"We know that we are able to use [NASCAR] to sell other products that we aren't racing," Ford's Rushbrook said. "Racing Ford Fusions in NASCAR today helps us sell F-150s."
NASCAR recognizes the zeitgeist and is taking baby steps toward better environmental stewardship. The organization races with a 15 percent ethanol blend biofuel, which it says reduces greenhouse emissions up to 20 percent while increasing horsepower. Several NASCAR teams and tracks rely on solar power as an energy source, including the Daytona International Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Michigan International Speedway.
The introduction of EVs would be a far bigger change to the core product that would no doubt elicit protests from NASCAR purists.
"Switching over to battery-powered vehicles in NASCAR is not going to be a simple thing to do," Ramsey said. "There's going to have to be enlightened leadership."
But as Toyota has shown, initial opposition to changing what seem like the pillars of NASCAR can evaporate over time.
In 2007, as it gobbled up market share from the Detroit 3, Toyota entered NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, drawing protests from fans who viewed the series as the domain of American automakers. Over time, fans embraced foreign automakers in NASCAR as Toyota proved itself on the track.
Similarly, NASCAR must evolve with customer preferences if it hopes to stay relevant, analysts say.
"If at some point EVs become a substantial portion of the U.S. consumer's personal transportation, as a racing organization you have to be able to keep pace with where the consumers are going for their vehicles of choice," said Karl Brauer, executive publisher at Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader.
NASCAR's willingness to embrace EVs might be tested as the series looks to add a fourth automaker. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Dodge brand wants in, but so does Nissan, which has perhaps the most EV cred among mass-market brands, owing to the Nissan Leaf.
"Nissan being in [NASCAR] would lend more energy to the idea of going EV eventually," Brauer said. "Depending on [which manufacturer] gets in there, I think that would certainly be a component of how long it would ever take to get EVs into NASCAR."
While the technical challenges to racing battery-powered vehicles can be overcome with money and ingenuity, there's no getting around the fact that an electric NASCAR would make for a different day at the track for fans.
"People go to a racetrack because it's this emotional experience," Brauer said. "And I think you're taking a lot of the emotion away when you take the sound away."
Michael Martinez contributed to this report.