When folks talk about car racing, NASCAR and Formula 1 are the two active sports that probably come up. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is an American auto racing organization sanctioning several races across different US states as well as in Canada.
NASCAR is one of the most popular auto races in the world sanctioning over 1,500 races on over 100 tracks. The incredible speed that really gets your adrenaline going when the cars hit the track, the sheer determination by the drivers to win and the cheering spectators make NASCAR one of the most exciting sports. Thousands of people throng to race tracks to watch NASCAR every time a race is held. You may not have realized it, but NASCAR is the second most watched sport in America after professional football.
Race car aficionados follow NASCAR everywhere as the circuit goes from one track to another across different states. Those who can't make it to the race tracks to watch NASCAR usually stay glued to their TVs to catch up with the races.
NASCAR usually triggers a multi-million dollar scramble for its highly lucrative television rights. All top sport television channels would move mountains just to acquire the lucrative rights to air NASCAR races. This because the number of people who watch NASCAR on TV is a guarantee of increased viewership. So how much do you really know about NASCAR?
Here are 20 facts about NASCAR that even average fans should be aware of.
20 It Was Co-Founded By A Stock Car Enthusiast
William Henry Getty France founded NASCAR on February 21, 1948. William was an amateur a stock car driver and service station owner from Washington, D.C. France conceived the idea of a unified series of racing competitors after taking part in Daytona Beach's first stock car race in 1936.
William France had laid groundwork for NASCAR by the time the second world war came to an end. He approached the American Automobile Association (AAA) for financial backing for the venture but they turned him down.
France decided to pay competitors with proceeds from ticket sales. NASCAR attracted a huge crowd from the time it was started. The fanbase is what propelled NASCAR to what it is today. Obviously, lots of sponsorship deals followed.
19 The Cars Go Faster Than You Think
NASCAR vehicles are heavy but the speed they attain is crazy. Even though an average NASCAR vehicle can weigh no lower than 3,400 pounds, they are also capable of going over 200 mph. To get a clear perspective of the speed NASCAR vehicles go you need to understand the distance these cars cover at those speeds.
At 200 miles per hour, NASCAR drivers cover almost the length of a football field in one second.
The big NASCAR engines produce 1000 horsepower which pushes those racing vehicles to incredible speeds. The cars' weight and horsepower are all same to ensure an even playing field. Drivers don't maintain the 200 mph throughout the course as the race determines where and when drivers need to increase or decrease speed.
18 Drivers Have To Specially Train Their Necks
The force of gravity, or g-force, is simply the acceleration due to gravity. Gravity makes an object speed up by about 22 mph every second when they fall or move away from a central position.
NASCAR drivers experience between two and three Gs on turns. G-forces in NASCAR are very continuous because the drivers are consistently turning left (the race track is oval) and races themselves are also longer.
The G-forces are capable of making drivers pass out or have serious sore necks. NASCAR drivers are required to do specific strengthening of their neck muscles to counter the G-forces. The Daytona 500 drivers do 200 laps to complete the race, imagine the G-forces they have to endure the entire time.
17 NASCAR Runs Three National Series
NASCAR runs three national series; Monster Energy Series, XFINITY Series, and Camping World Truck Series. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (named after the current sponsors Monster Energy) is a strictly Stock Series in which championship is determined by a points system. The points are awarded according to the position drivers finish and laps they lead.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the major series in NASCAR. The series has a long history of being named after its main sponsors.
The XFINITY Series is the beginners series in NASCAR. It provides a platform for novice drivers who wish to step up to NASCAR's top level competing circuits.
The Camping World Truck Series is a pickup truck racing series. The series was started in 1991 by NASCAR's veteran short track drivers who were struggling in the major series.
16 NASCAR Races Feature Five Colored Flags
NASCAR's varying colored flags convey different meanings to race drivers. In total there are five colored flags used in NASCAR. Green signals the start of the race and any restarts. Yellow signals an accident or any cautionary messages for drivers. Red signals that race cars must go to a designated place and stop immediately due to a safety issue. White signals one lap remaining in the race Black and white checkered signals the end of the race.
These colors might seem confusing for someone who has just started watching the sport, but you get used to it. There are also different paint schemes for the different cup series. The colors have a rich history and it is one of the things that bring the sport to life.
15 The First NASCAR Race Was Over 70 Years Ago
According to Wikipedia, the inaugural NASCAR Strictly Stock Series Race was held on June 19th in 1949 at the Charlotte Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina. A total of 33 drivers took part in NASCAR's inaugural race which comprised 200 laps on a 0.75-mile dirt oval race track.
Jim Roper claimed the victory in a 1947 Lincoln. Roper was declared the winner after fellow competitor Glenn Dunaway was disqualified because his car had spread rear springs which improved handling while entering the rugged turns giving him an edge over other competitors.
Thousands were locked out because the facility could not accommodate the sheer number of race cars fans who turned up for the NASCAR's inaugural race. Race organizers had to expand carrying capacity in subsequent races.
14 The First Race On A Paved Road Happened In 1950
The Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina was home to the first modernized track that hosted NASCAR Races. The 1950 Southern 500 which was held at the Darlington Raceway was first NASCAR race run on a paved road.
Prior to 1950, all NASCAR races were held on makeshift dirt tracks which made it even more difficult for drivers to compete. Accidents were occurring often because the dirt reduced visibility during the race and made it difficult for spectators to have a clear view of the race.
You may recognize the Darlington Raceway by its nicknames "The Lady in Black" and "The Track Too Tough to Tame." The oval-shaped track formed the basis which all closed-circuit NASCAR automobile racing tracks are designed and built to date.
13 Those Who Complete The Daytona 500 Go Directly To The Hall Of Fame
Daytona 500 has been dubbed "The Great American Race" or the "Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing." It's the biggest and most exciting NASCAR racing event of the year. It's thrown by NASCAR every year on the Daytona Raceway.
The race requires drivers to do 200 laps around the 2.5 miles race track to complete. Drivers are considered to have participated in Daytona 500 only if they successfully complete 120 laps.
Car manufacturers and drivers who win Daytona 500 go directly to NASCAR's wall of fame. Chevrolet leads car manufacturers with 23 wins in Daytona 500. The event is so big that in 2016 it attracted the 6th largest average live global TV audience of any sporting event that year with 20 million viewers.
12 NASCAR Races Are Responsible For Television Innovation
Racing car pundits consider the 1979 Daytona 500 to be the most important race in stock car history because it was the first NASCAR race to be shown uncut on national television in the US.
For the first time in NASCAR's history, fans from across America had a chance to catch a glimpse of inside view of the racing cars thanks to onboard cameras installed in the vehicles.
The 1979 Daytona 500 introduced two new innovative uses for TV cameras: the "in-car" camera and the low angle "speed shot." Both of these tricks are now standard to televised racing. CBS inked a deal to telecast the whole race live as it happened. Live radio broadcasts also helped in covering the 1979 Daytona 500 to a large audience.
11 NASCAR Stadiums Are Huge
NASCAR stadiums have some of the biggest capacities of any sporting events, much bigger than world's most famous sport – soccer. The biggest NASCAR racing venue, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has a capacity of 257,325. The Texas Motor Speedway has a capacity of 181,655, Bristol Motor Speedway boasts of 160,000 capacity while Las Vegas Motor Speedway has a capacity of 142,000 spectators.
Note that the top five NASCAR racing venues all have a bigger capacity than the biggest soccer stadium in the world.
It's not possible to see the entire track from any one seat in NASCAR races because of the length of motor racing tracks. Most venues have sitting and standing areas raised much higher to increase visibility for the thousands of fans who turn up to watch the races.
10 NASCAR Drivers Sweat A Lot
Temperatures in NASCAR vehicles often exceed 100 degrees, reaching as high as 170 degrees toward the floorboards. Drivers taking part in the Daytona 500 race have to complete 200 laps with very short breaks. They push the cars to extreme speeds making the engine and other parts emit a lot of heat.
Drivers often sweat as much as 10 pounds during these races.
NASCAR drivers are required to rehydrate frequently to replace body weight lost in sweat. Failure to replace lost fluids increases the risk of drivers losing focus and their reflexes declining during the race. Drivers have to remain focused while undergoing extreme conditions inside NASCAR vehicles. No amount of training prepares drivers for what Daytona 500 throws at them.
9 The Races Weren't Always As Safe As They Are Now
NASCAR has invested millions in drivers' safety. It has a safety, research and development unit which is tasked with ensuring the safety of drivers. Loss of life is very rare in NASCAR races.
The last driver to be fatally injured in a NASCAR accident was Ralph Dale Earnhardt Sr way back in February 2001. Earnhardt was involved in a three car crash on the final lap of the race in the 2001 Daytona 500.
No life has been lost since NASCAR began requiring head-and-neck restraints following the 2001 loss of Earnhardt. The restraint system NASCAR introduced in 2001 has helped reduce severe head and neck trauma in the event of an accident.
8 NASCAR Drivers Don't Require A License
Drivers who take part in NASCAR's biggest event are put through multiple rigorous tests before they are allowed to participate. Daytona 500 drivers must pass a vetting process as well a physical and drug test before they are okayed to take part in the race.
But did you know drivers who participate in Daytona 500 are not even required to have a state driver's license?
A driver’s license is not a big issue in Daytona 500, in fact, it's not even a requirement. Basically what this means is that drivers can drive a car at high speed at the 500 miles Daytona 500 race track but may not be able to drive around on public roads.
7 Richard Petty Is NASCAR's Most Successful Driver
Richard Petty is the most accomplished NASCAR driver of all time. He began his career aged 21 and went on to win his first Daytona 500 in 1964. He was born in a family that has a history of being serious contenders in NASCAR. Petty's father Lee Petty was the winner of the first Daytona 500 in 1959 and was also a three-time NASCAR champion.
Apparently it runs in the family, as Petty's son is also a NASCAR racer.
Petty himself has won 200 NASCAR races in his career. His record boasts 7 Daytona 500 wins, 7 stock car championships and several other wins. Petty was involved in numerous accidents during his 35 year career. He was inducted into the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010.
6 NASCAR Tires Are Really Heavy
NASCAR's vehicles can be no lighter than 3,400 pounds. The weight improves the car's stability when driving at high speeds, and NASCAR vehicles go up to 200 mph. The weight of tires on NASCAR vehicles is 50 pounds each. This means 200 of the car's 3,400 pounds are tires alone.
The weight has to be supported by a powerful engine that pushes the heavy cars to the 200mph speed. The people who are tasked with changing the tires when the cars stop do it with so much ease it may seem like the tires weigh very little.
The task of changing those tires in split seconds requires a lot of muscle. This explains why NASCAR pits crews are in very good physical condition.
NASCAR vehicles use three times as much oil as a standard road car. The reason behind the oil consumption is the powerful engines which are designed to churn out more power.
NASCAR Vehicles run at about 1000 horsepower during a race and as such more oil is needed to lubricate the moving parts.
The race cars use Mobil 1 which is designed to take the stress and strain of the powerful engine.
In the Daytona 500, NASCAR vehicles run 200 laps which stresses the oil. The oil must be changed regularly for the engine to function optimally. The oil is usually changed during the stops or even when it leaks. More than half of the cars that participate in the race use Mobil 1.
You are likely to think that NASCAR vehicles have several gears because of the speeds at which the cars are driven, but interestingly, the transmission in NASCAR vehicles is a four-speed manual.
NASCAR drivers do not have to use a clutch when they change gear. They don't change gear as much because mostly they drive at high speed and most of the time on a single gear.
Unlike road cars which have speed gauges, NASCAR drivers are trained to gauge their speed based on the sound and feel of the car.
Drivers have to understand their vehicles in a way that most every day drivers never do. Where we have nobs and meters, NASCAR drivers have intuition.
3 The Cars Use Specially Modified Fuel
The basic engine of NASCAR vehicles is a 5.8 liter V8. The engine is much bigger than that of the the average road car because of the power it generates. The fuel used to power the engine is purer and is specifically made for NASCAR vehicles by the refinery.
The specially modified fuel used is NASCAR vehicles is called 98 octane. The 98 octane is the same used in all NASCAR vehicles despite the fact that the fuel comes from different sponsoring companies of individual NASCAR teams.
NASCAR vehicles have a capacity to hold 22 gallons of gas and the gas can itself weighs 94 pounds when at full capacity. NASCAR teams don't get to measure how many gallons of fuel goes into the car.
2 NASCAR Don't Last Very Long
The engine of a normal road car may last for years. If you service your car well, you can generally expect up to three decades before the engine loses the horsepower it was initially designed to produce.
NASCAR engines only last one race. After 200 laps in the Daytona 500, the engine is basically worn out and can no longer provide the full power needed to make the incredible speeds.
The engines are usually serviced and rebuilt between different NASCAR races. In case of serious mechanical damage during an individual race, the engine can also be changed. T
he same version of the engine is still used for the entire season. NASCAR teams usually change the engine versions every year when the season ends. The changes are made to improve the working of the engine to enhance efficiency.
1 No Time For Bathroom Breaks
Did you know NASCAR drivers don't use the bathroom during races? Have you ever wondered why you don't see drivers rushing out of their car during the stops even though races can last for hours? A normal human being would need to pee during those hours of intense physical training. NASCAR drivers also pee, just not in the toilet.
Though most manage to hold it in, some drivers do let loose on themselves during races. As Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr. put it, "when ya gotta go ya go."
They just do it as they drive since they don't go for a rest stop during the race. You will see NASCAR drivers pouring water on themselves when they get out of their cars, perhaps to cool themselves but mostly because they hide the fact that they peed their pants during the race.
Sources: cnn.com; wikipedia.org