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Soaring Ambitions: Flying cars in NASCAR? The question has been raised

By Adam Stern
The concept of flying cars was made popular in the 1960s animated series “The Jetsons.”getty images

It’s NASCAR meets “The Jetsons.”

 

The sanctioning body has floated the idea of a competition with flying cars, putting the lofty idea in front of its fan council in a recent survey. However high or low the odds are, NASCAR asked the fan council what type of vehicles they’d like to see at exhibition events, with one of the answers to choose from being a “flying car.”

The sanctioning body confirmed that it included the question and possible answer in the survey, pointing to how it is looking long into the future to start preparing for what the world may look like not only next year but also next decade and beyond.

Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president of strategy and innovation, recently told Sports Business Journal that the league’s strategy team has been working on a mock 2031 schedule as a road map for the future. That same sort of forward thinking led the sport to ask its fans about flying cars, a NASCAR spokesperson said.

The survey asked fans to make up to three choices among the possible answers to the question: “Which types of vehicles should compete at exhibition events?” Answers included pickup trucks, flying cars, crossovers, sedan/coupes and SUVs. The survey added in parentheses to the flying car option that it is “similar to a drone, but large enough to hold one person.” NASCAR declined to say how many respondents chose the flying car answer.

The timing of NASCAR’s question comes as the stuff once relegated to sci-fi movies becomes more realistic by the year. In fact, a new flying car series called Airspeeder is getting media coverage ahead of a planned 2022 launch. Airspeeder is owned by Australian company Alauda and describes itself as an electric flying car racing series that uses manned multicopters “in a fusion of urban air mobility and motorsport.” Airspeeder recently posted a clip of its first test race and the video generated solid social media engagement.

The future is now as companies such as Joby Aviation work toward making sky taxis a reality using all-electric, drone-like aircraft.Joby Aviation

While not related to racing, another new venture by Joby Aviation also shows the potential for flying cars and the work going into making the concept feasible. Joby has unveiled an electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft that it’s positioning as a future sky taxi. The company envisions the craft making its debut as early as 2024 and is exploring rooftop leases to create takeoff and landing areas in major metropolitan markets including New York, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Other companies are working on similar efforts.

NASCAR routinely uses its fan council to bounce ideas and to review current issues such as the quality of its racing on the track. It created the council in 2008 and surveys around 25,000 fans as part of the effort. Because it sometimes mentions ideas that aren’t yet fully public, NASCAR asks fans to keep the surveys confidential.

Along with the question about vehicles at exhibition events, NASCAR recently asked its fans about other things they would like to see in the future, such as locations for its championship race, which it could rotate on a more regular basis.

SBJ reported in June that NASCAR is considering starting an all-electric exhibition series as a way to help adapt the sport to the changing car industry, which is focusing on electric vehicles more than ever.

It may be out-of-this world thinking, but the issue of flying cars is worth watching. And to draw upon the main character of the 1960s animated series, fans can envision George Jetson piloting a car sponsored by Spacely Space Sprockets.

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