So I have an idea. There are all kinds of caveats to it, asterisks and potential problems with it, but I want to share it anyway. Think of this as a big brush on canvas thing, where the devilish details still need to be fleshed out.

I think NASCAR could use a good “fuel war”.

Imagine a race day where there is no “official fuel of NASCAR”, but several suppliers. NASCAR would set a maximum emissions standard and leave the chemistry to the fuel suppliers. Suppliers and teams would have to choose between power vs. efficiency, between exclusive deals and flexibility. The on and off track intrigue would be interesting at the least.

But this fuel war would be more than simply an additional competitive variable. If properly executed, it would transform the sport and capture the imagination of the public.

The underlying purpose would be to fuel innovation. I’m not talking about hydrogen power or anything that experimental. The world’s reality is that fossil fuel burning vehicles aren’t going anywhere. Even if America at large changed its way of powering its transportation, there is the rest of the world. What needs to happen is development of alternative fuel formulas that can be used in current cars. And that’s what makes NASCAR the perfect testing and marketing platform for that movement.

As the governing body, NASCAR can progressively incentivise fuel companies to make better, cleaner adaptive fuel technologies (whew, that sounds pretty corporate speak). Seriously. All NASCAR need do is police the emissions. Then, they can even go to the point of using weight-reduction incentives to push the emissions lower. Say that the NASCAR emission standard was “X”. If a fuel supplier made a fuel that burned with an emissions level of “x -3%”, teams using that fuel could reduce their running weight by say, I dunno, 30 pounds or whatever. More strategies, more choices for crew chiefs and race teams. Could be very interesting.

The positives here are that NASCAR could go back to using motorsports as a test bed for innovation. That is what racing has historically been, from seat belts to anti-lock breaks. NASCAR could be at the forefront of “green” development, which is becoming a trend that the entire automotive industry is embracing. The positive publicity that NASCAR and the participating fuel companies would get would far outweigh the amount of money NASCAR currently gets from its exclusive supplier.

The downside is outright cost. NASCAR would have to open an emissions study lab and have a few chemists added to the payroll. All those aero template inspectors rendered obsolete by the COT would have to be replaced with other types of inspectors. But the key here for NASCAR isn’t to get into policing the chemistry per se, just the emissions.

The big cost factor would fall to the teams, one which would hopefully be offset by the fuel companies. Aerodynamicists of the old car age would be replaced on the payroll by more engine tuners and chemists and such. Again, hopefully the marketing positives for the participating fuel companies would warrant some spending that would end up at these teams.

I think that’s it in a relatively big nutshell. I know there are holes, incomplete thoughts and whatnot in here, but I hope it would bring about some discussion. Fuel wars… what do you think?23