NASCAR is one of the most popular sports in America today, ranking only behind football in its numbers of fans. We have written a short article here to introduce you to the very basics of NASCAR racing and all the joys that come with it.
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What is NASCAR, and Where Did It Come From?
NASCAR stands for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. It is a sanctioning body and is responsible for several types of auto racing. NASCAR was set up in December 1947 by William France, Sr., with the first races held in 1948. Three of the earliest divisions were:
- The Roadster Division. This division never really got going due to how unpopular it was. It ran from 1956 to 1959.
- The Modified Division. This division was the first official NASCAR race held at Daytona Beach. Today, it has evolved into the NASCAR Whelan Modified Tour.
- The Strictly Stock Division. This one began in 1949, evolving into today’s sport, which is what most people think of when you say “NASCAR” – or, to give it its new full name, the NASCAR Cup Series. Most fans and writers either refer to it as just “NASCAR” or “Cup.”
Today, there are three main NASCAR series, these being:
- NASCAR Cup Series
- Xfinity Series
- Camping World Truck Series
As most people mean the NASCAR Cup Series when they say “NASCAR,” we shall talk briefly about that.
NASCAR Championship Points
NASCAR points are, quite simply, allocated by finishing position. Forty cars run at one time. The winner of the race takes 40 points, second place takes 35, third 34, and so on, all the way down to the thirty-sixth position, which takes 1 point, as will thirty-seventh, eighth, ninth, and fortieth. This also makes up the owners’ points.
Drivers can also earn bonus points by leading or placing up to the tenth position in the first two stages of a three-stage weekend. But you don’t have to worry about that for now.
NASCAR Race Cars
NASCAR race cars are not your ordinary stock cars; this is quite unlike the original Strictly Stock division that it began as. These cars are built from the ground up to be as competitive as possible in the series. Although, all are based on standard four-door American cars, such as the Dodge Charger or Chevy Impala.
The cars weigh 3400 lbs and have fenders on the sides. This allows for side to side contact as the cars jostle for position, quite unlike open-wheel racing, in which any contact often means the end of the race for that driver. All the cars have a wheelbase of exactly 110 inches, with a 358 cubic inch V8 mounted in the front. These engines can be expected to send about 1000 bhp to the wheels, propelling them forwards at a speed between 150 and 200 mph. You can only imagine the momentum generated at these speeds.
NASCAR cars don’t have a clutch, but they use a 4-speed manual transmission. The majority of the time is spent in one gear, due to the nature of the circuits. The driver will always change gear based on only the sound and feel of the car and motor.
How Many Cars Compete Per Season?
The current regulations mean that up to 40 cars can compete per race.
A NASCAR team can field up to 4 cars per season. Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Stewart-Haas Racing are the only three races that currently do this.
Teams using the same manufacturer often work together in an alliance.
The Daytona 500 is the biggest and most well-known NASCAR race. It’s always the first of the season, too.
There are several other big races held in NASCAR, such as the Brickyard 400, which is held at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, or the Memorial Day Weekend Coca-Cola 600 at Lowes Motor Speedway.
The NASCAR Cup Series features 36 different races across 22 different race tracks. Of these 36 races, 34 of them only contain left turns, as the circuits are either oval or D-shaped.
- In races, there is a simple system of 5 different colored flags to mean different things.
- A green flag means that the race is either starting or being restarted. When a driver sees this, they slam their foot on the gas and get moving.
- Yellow flags are indicative of caution up ahead, such as an accident. When a driver sees the yellow flag, they must slow down and carefully drive behind the pace car until the track is cleared and all danger averted.
- Red flags mean that you must stop in a designated area on the track. They only use it when track conditions are serious enough to mean that it’s not safe to continue driving around the track. These might be used in extreme cases of inclement weather or a serious accident.
- A black flag is something that no driver ever wants to see. It means they did something against the rules, or their car is illegal. If a driver is black flagged, they must pull over into the pits immediately.
- White flags, in NASCAR, indicate that the race leader has only one lap remaining until the finish.
- They wave a blue flag with a diagonal yellow stripe at the driver who’s about to be lapped by another car. This driver must yield to the car lapping him by moving out of the racing line and allowing them to pass safely.
- The checkered flag is perhaps the most well-known racing flag because it’s consistent across almost all forms of auto racing. The checkered flag means that the race has finished. When the leader passes it, they know they have won.
- The green-white-checkered flag was introduced in 2004 to make sure that a race never ends under caution. As soon as a driver sees this, they will watch for a green flag, which will signal the restart. After this, the race will have two more laps. As the leader passes the start line for the second lap, the white flag will show, indicating one lap remaining. The checkered flag will wave as usual at the finish. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, but that’s all you need to know for now.
Well-Known NASCAR Drivers and Teams
Some well-known NASCAR race drivers are Dale Earnhardt Sr, Richard Petty, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
You’ll remember the manufacturers. They all compete in NASCAR: Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota.
The team owners have their own names but choose to use cars from known manufacturers, which are modified to the extent of being almost unrecognizable compared to the original car. There are currently 17 full-time NASCAR teams.
Nice to Know
- Fines imposed on drivers get paid to charities.
- Drivers can lose up to 10 lbs when they race. This is because of the insanely hot temperatures in the cockpits of cars while racing – up to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
- When cornering, driver’s bodies can be subject to 3Gs of force. That’s three times the force that gravity puts on you.
- NASCAR is the biggest spectator sport in the world. The biggest NASCAR venue, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has a tremendous capacity of 257,325. In comparison, the largest soccer stadium in the world is located in Pyongyang, North Korea, with a capacity of 114,000.
There’s so much more to talk about. There are so many fascinating rules, regulations, and innovations to learn about. This is as well as drivers to get to know, teams to find out about, and manufacturers to understand.
Check back again soon for more engaging content, and, as always, thanks for reading. We hope you found this article useful as a quick introduction to the wonder that is NASCAR.