Tesla Hits NASCAR: Two-Car Team Set To Debut At Sprint Cup Series In 2015

  @redletterdave on April 02 2013 10:58 AM

Author's Note: We've reached out to NASCAR and Tesla to confirm and comment on this story, but considering the silence on their end, and the fact that this original report was published on April 1, we believe this may have been an April Fools' Day prank on behalf of Edmunds. We still plan to update this story once we receive official word from NASCAR, Tesla and/or Edmunds.

NASCAR will reportedly announce on April 7 at its NASCAR STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia that electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors will enter the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starting in 2015.

The independent Palo Alto, Calif.-based company has reportedly found two sponsors to help develop its two-car race team, including the U.S. Department of Energy, which has reportedly committed to a three-year deal worth $62 million for both developing the racecar and sponsorship on one of the two Tesla cars.

The other Tesla racecar will be sponsored by battery maker Duracell, which will be painted like the Pontiac driven by Fireball Roberts in his 1962 win at the Daytona 500, and be called the “Copper-Top Tesla.” Both cars will sport three-digit numbers for the first time in recent history: The Department of Energy-sponsored Tesla will be number 100, and the Duracell-sponsored Tesla racer will be number 101.

Sources told Edmunds that NASCAR was ready to introduce Tesla at its April 13 race at Texas Motor Speedway, but seeing as how the National Rifle Association will be the title sponsor of that particular race, the federal government reportedly decided to move its announcement one week early to the Martinsville race.

"We aren't sure how many fans would be friendly toward alternative energy at an event sponsored by the NRA, and we have to assume a large percentage of them will be armed," the unnamed source told Edmunds.

Ray Evernham, a longtime NASCAR team owner and crew chief, is expected to spearhead Tesla’s entrance into NASCAR, but his position has not been confirmed. Evernham had previously addressed a few issues Tesla might face when joining NASCAR – specifically, he believed the cars needed to make more noise “both for the crew’s safety and the fans’ enjoyment.” Evernham has reportedly purchased a retired Dodge Charger from Penske Racing, and will use the recorded sounds of that car’s engine to broadcast through the Tesla’s powerful speakers built by Bose.

The Tesla racers will reportedly be developed with Lidocad-daleoxide battery technology from the Blázen Dubna research facility in the Czech Republic. Unlike conventional NASCAR racecars, the Tesla racers will need to pit when its battery runs low to get a full replacement battery. NASCAR will reportedly allow Tesla a limited number of batteries to use per race – depleted batteries will be recharged after the pit stop – but Tesla says its car software will be able to maintain the maximum speed of its racers until the battery is 80 percent depleted, at which point the car will need to pit.

Of course, the other issue Tesla and NASCAR must resolve is what happens in the event of an accident. NASCAR communications director Kerry Tharp told Edmunds that NASCAR is working with the Department of Energy to train emergency workers to deal with the Tesla’s high-voltage mechanics.

"We don't want one of our guys slicing through a cable to try and extricate a stuck driver and getting fried," Tharp said. "That would not be good for anybody."

Tesla’s two cars will join the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit in 2015, but will be listed as an “experimental entry,” making it ineligible for points or price money. Barring unforeseen circumstances, NASCAR will make the two Tesla cars full-fledged competitors in 2016, qualified to receive both points and money.

"Obviously, we're excited," said Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk. "The Tesla has been phenomenally, unanimously successful within our small and very sophisticated niche, but I knew that if we want to reach Larry Lunchbox, we need to be in NASCAR."

Musk said he and his staff even located a NASCAR fan named Larry Lunchbox, who has been selected to wave the green flag over the Daytona 500 in 2015.

"As a boy growing up in Pretoria, South Africa -- which is sort of the South African equivalent of Charlotte, North Carolina -- I dreamed of someday being involved in NASCAR,” Musk said. “I had a little model of Richard Petty's #43 on my nightstand. And now that the dream is so close to coming true. I almost have trouble believing any of it will actually happen."

We’ve reached out to both Tesla and NASCAR for comment on this story, and we’ll update the article as soon as we learn more.

Despite the test drive controversy around the company's award-winning Model S sedan, Musk said in a statement on Sunday that Tesla Motors is expected to report its first profitable quarter in the company’s 10-year-history.

"There have been many car startups over the past several decades, but profitability is what makes a company real," Musk said. "Tesla is here to stay and keep fighting for the electric car revolution."

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