The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series is the second largest motor racing series in the world, after Formula 1, and easily the most popular in the USA. The stamina it demands of the drivers and crews is incredible: the race season lasts from February through to November and takes in 38 races.
NASCAR has moved a long way in scope and scale from its post-war roots in modified stock cars racing on dirt ovals, but it has kept the series true to a couple of core principles: close competition between racing cars that have a clear visual link with the products fans can buy in the showroom.
In 2012 the NASCAR Cup Series underwent the biggest regulatory change in over 60 years, moving from carburettors to electronic fuel injection. The standard ECU (Engine Control Unit) behind this momentous change was developed, manufactured and supported by McLaren Applied Technologies.
How did we become involved? We have a longer history in the sport than some outsiders may realise think. In 2005, at a time when it would have seemed somewhat unusual for an electronics company to become involved in a series that had no electronics in the competition, we began to sell alternators to a leading team. The business grew and in 2008 we set up an office in North Carolina, the heart of the NASCAR industry.
When NASCAR declared its intention to switch to fuel injection, we put together a strong technical and commercial bid, which proved to be compelling. Our success with the standard ECUs in Formula 1 and IndyCar also made for a strong case. We were awarded a five-year contract and became the first ever high-technology supplier to the competition. We have since renewed our contract for years to come.
We delivered the system on time and it entered service at the beginning of the 2012 season in NASCAR’s biggest race, the Daytona 500. The transition away from 60 years of carburettors was seamless and the drivers, teams and spectators all liked what it delivered: better drivability, more consistency and transparency of operation and a great spectacle with more road relevance. McLaren supplies the ECUs, digital displays and critical sensors to the competitors and supports them and NASCAR at every event. We also provide many of the non-mandated parts associated with the control system, including harnesses, sensors and alternators, to various engine builders and teams.
We have a presence at every race throughout the season and have become an integral part of the competition.