Revealed as a concept in 2013, the Mirai made its Japan-market sales debut last year. A launch in the US, starting in California, is scheduled for October.
Sponsored by Toyota since 2011, the race in Richmond, Virginia, was seen as the perfect round to showcase the new ‘fuel cell’ car ahead of its launch.
"Bringing the Mirai to Richmond to pace this important race is another way for Toyota to showcase our innovation and environmental leadership,” Toyota USA marketing boss Ed Laukes said on the weekend.
Powered by an electric motor that draws energy from a hydrogen fuel-cell system, the water-emitting Mirai is a far cry from the 540kW petrol engines that drive the NASCAR racers.
It’s hoped that the weekend’s pace-car stunt will draw more than just the usual early-adopter type to the Mirai when it hits California, although they’ll need to prepare for a US$45,000 spend - including US$13,000 in government incentives, of course.
If that isn’t incentive enough for buyers, Toyota is throwing another sweetener into the deal by offering early buyers three years worth of free hydrogen re-fuelling.
As for the Mirai’s hydrogen system, Toyota promises an eight-year / 100,000 mile (161,000km) warranty on components, watching the security offered with its petrol-electric Prius hybrid models.
Toyota is pushing the Mirai heavily in the US ahead of its sales launch, with a new tongue-in-cheek promotional video (below) making the most of Tesla founder Elon Musk’s claims that hydrogen cars “are bullshit”.
In Australia, hydrogen fuel-cell technology has recently gained significant attention, thanks largely to Hyundai's limited introduction of the ix35 Fuel Cell in Sydney this month.
Although the ix35 Fuel Cell is a production-ready car that is offered in a number of markets - again in limited numbers - the ultra-green SUV is registered in Australia as an engineering evaluation vehicle.
At the vehicle's Sydney launch early in April, Federal Industry minister described hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles as a key consideration in Australia's "long-term future" for "zero emission" motoring.