Will Honda Join NASCAR?

Rumblings occurred during the latter half of the 2010s as to whether Honda would join NASCAR. The brand has been mentioned in the same breath as other potential manufacturers that include Dodge, Nissan, and Hyundai as other potential candidates, leaving many fans wondering if Honda will join NASCAR.

Honda could join NASCAR. However, NASCAR would need to alleviate Honda’s budgetary concerns for a partnership to work. Honda does have a presence in the NASCAR-owned IMSA Series, and they also have connections to Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing.

Below, we will reveal whether Honda would be a new name on the NASCAR circuit, or if they raced for them in the past. We will also discuss the likelihood of Honda striking a partnership with NASCAR, and whether they, or another manufacturer, are the frontrunners.

Has Honda Ever Raced In NASCAR?

Honda has never raced in NASCAR. However, they do have a presence in IndyCar and the NASCAR-owned IMSA Weathertech SportsCar series. Honda also has connections to Team Penske and the former NASCAR team, Chip Ganassi Racing. The connections and presence have established a familiarity with NASCAR.

If you are a lifelong fan, you may remember numerous manufacturers racing in NASCAR. Go back through the generations, and you will find popular names like Buick, Dodge, Pontiac, Hudson, Oldsmobile, Plymouth, Chrysler, and Mercury. However, Honda is not one of those.

Other than Chrysler and Mercury, each of the aforementioned manufacturers have won at least one Manufacturers Championship in the NASCAR Cup Series. Of the listed manufacturers, everyone except for Hudson, Plymouth, and Chrysler also raced in the lower Xfinity Series.

American Brands Only?

You may also notice that all the above manufacturers are American brands. Honda, a Japanese brand, has yet to make its mark in NASCAR, with Toyota being the first and only manufacturer from Japan to compete in NASCAR’s organization.

When Toyota joined NASCAR in 2004 and the Cup Series in 2007, it caused discontent among many traditional fans as they grew accustomed to seeing exclusively American-made cars grace the NASCAR circuit. However, American-made was never a prerequisite for NASCAR prior to Toyota’s debut.

In its early days, NASCAR welcomed foreign brands. Three brands, Alfa Romeo (Italy), Porsche (Germany), and Volkswagen (Germany), came from Europe. The UK also saw representation with Austin-Healey, Aston Martin, Jaguar, MG Motor, and Leyland Motors.

NASCAR Going Global

Just like other professional North American sports organizations, NASCAR has strived to reach a global audience in the 21st century. Some organizations, like the NFL, have scheduled regular season games in the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Germany to better reach a global audience.

NASCAR has a huge advantage over the other sports leagues in the fact that they can use the “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” approach with any prospective manufacturer. While it is true that Honda and other vehicle manufacturers sponsor other professional sports leagues, NASCAR’s selling point toward Honda and other foreign manufacturers would be the extensive exposure.

No, the prospective Hondas gracing the NASCAR circuit will not be the same seen at your local dealership. However, the Next Gen car design has done a tremendous job on ensuring that their respective car designs strongly resemble their production car counterparts.

Will Honda Ever Be In NASCAR?

Honda could be in NASCAR in the future, but it would require some changes on NASCAR’s end. Despite the financial benefits that NASCAR would bring them, the manufacturer still has major budgetary concerns. Although unlikely anytime soon, there could be a partnership between the two in the future.

Numerous manufacturers have raced in NASCAR, but only Chevrolet, Toyota, and Ford remain. Pontiac dropped out following the 2004 season. Dodge left NASCAR following the 2012 season when Penske Racing switched to Fords.

Since then, NASCAR has spent time at least trying to sway manufacturers to join its ranks, but they have yet to be successful. Several hot names on the organization’s radar included Nissan, Hyundai, and Honda. Dodge has also hit the rumor mill multiple times.

There has been a lot more talk over the latter 2010s about Honda potentially coming to NASCAR than the aforementioned brands. However, as of October 2020, Honda stated they were uninterested in joining NASCAR at the time. That has not always been the case as Honda has shown interest in the past.

Honda Has Shown Past Interest

From October 2019 to October 2020, Honda flip-flopped on the idea of joining NASCAR. During that time, Honda paid close attention to NASCAR’s development of the Next Gen car plus its rules and regulations regarding new cars. Budgetary concerns were the main barrier that kept Honda from joining at the time.

Honda’s Motorsport Endeavors

It is easy to forget that Honda has a presence in IndyCar and the NASCAR-owned IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Series.While Honda praised NASCAR’s reach and the potential financial rewards it could bring to the brand, they also realized how expensive it is to be part of the organization.

Given the time, cost, and effort required in NASCAR, Honda executives were concerned that joining could come at the expense of its presence in IndyCar and IMSA. These concerns, for the time being, led Honda to choose not to join NASCAR in its endeavors.

Enter The Next Gen

Despite Honda’s disinterest for a year, the advent of the Next Gen car may salvage a potential partnership with NASCAR.The overall costs of maintaining at least four cars in the series with the total of 80+ engines would send many manufacturers running.

However, one of NASCAR’s goals with the Next Gen car involved making its production and maintenance cheaper among its current manufacturers. Also among the Next Gen updates, NASCAR targeted 2024 with unveiling a potential hybrid system that could also attract manufacturers like Honda.

NASCAR Connections

If Honda were to join in the future, they may have an easier pathway than other manufacturers given their connections to Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing. Penske continues to run in NASCAR while Ganassi had a spot in the series until the 2021 season.

Is Honda The Most Likely Manufacturer To Join NASCAR?

Honda is not the most likely manufacturer to join NASCAR at the moment. Despite citing the obvious financial benefits that NASCAR would bring them, they have already announced they would not join the NASCAR ranks anytime soon because of their commitments to other endeavors.

With NASCAR’s status at the top of American motorsports’ pyramid, every manufacturer, Honda or not, must pause and think about the benefits for joining the organization.Honda has admitted that NASCAR would bring major financial benefits.

However, in September 2020, Honda decided not to join the NASCAR ranks any time soon because of their commitment to IndyCar and IMSA. Especially since they won the Manufacturers Championship in IndyCar that season, edging out Chevrolet.

Dodge, Not Honda

Dodge could join NASCAR come 2024, which is when many believe the sport will switch to the hybrid model. NASCAR President Steve Phelps even stated he’d be expecting a new OEM to enter the NASCAR ranks with a hybrid system.

Many fans took Phelps’ statements as an indication that Honda, not Dodge, would be the next OEM to join NASCAR – or, in Dodge’s case, rejoining NASCAR. However, with Dodge looking to go fully hybrid for 2024 complete with an eMuscle powertrain, it indicates they are the frontrunners for returning to NASCAR.

Not that it would occur in 2024, but with NASCAR planning to go hybrid that same year, it shows the stars for both companies are aligning. This doesn’t mean that Honda is out of the game. If NASCAR can further reduce costs for its Next Gen car throughout the 2020s, the automaker may very well make the jump into NASCAR.

Final Thoughts

Honda has never raced in NASCAR. However, they have a presence in the NASCAR-owned IMSA Series and have connections to Team Penske and former NASCAR team Chip Ganassi Racing. Honda is hesitant to join due to budget concerns and until NASCAR addresses these issues, it is unlikely they will join.