This past weekend, Ford’s Mach-E had a chance to participate in a NASCAR race. Anybody familiar with today’s EVs (or NASCAR for that matter) knows that the vehicle couldn’t have participated as a race car. Instead, it made its NASCAR debut as one of the cleanest vehicles to serve as a pace car.
“We have always tried to use our presence in NASCAR to show off our dynamic and innovative vehicle lineup, and that continues this weekend with our all-electric Mustang Mach-E,” said Jeannee Kirkaldy, motorsports marketing manager, Ford Performance. “We feel this car not only stays true to Mustang’s great heritage but carries on its legacy in a modern way that we think fans and our loyal enthusiasts will embrace.”
While this is a milestone for Ford, it’s not the first time it has ever run an EV in the pace car role. In 2012, Ford used a Focus Electric, making that the first time an EV had ever served as a NASCAR pace car.
“When I drove the Mustang Mach-E it was instant power and way better than I thought or expected,” said Matt DiBenedetto, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Cup Series for Wood Brothers Racing. “It was something that I 100% wanted to own for myself or my wife because when you hop in the car it’s nice and quiet, and the throttle response is so instant. It was a blast. It will make a great pace car.”
Ford has a lot of reasons to get the Mach-E out there in the public eye.
First off, the company obviously wants to sell some. The more exposure the Mach-E gets, the better. The inside of some Ford NASCAR vehicles have a small “Mach-E” advertisement sitting within view of the camera, and the pace car will obviously get a lot of exposure on the camera.
There’s also a reputational reason. Ford wants people to know that it is not only making an EV that people can buy, but that the company is proud of it and intends to build more. Putting the vehicle in such a front-and-center role helps achieve that.
Talladega Superspeedway was also not afraid to show it off.
— Talladega Superspeedway (@TALLADEGA) April 22, 2021
The fact that everyone is proud to show off an EV at a NASCAR race in the South shows that electric vehicles are starting to make major inroads toward being mainstream. Among car and racing enthusiasts, bringing up eco-oriented vehicles and EVs were like saying a swear word in front of Captain America (Language!), but today, there’s no fear on the part of NASCAR, Ford, or the racing venue.
How Did It Do?
Yahoo News and Motorius said the EV performed just fine.
“Despite plenty of heckling from naysayers online, the Mach-E didn’t run out of charge as it performed its duties on the track. Instead, the EV performed just as it should. In all fairness, pacing a NASCAR Cup Series race isn’t exactly taxing on a vehicle. Instead, it’s a great way to raise awareness of a new model, which is exactly why Ford wanted it there.”
Neither Ford nor NASCAR put out a special video showing the Mach-E, so we had to dig through the full footage of the race to find a good video shot of it doing the job. The video below is set to start at the right time to see the Mach-E in action:
Obviously, it doesn’t need to have the high-speed capabilities that a NASCAR racing car does. All of the energy for going those speeds for that many miles makes for a real challenge for a battery pack. Pace cars only need to go a lower speed and give the drivers a lower pace to go before racing starts or resumes. After performing those duties well, the pace car pulls off toward the pits and lets them all go toward the start of the race.
You can see it fly by the camera briefly a few seconds later.
Before anybody asks, the cars behind the pace car aren’t twitching back and forth behind it to show any disapproval. It’s standard racing practice to go back and forth behind the pace car to keep the tires on the racecar warm so they’ll be ready for more racing once they’re allowed to stomp on the skinny pedal again.
You can see it in action again at 3:08:41:
This time, they brought the Mach-E out to slow everyone down and keep them in line while emergency personnel helped a driver after a crash and got his car off the track.
Not Everyone’s A Fan
That doesn’t mean all of the response was positive, though.
Some people probably think I like to dunk on the South too much, but let’s be real here for a minute. The last people who will get into EVs are probably the followers of one of Alabama’s biggest racing venues. Fortunately, the rest of the country (and even many people in the South who aren’t total Bubbas) are wise to the many advantages of EVs.
Despite The Naysayers, It’s A Great Thing
Unlike the last time Ford (or anyone) brought out an electric vehicle, it was a compliance car.
Like most compliance cars, it had limited range and wasn’t that powerful, but it was all electric. Built on a Focus gas-car glider, they couldn’t put the battery pack in an optimal location, instead putting it in the trunk area. This led to less handling capability and a loss of cargo space. It also didn’t have DC fast charging, so it was generally less useful than the Nissan LEAF.
To see the next EV pace car be the Mach-E shows just how far not only Ford, but the whole industry has come. Unlike the old Focus EV, the Mach-E is built on a dedicated platform, has the battery pack slung low, has a lot of range, includes fast charging, and is a generally much more useful vehicle.
The difference here is night and day. Instead of putting out an eco-car full of compromises for the world to see that Ford had paid some penance, it is showing off a serious EV. That’s a great thing.
Featured image provided by Ford Performance.