brand identity for the three participating automakers. O’Donnell indicated that a Gen-7 car could further define those manufacturer distinctions, all while exploring long-term technological progress in a closer-to-stock vehicle.
“I think when you look at the next-gen vehicle, if you look at what people are driving on the street today in terms of horsepower numbers and different relevancy options, in terms of electrification or partial electrification, all those things become an option for you,” O’Donnell said. “Do I ever think we’ll be a hybrid racing series? No, but this allows for some tweaks to the engine package down the road if we wanted to when we race around this horsepower, so it gives us a real look not only to what we believe will be better racing than we’ve produced in the past but it also opens it up to new OEMs, opens it up to new technologies and really puts us on a great growth path for the future.”