NASCAR fans are among the most devoted in the world of sport, with thousands turning up to watch races at iconic tracks like the Talladega Superspeedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Daytona International Speedway, home of the famous Daytona 500 race. These fans are also extremely knowledgeable about their sport and have even been known to tune in to team radios to learn more about the technical specifications of their favorite team or the tactics employed by their favorite drivers.
While sports fans who only occasionally watch NASCAR might find themselves confused by some aspects of the race, those die-hard fans know all there is to know about stock car racing, from what all those different colored flags mean to how the complicated points system works over the course of a season.
There are even different NASCAR competitions which run at the same time, and some drivers have even been known to participate in more than one series in a season. There is even a nickname for those leading NASCAR drivers who compete at a lower level – Buschwhackers – and who often dominate races because of their experience in the elite Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
There are, however, plenty of NASCAR secrets that even hardcore motorsports fans don’t know about – and that is because the drivers themselves want to keep these facts on the down low!
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone to learn that the vehicles which take part in NASCAR races are nothing like the regular models which you can buy at your local dealership. Cars like the Toyota Camry, Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger may be a common sight on regular roads, but the NASCAR versions have undergone some serious modifications to get them ready for the track.
For one thing, the engines in NASCAR vehicles require three times as much oil as regular cars, and the oil has to be completely changed between each race to ensure that it can keep the engine lubricated.
Toyota, Ford, Dodge, and Chevrolet may be the big names in NASCAR racing at the moment, but over the years a number of manufacturers have tried their hand at stock car racing. In fact, there have been few NASCAR vehicles from outside the US and Japan in any races, and even the Japan-made models are a relatively recent innovation.
It seems that cars built in the US and Japan have a distinct advantage when it comes to NASCAR, and companies like Toyota and Nissan have even used the publicity they have enjoyed because of their NASCAR success to boost sales in the US.
When cars are traveling at speeds of up to and even over 200mph there is a lot that can go wrong. NASCAR fans have seen some spectacular crashes over the years, as well as lots of mechanical failures. The one thing that drivers always think they can depend upon, however, is that the track is going to be in perfect condition.
In truth, this isn’t always the case, and even the infamous Daytona International Speedway has been found to have a few potholes, and one even appeared during the famous Daytona 500 race in 2010, causing NASCAR bosses to bring the contest to a premature end.
It might seem as though the life of a NASCAR racer is a pretty enviable one. After all, you get paid millions of dollars to drive some of the best cars in the world at high speed around a racetrack, and all while traveling the country and staying on five-star hotels.
Yes, there are some perks to the NASCAR lifestyle, and the financial reward can be great for those who make a success of their racing career, but many fans don’t realize that being a NASCAR racer is a seven-days-a-week job or that you can be behind the wheel for hours at a time.
And when the NASCAR season is in full swing, there is no chance of a driver getting any time off between races. When they aren’t training or testing new car modifications there are press releases and media events to attend, as well as junkets to promote sponsors as well as charity appearances.
Being a NASCAR champ is about a lot more than outing in the hours on the track; sponsors are only going to pony up the cash for drivers who are willing to put in the work promoting their products. Even when the races are over, there is still a lot of work for the team and its drivers to do.
Drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr and Joey Logano may be the very public faces of their respective NASCAR teams, but the crew is much bigger than just one racer. From the owner who controls the team finances down to the lowly truck driver, whose very important job it is to get the car and equipment to the track in one piece, every NASCAR team is like a well-oiled machine.
Aside from the driver, perhaps the most prominent members of the team are the pit crew, who are responsible for the super-fast tire changes and refueling stops you see during races.
NASCAR races typically last around three hours, and the more eagle-eyed fans will have noticed that while drivers make plenty of pit stops to make sure their car is in peak condition, they never get out of the vehicles. Which means that there is no chance to make a toilet stop throughout the three-hour race.
The simple fact is that if drivers find that they have to take a whizz, then they just go in their seats. Throwing water over yourself as you finish the race is a great way to cool off, but also hides any tell-tale stains on your driving overalls…
Cars can reach speeds of over 200mph during NASCAR races, even on the sweeping turns you find at many race tracks. This combination means that drivers can be subjected to forces equivalent to between two and three G’s – or two to three times the force of earth’s gravity.
On a track like the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, which is a short circuit with tight turns and steep banking, drivers can be subject to these forces for over half of the 15 seconds it takes them to complete a lap, taking its toll physically by the end of the race.
So, it appears that being a NASCAR driver might be more physically demanding than it first appears. But how fit do you really have to be to sit in the drivers’ seat of a car for a few hours? Amazingly, the heart rate of a NASCAR racer is the same as a marathon runner over the same amount of time - around 120 to 150 beats per minute.
Drivers spend a lot of time in the gym staying in shape, although not all of them look as though they keep fit! Jimmie Johnson is one of the fittest NASCAR racers, having completed the actual Boston Marathon in just over three hours in 2019.
Every NASCAR is engineered to gain the maximum amount of speed and control, but there are a few conditions which all teams must adhere to. Aside from the various rules about what kind of equipment you can have on your car, vehicles also have to weigh exactly 3,300 pounds – which includes the weight of the driver.
Given that the tires alone weigh 50 pounds each, teams can sometimes have some tough decisions to make about what kit is stripped back. And if the weight of the car and driver comes in at under 3,300 pounds, then they have to have extra weight added to ensure an even playing field.
NASCAR drivers can pick up penalties and fines for a whole array of infringements. They can be punished for making dangerous maneuvers in the track, while their teams can also face sanctions for failing to ensure their cars have the proper equipment on board or even for making inappropriate comments to the media, as was the case with Tony Stewart in 2016.
And these fines can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for repeat offenders! The NASCAR bosses collect all these penalty payments from the teams, and then hand the cash to the NASCAR Foundation, to support its charity work across the US.
Remember those specially designed NASCAR tires that weigh 50 pounds apiece? Well, each team can go through 16 sets of those tires during every race, when you take into account practice sessions and qualifying – and it is the poor pit crew who have to lift and roll them into position. These tires don’t just weigh a lot; they are also pretty expensive too.
Each tire can cost between $350 and $450, though the teams don’t actually buy them, but instead lease them from Goodyear. Although what Goodyear does with a load of worn-out NASCAR tires at the end of a race is a mystery!
Winners of individual races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series can pick up $1 million for crossing the line first – and the winner of the prestigious Daytona 500 race is thought to take home at least $1.5 million. While much of this money immediately gets plowed back into running the team, sometimes the winner of the race isn’t the one who earns the most money.
High-profile racers can expect to earn more for their teams from sponsorship deals than from prize money, and can also boost their own pay packet with commercial tie-ins. Of course, the best way to secure more lucrative sponsorship is to win races!
Located in Charlotte, North Carolina, the NASCAR Hall of Fame pays tribute to the great drivers, engineers, team owners and even media figures who have made the sport such a success since its roots back in the 1940s. Getting a place in the Hall of Fame isn’t always easy, and there are some great drivers who haven’t quite made enough of a mark.
However, there is one guaranteed way to get yourself a place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame; win the iconic Daytona 500 race. The latest Hall of Fame inductees includes Davey Allison, who won the race in 1992, as well as three-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon.
NASCAR cars don’t just use special oil and custom tires. They also use a completely different type of gas to the kind the rest of us ordinary motorists get from the pump. The gas used in NASCAR racing cars is 98-octane unleaded fuel blend, which has been provided to teams by Sunoco since 2004.
The gas is known as Sunoco Green, not because it is environmentally friendly (far from it, in fact) but because it is green in color. Cars powered by Sunoco fuels have completed 15.5 million miles in NASCAR races and taken 1,300 chequered flags over the last 15 years.
Anyone who has ever seen a NASCAR race, regardless of whether they are a fan or not, will know that their cars tend to be very brightly colored, and covered in lots of logos, images, and slogans belonging to the team’s various sponsors. It seems that each car is trying to fit as many company names on the bodywork as they can – and that is the best way to maximize your income!
These colored logos are not painted onto the bodywork, but are applied using high-quality vinyl decals, which also makes it easier to replace any sponsor who drops their financial support…
Believe it or not, the sponsors’ names and logos are not the only vinyl decals which are applied to the exterior of a NASCAR car before the big race. It won’t have escaped the notice of hardcore NASCAR fans that there are few night-time races in this particular motorsport, which means that most times the cars line up on the starting grid they have no need of headlights.
Rather than add unnecessary weight, most NASCAR vehicles have their headlights removed, and fake ones applied using the same kind of vinyl decals used to decorate the bodywork with the names of team sponsors.
The combined weight of the driver and car may need to be 3,300 pounds at the start of the race, but this doesn’t have to be the case when they cross the finish line. Not only is the car itself likely to have shed a few pounds thanks to wear and tear, but the drivers themselves will also have lost weight.
NASCAR racers can lose between 5 and 10 pounds in sweat during a race, as the temperature inside the car reaches a stifling 100 °F or even 170 °F down at the floorboards It is vital that drivers replace lost fluids throughout the race, or dehydration could affect their performance.
There aren’t many parts on a NASCAR car that come cheap, but the engine is one of the most expensive components, costing between $45,000 and $80,000. It is easy to see why teams need those million-dollar prizes to keep themselves afloat, especially when you realize that each of those prohibitively expensive engines can only be used for one race.
After just one NASCAR contest engines are so worn out that they are no further use to the team, even for testing or training. It just goes to show the kind of stresses and strains that the cars, as well as the drivers, go through during each race.
It tends to be difficult for ordinary young men and women to make it to the top of the tree in motorsports, and NASCAR is no exception. Young drivers still need an incredible amount of money to get started, which probably explains why so many sons of famous racing fathers have followed in their footsteps in NASCAR and Formula One.
However, even a recognizable family name isn’t going to be enough to ensure success; in fact, the only way to make it to the top in NASCAR, as in all motorsports is to attract the sponsorship money which is so vital for funding the team.
Speeding around a racetrack at over 200mph is not for the faint-hearted, and yet NASCAR drivers don’t have to hold a state driving license in order to take part in races. While most drivers over the age of 16 have passed their test, there are a handful of NASCAR drivers who are too young to drive on regular roads, and yet think nothing of taking a million-dollar stock car for a spin around the track.
You do need to have a NASCAR license in order to take part in competitions, however, although this doesn’t require any test of your driving skills.
At the start and end of races, NASCAR drivers always get in and out of their vehicles through the windows. While this may look pretty cool it isn’t, in fact, an homage to the Dukes of Hazzard but is a practical measure, as the doors on NASCAR cars do not open. In fact, modern NASCAR vehicles are built completely without opening doors, but until the 1970s racers drive ordinary cars which had their doors welded shut for safety reasons.
This set-up prevents the doors from flying open in the event of a collision and helps keep drivers safe in their seat.
The fastest speed recorded in a NASCAR car was 212mph, set by Bill Elliott in 1987 before the rules were changed and vehicles had their speeds restricted for safety reasons. NASCAR racers still touch the 200 mph mark, but the strange thing is that they might not know this until the race is over, as their cars don’t have speedometers on the dashboards.
There are lots of other important instruments on the dashboard of a NASCAR car, which the driver needs to control his race and also to monitor the performance of his vehicle, but speed is apparently not one of these.
There are lots of things for drivers to do in the build-up to a race, from mechanical checks to press conferences, but you would have thought that by the time race day comes around, all they would have to do is keep their mind focused on the job at hand. Sadly for NASCAR racers, staying focused on the race isn’t always easy.
The pits and the starting grid are often very busy with team members, reporters, and hangers-on, which can make it difficult to find a peaceful place to shut out all the noise and get your head straight before the contest starts.
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that NASCAR cars rank pretty low when it comes to being environmentally friendly. These vehicles are the ultimate gas guzzlers, and the high-octane fuels they use pump out more pollution than regular gas. However, NASCAR bosses know the value of good PR, and they realize that they have to be seen to make an effort to make the sport a little greener.
The NASCAR Green initiative encourages recycling and the responsible disposal of waste products, as well as installing solar arrays at race tracks and planting trees and plants near NASCAR venues.
Sources - The Sportster, NASCAR, CBC, Auto News