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Roush Fenway Racing President on becoming the first carbon neutral NASCAR team

Steve Newmark, Roush Fenway Racing President joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss going carbon neutral and how COVID-19 has impacted NASCAR.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

SEANA SMITH: Let's talk going green. Roush Fenway Racing is NASCAR's first carbon neutral team. Here to talk more about that, we want to bring in Steven Newmark. He's the president of Roush Fenway Racing. And Steve, great to have you on the program. Congratulations on this achievement. I guess, first, just talk to us about your carbon neutral initiative and how you were able to do this and accomplish it in such a-- I don't know if I would say short amount of time, but such a timely manner.

STEVE NEWMARK: Sure. Well, first of all, thanks for having me. We're obviously proud of the initiative that we're taking here. So I always like to talk about it. And I'll be honest. It was not something that was on our radar screen last year. We've always prided ourselves on being environmentally conscious. And we have a number of programs that we've always had here with recycling and waste reduction.

But the reality of it is, it came on our radar screen when Castrol, who's a partner of ours that provides our motor oil and hopefully helps us go faster on the track, explained that it was their corporate objective to be net zero by 2050 and they pledged to help other companies achieve the same carbon reductions.

And so we embarked on a, we'll call it a journey with them, to do some stuff that we really weren't aware of on our end, which was track and quantify and measure our carbon emissions, and realize that if we took some steps internally, we could reduce our carbon footprint. Could offset the remainder with offsets to get ourselves to be carbon neutral. So it's our hope that this program raises awareness about what's possible and hopefully sets an example for other small businesses out there.

ADAM SHAPIRO: All right, just please understand I was at Brickyard 400 at the inaugural many, many decades ago. So, what does racing look like in a carbon neutral world? What are some of the things you've done to get there? Is it just recycling tires? It's got to be more than that.

STEVE NEWMARK: Well, I mean, fortunately, nothing that we've done will impact our performance on the track. So, at its core, we're a race team, and we're going to be measured by wins and championships. And that's what our owners Jack Roush and John Henry are going to hold us to. But what we were able to do is look at how we ran our business on a day-to-day basis and sort through ways that we could reduce our greenhouse gas emissions without impacting track performance.

So similar-- I mean, things like consolidating our office space. We're going to install an on-site biodiesel fuel station. Our haulers, obviously, go all over the country to race cars. And they have a home base here, and we're going to provide them with more efficient, sustainable fuel here. We're looking at even the lighting and how we operate.

And then one of the big initiatives is, we are changing our fleet of non-race cars. So we have a fleet of four cars that our employees drive, and we're converting those from trucks and other similar vehicles to electric vehicles and hybrid. So it's really a lot of little things. And it's also how we operate and potentially trying to buy recycled energy, renewable energy. So all of those little things go in, and I think our hope is that that sets an example for other small businesses that you can take these steps. And then maybe if there are a lot of small businesses that take these steps, we can make a large difference in the global climate challenges.

SEANA SMITH: Steve, you said a couple of times that you hope that this is a-- you hope that this raises awareness for other programs or other small businesses out there. I'm curious just what you've heard inside the NASCAR world. Are there any other companies, any other race teams that are taking similar initiatives to what you're doing?

STEVE NEWMARK: Well, I think it's been a really interesting three or four days because we just announced last week, and we had tried to hold it close to the vest because we really wanted to make sure we had all of our ducks in a row. And so we worked extensively with Castrol over the last few months to make sure that we dotted our I's, crossed our T's, had a third party assurance company kind of bless our carbon neutral designation.

But since the announcement the last few days, it's been really fascinating how many other race team execs have reached out to me, just to inquire how we did it, what it entailed, did it really overhaul how we operated our business. NASCAR has been very supportive. They have a green program that's fairly extensive. And even this was a little bit new and novel to them.

So I think what we've seen is that our goal of this being an education process has already come to fruition in the first couple of days. But it's not just a weekend effort. This is something that we're going to embed as part of our corporate culture going forward.

ADAM SHAPIRO: You know, there's something thrilling when you're at a race track and all of the cars are roaring by, and you can't hear yourself think. You can feel the engines. I set that up for this. Are we going to have a day-- because you use the Mustang. It's not an electric Mustang, but Ford is making a big deal. That electric Mustang is pretty hot. Chevy is going to be all electric in the future. I mean, are we going to see all-electric racing? And how are you going to make us experience that thrill without that rumble of the loud engines?

STEVE NEWMARK: Sure, so I think if you and I looked in our crystal ball where society is going as a whole, I would say that we're obviously trending in that direction. One of the things that NASCAR has already done is, we have a new car platform. It's called the next gen car platform that's coming out in 2022. And that configuration is set up and is compatible with putting an electrification or a hybrid component in it. It wouldn't be going all electric vehicle, but it is-- it's conducive to having a hybrid piece of it. And we're already evaluating and looking at that.

My suspicion is that NASCAR is having pretty extensive discussions with Ford, Chevy, and Toyota, just based on the direction those companies are going. And that will be-- I would predict at some point in the future, we'll have some type of electric vehicle racing out there. Now, I also suspect that NASCAR will be very intentional about making sure it's-- the sound is still there. That's a big part of our sport, as you know. And, you know, when you're at it--

ADAM SHAPIRO: Please, no [AUDIO OUT] 500.

STEVE NEWMARK: Yes, so that will still be a part of it. But we'll let the engineers and the technical guys figure out how to match electric vehicles with internal combustion sound.

SEANA SMITH: Hey, Steven, I got to ask you about this season and what's played out over the past year. 2021's NASCAR season is going to look a lot-- from my understanding, a lot of the same protocols are going to be in place when it comes to the pandemic. What has that been like navigating the past several months? And I guess, what can we expect from this coming season?

STEVE NEWMARK: It has been strange, but it has been necessary. And I think we were really blessed last year to be the only league that had every regular season and every playoff competition get in on time. And that was a testament to how NASCAR ran, but we had a bubble at the track. So where usually you would go to the track and it's a very vibrant place with people everywhere, high energy, it's sparse right now because there are strict limitations on who can be in the infield, who can interact with the drivers and the crew chiefs. And it's all done with an intent towards safety.

And I think it was a testament that other leagues at the time were inquiring from NASCAR about how they did it because we were the first one back, and we didn't have super spreader issues. That said, I think we are all very hopeful that we'll be able to get back to a place where we can entertain and showcase what we do. We were fortunate in Daytona. There were 30,000 people there, and I think that one out-- off without a hitch. But we want to get back to where we can really have this as a gathering place and people can really enjoy the sound and sights of NASCAR.

SEANA SMITH: Steve Newmark, congratulations, once again. We wish you all the best. Thanks so much for coming on the show today. Roush Fenway Racing president.