Here's Everything You Need To Know About NASCAR

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Here's everything you need to know before going to your first NASCAR race.

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As far as racing organizations in the USA go, NASCAR is the largest. NASCAR, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, was started in 1948 to standardize the form of racing and help develop the rules and regulations that would see this become a professional sport - and today, NASCAR is one of the most beloved forms of auto racing in the States. If you're looking to learn the ins and outs of NASCAR before the race season begins, from what exactly NASCAR is, its origins, and the rules of stock car racing to the names of the most iconic drivers, we'll help you become an expert!

So, What Is NASCAR?

NASCAR is the abbreviation for the racing association responsible for organized stock racing in the USA, but the term NASCAR is also used as a direct reference to the actual support of stock car racing. Stock car racing requires the use of production cars that are customized and modified for the purpose of racing. Originally, stock cars were the mainstream vehicles you would even find on the highway or city streets, but over the years the rules have allowed various degrees of modification - you will typically find family sedans that have been purposefully developed for racing at these events.

The race itself takes place on an oval paved track over the course of many laps. NASCAR races include several different racing series, a multitude of race phases, and even championships.

NASCAR Race Pexels.com

The Origins of NASCAR

Before NASCAR officially became a professional competition or even an organized sport, informal racing resulted from a bunch of prohibition-time bootleggers that would get together and race the modified cars they used to escape police and federal agents, just to show off their speed. NASCAR is, to an extent, rooted in bootlegging, but it continued because of the passion so many of the participants had for driving really, really fast.

One of these individuals, a mechanic named William France, Sr. got involved in the racing scene in the late 30s and was running and promoting races, as well as entering them. By 1948, he officially formed the Association to formalize the sport. Erwin Baker was the first Commissioner of NASCAR, and was also a racer himself, nicknamed "Cannonball". The Cannonball Run transcontinental race is named in his honor.

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The Rules of NASCAR

As with drag racing, rallycross, hill climb racing, and other popular motorsports, there are rules for NASCAR and various classes with slightly different regulations. These include:

  • Street Stock and Pure Stock: Also known as hobby stock, showroom stock, or U-car racing, this class allows only street cars to be raced.
  • Super Stock: Building on the production cars in Street Stock, this class allows a bit more customization and engine modifications, with a power output of up to 500/550 horsepower. Tire width is limited to eight inches or 200 millimeters.
  • Late Model: With varying rules depending on region or track, this class is the highest class where special rules of late model car construction apply. This includes super late models, limited late models, special custom-built cars, and heavily modified street cars.

Additional to these basic rules in NASCAR, there are also rule books for each racing series which are exclusively available to members of the Association and aren't available to the public. There are some common rules that are widely known, including, but not limited to:

  • Cars have to display racing numbers on each door and the roof, as well as a large number of sponsor decals, including a series sponsor logo to be displayed as a header or banner on the windshield.
  • Teams can only make use of one car from the start of the practice to the end of the race, unless the car crashes out, in which case a backup car is allowed but penalized by starting at the back of grid.
  • There are limitations to engine and transmission changes during a race weekend.
  • Drivers must be eligible to take part in the specific series, depending on points and experience.
  • Penalties can be earned for a variety of transgressions, including pitting before the pit road is open, pitting out of order, speeding while entering or exiting the pit, non-compliance with refueling procedures, safety violations, running incorrect equipment, and even verbal abuse.
NASCAR Teams unsplash.com

NASCAR Points System

NASCAR has a complicated point system that drivers and fans need to know, and there are many rules in NASCAR that the drivers have to understand and follow. The various point systems and rules vary across each race series. Many of the series include race stages and playoffs in which the top drivers compete for a champion title.

NASCAR Race Flags

Throughout every NASCAR race, there is a flagman, a NASCAR official whose job it is to wave certain different colored flags to communicate certain instructions to the drivers. Here are some of these, which are not the same as flags used in other auto racing events:

  • Green flag: The green flag is waved to start or restart a race.
  • Yellow flag: When driving conditions are dangerous, usually due to an accident or bad weather, the flagman will wave a yellow 'caution' flag to warn drivers. Drivers will then have to slow down to remain behind the pace car.
  • Red flag: If the flagman waves the red flag, all drivers need to stop immediately in the closest designated area on the track. The red flag typically comes out when there are dangerous track conditions as a result of an accident or inclement weather conditions.
  • Black flag: If a specific driver breaks the rules or if his car isn't running properly or causing a safety risk, the flagman will wave a black flag directing him to pit immediately.
  • Black flag with a white cross: If a driver doesn't respond to a black flag within three laps, this flag is shown to note that the driver in question is no longer being scored.
  • Blue flag/ Blue flag with diagonal yellow stripes: A standard blue flag is used to identify an area on the track where drivers should use caution. The blue flag with a yellow diagonal stripe is used to inform drivers that a faster, lead-lap car is coming in hot and that they need to yield to that car.
  • White flag: The white flag lets the race leader know that he has one lap to go to finish the race.
  • Checkered flag: When the checkered flag is waved, the leading driver has crossed the finish line and won the race, and the race is over.
  • Green and white checkered flag: This indicates the end of a race stage.

The NASCAR Racing Series

Some of the most well-known NASCAR racing series include:

  • The Cup Series: The premier series, this is where the cream of the crop competes. To take part in each race in the series, cars must qualify first and the fastest car in the qualifying will start first in the race. Points are awarded for placements in each race that count towards the championship title at the end of the year, but bonus points are also up for grabs for winning the poll spot or leading the most laps. The NASCAR Cup Series season is opened with the legendary Daytona 500 race.
  • Xfinity: This series is often seen as the feeder for the Cup Series, with many racers coming through the Xfinity series to compete in the Cup. It has fewer races than the Cup and prize money is less, but it is still very popular in the lineup of NASCAR races. Drivers with more than three years of experience taking part in the Cup can only enter five Xfinity races per season in order to keep things fair.
  • NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: In a similar way to stock cars being used, the World Truck Series makes use of modified pickup trucks and has a similar format to what is used in NASCAR Xfinity Series races.
  • International Series: There are a number of international races, such as the Pinty's Series in Canada, the PEAK Mexico Series, and the Whelen Euro Series.
NASCAR unsplash.com

Famous NASCAR Drivers

There are several NASCAR drivers that stand out from all the rest for their significance to the sport and for their achievements. Here are some of the most prominent figures to remember:

  • Robert Johnson Jr. - Also known as Junior Johnson, he is a legendary NASCAR driver from the 50s and 60s with 50 NASCAR wins prior to his retirement. He became a race team owner and is credited with the start of the drafting technique in stock car racing.
  • Kyle Larson - Reigning 2021 Cup Series Champion, Larson is a 17-time Cup race winner.
  • Kyle Busch - Also known as "Rowdy Busch", Busch is a race driver and team owner with a total of 223 wins in all three national NASCAR series.
  • Kevin Harvick - With 58 wins in the Cup Series, 47 wins in the Xfinity Series, and 14 in Camping World Truck Series, Harvick is a household name. He is also a two-time Xfinity champion.
  • William "Chase" Elliot: The son of Bill Elliot, the 1988 Winston Cup Series champion, Chase Elliot was the first rookie to win a national series championship and the youngest champion in that series. He took the title of Rookie of the Year in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
  • Wendell Oliver Scott - One of the first African-American NASCAR drivers, Scott was the first African-American to win a race in the Grand National Series, which was the highest tier in the 60s.

NASCAR Cars

You may be wondering which cars are used in NASCAR and if they are truly kept strictly stock. The rules vary between races, for example, there should be three stock parts on the car to compete in the Cup Series. Three main automakers are known to compete in NASCAR: Toyota, Ford, and Chevrolet.

While these cars still resemble their street-oriented foundation, NASCAR-tweaked vehicles generally have bigger wheels and a more muscular aesthetic. Current cars that feature in NASCAR Cup are:

The Camping World Truck Series sees pickup trucks racing, with the Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, and Toyota Tundra represented.

NASCAR Cars Pexels.com

FAQs

Are NASCAR cars fast?

The average NASCAR car can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in around just 3 to 3.5 seconds and can accelerate onward up until a top speed of over 200 mph. Various rules and regulations must be adhered to for power outputs, depending on which Series you are entering.

How many NASCAR race tracks are there?

There are currently 26 different tracks used for the NASCAR Cup Series, with the Charlotte Roval and Charlotte Motor Speedway Oval counting as two separate tracks. Famous tracks include the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis.

How many NASCAR teams are there?

There are 17 full-time teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but every race since 1998 has involved 43 drivers in total.

How much money does a NASCAR driver make per race?

The salaries of NASCAR drivers vary depending on their status - amateur or professional - and on winning; the winner obviously gets the big payout. Many drivers also earn a lot of their income from sponsorship and endorsement deals offered or sourced from certain brands. These drivers will typically feature the logo of the brand that has sponsored or endorsed them on their vehicle in true NASCAR style.

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