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Under the Hood of a NASCAR Racer: Building a Racecar by the Numbers

Posted by Jess Stoeckeler on

‘The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, better known as NASCAR, held its first race in 1948 at Daytona Beach, Florida, with local streets and the beach serving as the official racetrack. Typically, races occurred on dirt tracks that would subject stock cars to brutal conditions, which unmodified cars were unfit to withstand. As a result, NASCAR allowed modifications to stock cars, so that they were better equipped to perform under harsh conditions.

Racing in NASCAR today can cost owners up to $400,000 per race, which covers the cars, insurance, and the crew it takes to participate in the race. Former NBA star Brad Daugherty, who also co-owns Bobby Labonte’s No. 47 Toyota, told Jacksonville.com that the sport, "is certainly not for the faint of heart."

Today, NASCAR is in the middle of a grueling process of testing for what the association calls the "Next-Gen" car, the seventh generation of the racecar. The newest version will feature tires that are 3 inches wider than current versions, new suspension systems, and could even be a hybrid. NASCAR expects that spectators will be seeing the car's first race in 2021.

Until then, there's still plenty of work that goes into creating the racecars on today's track.

The Engine

One of the most critical elements of a NASCAR racecar is the engine, which is responsible for producing continuous power for long periods without any sign of failure. A racecar engine tends not to be much different from your regular car engine except that it is significantly larger with a custom-made iron block.

  • NASCAR uses V8 engines, which generate 4 times the horsepower of a street-car. Some V8 engine designs are similar to their street-legal counterparts, like the Dodge engine, which follows the model of the original 1960s 340 cubic inch engine.
  • Recent data states that NASCAR engines are in the range of 850 hp since recent regulations require the cars not to exceed 875 hp.
  • Engine valves, which are driven by pushrods, are made of titanium for added resistance to heat and high durability.
  • NASCAR engines are rebuilt after two full race weekends because they are only built to run for up to 1,000 miles. They can cost up to $50,000 or more.
  • Once engine assembly is complete, the power input is measured for half an hour by a dynamometer. During the testing phase, the camshaft, cylinders, and valve lifters are examined.
  • Unlike a passenger vehicle, NASCAR racers can reach pressures of 1,500 psi and temperatures of 2,000° F. As such, engine components like crankshafts, pistons, and valves are thicker, larger, and more rigid than that of a street-car.

The Body

Although NASCAR racers may look similar to your average street-car at first glance, a lot goes into the construction of the body to make sure that the driver is safe and secure, while also abiding by NASCAR standards.

  • Every racecar body takes 10 days just to assemble and even longer to design. The frame of all NASCAR cars is specifically engineered to dump the engine out of the bottom of the car in the event of the crash to prevent drivers from exposure to engine fires and explosions. The frame of the car is made of steel tubing to decrease weight.
  • The front and rear clip are made of thin steel tubing designed to crush on impact in the event of a crash. The middle section is designed to maintain its integrity during a crash to protect the driver.
  • In 1994, NASCAR introduced roof flaps to car designs to prevent the cars from going airborne on the track; the flaps were vigorously tested to kill all lift once pressure hits a certain point.
  • Windshields on the cars are made of Lexan, the same polycarbonate used on fighter-place canopies. The material prevents windshields from shattering in the event of a crash.

The Tires

NASCAR tires are completely different than anything you'll see on the road today, and for good reason.

  • Tires are actually inflated with nitrogen since ordinary tires will heat up and expand when the racers are traveling over 200 mph on the track.
  • Tires are actually completely "bald," meaning they have no tread. This is because on a smooth track, tires actually have better traction if sticky rubber has the most contact with the ground. This is why NASCAR races are usually canceled in the event of rain.
  • NASCAR's tire manufacturer, Goodyear, tests tires once a year for each of the 3 NASCAR series. Goodyear selects drivers from each of the 4 car manufacturers to determine the proper compound for making new tires. The compound is designed for optimal strength, durability, and grip.

In order to track all of the tires used throughout the season, Goodyear implants RFID chips inside each tire.’

- Thomas Insights Mar 13, 2020 & Photo from Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock

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