…as a parameter of performance is that it is not transparent. Drag racers get satisfaction with a matter of seconds. Other racers have easily measured speed parameters. Even tractor pullers get a straightforward and commonly available means of testing themselves.
Back in the 50s and 60s there was the “Mobil Economy Run” strictly run for manufacturers. Those old cars were unbelievable gas hogs (the best got about 21 MPG
– most ran in the 12-14 MPG
What are needed are economy contests. You could do them over public roads or have them at speedways. There are a lot more speedways today than there were in the days of the Mobil Economy Run. I would not think scheduling would be much of a problem – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway gets used two or three times a year, and Daytona twice. Maybe a way to start is local races on lesser venues.
Racing organizations are quite adept at measuring speed distance and the amount of fuel used. Because they can measure speed, distance, and fuel consumption very accurately, the contests need not be LeMans marathons. Fifty miles per contestant would be the greatest of plenty.
Imagine this: Let’s say 100 contestants show up at Talladega to compete in maybe ten classes. The contestants each follow individual pace cars. The pace cars have radar-operated lights to keep the contestants from drafting them too closely and if the contestant drops back beyond a tolerance range he is penalized for driving too slowly. The pace cars would maintain spacing from each other, so you could have as many as ten pace car/contestant combinations on a big track like Talladega at a time. Have them run 50 miles at 70 MPH and you could probably have the whole thing resolved in a day. TV will not cover it – it would be like watching a paint drying contest, but the manufacturers could make serious commercial hay from MPG
The “Super Bowl” of this would be a coast-to-coast run on civilian highways. A contestant has X amount of time to cover each leg and can only be fueled up at sanctioned stations. Any official would be in each vehicle to assure that no monkey business takes place.
Maybe not mass entertainment – not much chance of crashes at highway speeds on a speedway – but it would advance the technology and awareness of fuel economy.