There’s an old automotive marketing adage that goes “Race on Sunday, sell on Monday.” In other words, people will buy the car—or at least one like it—that won the race. A corollary extends that to pace cars, and Ford announced today that the 2012 Ford Focus Electric has been selected to be the first-ever all-electric pace car for a NASCAR race.
A pace car, which leads the field of race cars during the race’s rolling start and during yellow flag caution laps after an “incident”, is a vehicle with high visibility, particularly a nationally-televised NASCAR Sprint Cup race, stock car racing’s premier series.
The Ford Focus Electric was selected by NASCAR to pace the Richmond 400 Sprint Cup race on April 28. The Focus Eclectic pace car, other than the light bars needed for pace car duties, will be stock, and was tested by NASCAR and met that organization’s standards.
Richmond International Speedway is a 3/4-mile D-shaped race track, and the Richmond 400 is called that because it is 400 laps, which figures out to 300 miles. Pace laps are run at 45 mph, an optimal speed for an electric car, and the range for the Focus Electric is about 100 miles. Even allowing for laps before the race starts, it would take an exceptionally accident-filled race for the Focus Electric to be on the track for more than one third of the race.
However, if the pace car is out too long, a portable charger will be on hand for a quick recharge. Tim Duerr, Ford Motorsports marketing manager, says that should the pace car’s charge drop below 20 percent, the car will be put on the charger to be ready to go. As Duerr notes, every race is different as to how many laps are run under yellow.
There will be two pace cars at Richmond, however, and not just one as a backup. To keep the pack from being too bunched up for the start on the 3/4-mile track, NASCAR holds a split start, and both pace cars will be used with the second car a half-lap behind the lead pace car. After the start, the primary pace car (with NASCAR legend Bret Bodine behind the wheel) returns to the pit exit to await the next yellow.
It will be an unusual sight—or at least sound—for a silent electric cars to be leading a field of NASCAR thunder in front of not only the 100,000 fans at the track but also the eight to ten million viewers on national television, plus those listening on satellite radio and then of course, those reading about it on CarBuzzard.
So at NASCAR’s Richmond 400, not only the race fans will be electrified but so will the pace car. And if the old adage holds, it will be Pace on Saturday night (under the lights), sell the 2013 Ford Focus Electric on Monday.