Tony Stewart Takes Ford Mustang Cobra Jet 1400 EV on Exhibition Runs at Pomona08/02/2021
Not only did motorsports legend Tony Stewart get a glimpse of the latest evolution in auto racing, but he helped usher it in this weekend at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
After a refresher course from Funny Car and Ford evangelist Bob Tasca III, who has driven the 1400-horsepower Ford Mustang Cobra Jet prototype since its debut, Stewart made four exhibition runs on the quarter-mile this past weekend in the Ford Cobra Jet 1400 EV—two Friday and one each Saturday and Sunday.
Amazed by the electric-car’s speed and handling, Stewart became even more comfortable with it than he was in a recent introductory test session at zMAX Dragway at Charlotte.
“It’s definitely something that’s caught me off guard, for sure,” he said, looking back to his first association with the all-electric Mustang. “The big thing that you notice is it doesn’t torque the car to the right rear corner when it leaves. All these other cars, because of crankshafts and the direction that the load is on the crankshaft, it twists the cars to the right and loads the right rear tire harder. So with the electric car, it just sits down flat in the back, which is nice, because that’s what you ultimately would want in the perfect world, anyway. But it does that, and it doesn’t have that torsional twist to it that you have in combustion engine cars.”
So Stewart said the Cobra Jet 1400 still uses all of one’s senses, although it doesn’t bombard the driver with the sensory overload that traditional NHRA nitro-powered cars do.
“It does have sound, obviously. It’s not near as loud as a gas car, by any means, but you do hear the electric motors going in the back. So there is an audio to hear, as far as hearing the car run down the lap. You know, obviously the burnout sounds like a burnout. It’s just you just hear a higher-pitched motor sound than you do combustion engines. So all of your senses are still working, but the audio part of it is drastically different than what you’re used to and accustomed to, having something that when you hit the gas, it makes a loud noise. This is not near as loud, obviously, when it goes. So it’s definitely different,” he said. “But you can smell the tire smoke that’s inside the cars as you’re lining up still.”
A sense of wonder struck him when he first took a look at the technology behind the technology on a visit with Brian Novak, Mark Rushbrook, and all the Ford engineers.
“Yeah. I mean, to walk in there and watch what they’re doing on the computers . . . I got a high school diploma out of high school, but that’s all the further I got. But to sit there and look at what those guys are looking at and looking at the technology involved in that car and to think about what we’re looking at down the road, it’s something that when I was in my teens or early twenties, I never thought we would ever see anything like this,” Stewart said.
“Do I think it’s got its place? Absolutely. Do I think it’s going to replace cars that make fumes and that we can smell and see? No, I don’t think it’s going to replace that at all,” he said. “But it’s cool to know that that’s where our technology is going down the road and what we’re going to be driving in the future.”
As far as the popularity of EVs in drag racing in particular and motorsports in general, Stewart said if crowds are lukewarm to the notion at first, that wouldn’t be anything alarming.
“I think that’s the way everybody is in society about everything that’s different, anything that’s a major change,” Stewart said. “It always takes people a little bit of time to warm up to. So I don’t know. I mean, racing’s still racing at the end of the day. We’ve seen over in Europe and everything the electric cars that they’re racing over there, and when you’re watching on TV, it’s good racing. So it’s the same but different.
“So I think it may take a while, but at the same time, the more mainstream it becomes as far as what we’re driving on the city streets, the more relevant it becomes and makes more sense to everybody. So I think as the OEMs are getting more involved in the electric side, that racing will, as well.”
” I mean, racing’s still racing at the end of the day.”
Stewart said he has received superb instruction and coaching from not just Tasca and the Ford imagineers but also from Pat McCue, the high-school shop teacher from Bothell, Wash., who built and has driven the electric Cobra Jet (as well as the General Motors’ Copo Camaro).
“I actually tested in the car at Charlotte one day and made five passes – three partial runs and two full-length runs before we had to stop for the day,” he said. “And then Bob (Friday) had to kind of give me a refresher on how to do everything again, because it’s been a while since I’ve been in it and I’ve not driven anything that had this kind of transmission in it ever before, in any application. It’s normal in drag racing, but it’s not something that I’m used to. So they had to go over with me the procedures, both of them, the engineers and Bob. Bob has taken a ton of time with me to help out and be supportive with me driving the car. So he spent a lot of time with me (Friday) and reminded me how to do everything.”
Stewart said the person who “talks to you the most on the radio and that I spend the most time with” is McCue.
He called McCue a “super-smart guy” and said, “The best part is he’s literally walking you through every step of all the procedures, and his demeanor on the radio is so calm that you go through it and it just seems second nature. He has a way of communicating on the radio to you in a way that’s very calming. And definitely makes the part of everything being different and awkward, it takes a lot of that awkward part out, because he’s doing such a good job of walking me through the process. I’ve enjoyed working with him. All the group on the Ford side have been awesome to work with, but he’s the one that I spend the most time with. And he’s the one that’s walked through the procedures on how to do everything. And he’s a really, really neat guy.”
And this was an equally neat gig for him, showing off Ford’s innovation and performance expertise. Watching fiancée Leah Pruett advance to the Top Fuel final round and win on a solo pass made it even more memorable.
Smoke seems to think EV racing has a future. He also thinks the roar of internal combustion engines aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. What do you think about EVs in racing? Start the discussion in the comments section below.
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