F1 vs NASCAR

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren-Mercedes, Imola, 2006Juan Pablo Montoya shocked the F1 world by leaving the series for NASCAR. 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneueve praised the move and is rumoured to be thinking of following him if he cannot hold onto his BMW seat.

NASCAR boasts gigantic audiences in the United States and dominates the US motor racing scene with vastly more fans than the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series. But some suggest it is too contrived to even be called a sport.

How does it compare to Formula One?


“I don’t cover hillbilly wrestling on wheels.” Those wore the words of American racing correspondent Robin Miller in last week’s Autosport. He was referring to NASCAR and though that sentiment may not be one shared by most Americans it is certainly one many Europeans would subscribe to.

NASCAR is a world apart from Formula One. Both are enormously popular but they sit at opposite ends of the motor sport spectrum.

Just consider the machinery they use. Formula One cars are relentlessly high-tech: light (605kg) chassis, high-revving engines, intricate and sophisticated aerodynamics, electronic driver aids such as traction control, the list goes on.

NASCAR’s closed-wheel vehicles are built to an identical silhouette template so that none of the manufacturers has an advantage over the other. The cars are enormously heavy (1540 kg) and the mechanics of them are far simpler – steel tube-frame chassis and manual gearboxes are the order of the day here. They still run on leaded petrol.

But that’s not the greatest difference between the two. No – what really separates them, and what should trouble the likes of Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley the most, is that NASCAR serves up constant racing and overtaking week in, week out.

Formula One cannot compete with that. So dependent are the F1 cars on their aerodynamics that overtaking is virtually impossible, as has been clear in a string of catatonically dull Grands Prix this year.

F1 may straddle the globe, unlike US-centric NASCAR, but the racing it imported to Sepang, Imola, Barcelona, Silverstone, Indianapolis and Magny-Cours this year was hardly first-class.

The racing in NASCAR may be close, but it is entirely artificial. Restrictor plates are used to limit speeds to keep te pack tightly bunched. Cautions (‘safety car periods’ in F1 parlance) are often thrown simply to close the field up again and give drivers the chance to pass.

The championship system is tweaked to keep interest in the title alive to the end of the season. The ‘chase for the championship’ runs over the last few races of the season and allows only the top ten driver before the start of the chase the chance to challenge for the title. Again, it’s entertaining, but it erodes the sporting purity of the contest.

It’s easy to mock the sporting value of NASCAR. The endless inconsequential changes of positions, spurious caution periods and the knowledge that only the final few laps can decide an event make the long races incredibly dull.

If F1 suffers from a dearth of overtaking, NASCAR suffers just as badly from an excess of it.

What NASCAR does get right and what F1 can learn from is how it treats its spectators. There are vastly more opportunities for NASCAR fans to see the drivers. The 36-race championship calendar and enormous, F1-dwarfing grids (over 40 cars) means there’s far more action to begin with.

NASCAR is not a model for the future of F1. But each has plenty it can learn from the other. I am an unashamed Formula One fan and while I criticise its flaws I can still enjoy it for what it is.

But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be much better.

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70 comments on F1 vs NASCAR

  1. At risk of starting a war other than than being months late! Here’s a thought: due to the effort of NASCAR of keeping all things equal, car makers have little incentive for innovation. Hence the shams that the big 3 are in. What did we get from innovation in the US? Cup holders and electric windows :-) Maybe the best thing was AC.

    David: not me unless there’s plenty drifting!

  2. Plugplatz said on 29th October 2008, 0:05

    NASCAR is no more a sport than WWF. It is an engineered TV and media spectacle. It’s ultimate incarnation will to be to simply park 43 cars around the track, let the drivers sit in them and the fans file by to get autographs and stop at the merchandise stands.

  3. David Sh said on 1st December 2008, 20:15

    Edmund: you say Canada loves NASCAR? What a disgrace you are to our country to make such a statement. You should never associate your personal opinion over a country.

    By the way, I can understand why Americans don’t like Formula 1. The reason is because of the stupid NASCAR commentators who commentate the formula 1 races shown in the United States. In Canada, we get the ITV commentators who know so much about the sport.

    Nascar is marketing. Formula 1 is racing.

  4. leo said on 18th May 2009, 6:11

    NASCAR is stupid

  5. Shasta City said on 11th June 2009, 3:55

    I’m a British citizen, and find NASCAR more entertaining than any F1 race I’ve ever been to. When you are at a NASCAR race it is far more entertaining – more passes, more skill required to exceed, and a far better noise than from the F1 cars. Television doesn’t portray the actual speed and noise – fantastic!

    Also the trackview mobile video machines where you can dial in any of the racers numbers and see their stats, along with video views outside their racecars is outstanding, along with the mobile broadcast audio. They don’t have that in F1.

    Tony Stewart starting from last (due to crashing at qualifying) to finishing first at Pocono last week was brilliant.

  6. i agree with the 52 years dude…look NASCAR can be the most craziest sport in the US and the one that have more fans…but F1 is all over the world like..there is going to be more than 17 GP in 17 different countries sooo…i guesss F1 is not that boring if all that people want to c it…another thing is what is the fun in NASCAR…all the same cars driving in an OVAL shape circuit…no curves, no real ulstrapassing, but u know i can still watch is just not like F1…plp like wat they like,,and who am i to chage it

  7. ^^^^
    Lucas has bad grammar but a good point. Entertainment changes from country to country. Take the television show The Office for example the original British version was a lot different than what they air in America even though they are both written by the same crew. The same goes for racing ebtertainment, Americans don’t want their racing to change just like how the comedy in the American version of The Office is very out-dated if you ask me. We (the rest of the world) like changes in entertainment. I think it is one of the most exciting times when there are 2 brilliant formula 1 drivers going side by side and it’s only a test of skill to see who passes. Back to the analogy, American comedy is more upfront and simple and so is their racing. On the other hand as for different car templates in F1 I believe that it makes F1 not only a challenge for the drivers but EVERYONE on the teams.

  8. Jordan said on 30th September 2009, 3:30

    This is amazing…some people actually think NASCAR isn’t a sport? Same base as F1. You’ve got no point.

    NASCAR is clearly more exciting…F1 uses more strategy, most passes are made on pit road. F1’s cars are much better on road courses, but are horrible for oval tracks, which are usually overlooked as exciting. F1’s closest finish? .014 of a second. NASCAR’s? .001 of a second. a fourteenth of F1’s.

    Somehow NASCAR drivers are talented enough to know how to use a machine that isn’t as high-tech as a Formula 1 racecar. F1’s drivers are too spoiled and don’t really see much reason in downgrading. NASCAR is much safer as well as more exciting.

    In F1, the driver doesn’t win. The car does. F1 is more like Mario Kart nowadays…

    • NASCAR drivers more talented than F1 ? HA HA ! I never saw 50 yr old competing in F1 these days, wonder why .. lol

      And u call F1 drivers spoiled ? U hav no idea what sort of endurance is needed in F1.

      NASCAR is safer ? Too bad it rains on this planet. U hav no idea how safe an F1 car is for its speed and abilities. Schumi had a 200 kmph accident once when his car was tossed over a dozen feet in the air and he was back racing in a few minutes. And thats an F1 car ..

      Get some knowledge before u comment on F1.

      • Sammy said on 20th August 2010, 19:03

        NASCAR is safer? can u tell why so many recent fatalities in nascar? Dale Earnhardt, Adam Petty, Tony Roper. F1 fatal crashes ends at 1994 with aryton senna’s imola crash. and nascar? not long ago,2001 with Dale Sr’s daytona 500 crash.

  9. Duster066 said on 9th November 2009, 7:11

    This debate always goes in this direction. People can be so narrow minded. Racing comes in many forms: all are different and all are good.

    If a European race fan were to take a serious look at a competitive Cup Car, the team that produced it, and the rules, and concluded it was not a world class race car they would expose themselves as ignorant.

    If a NASCAR fan watched an F1 event and failed to realize they may have just seen history being made (due to the use of some innovation that has never been tried before, or has been tried but was forgotten, or although it didn’t work 20 years ago it might work now) then they would be equally ignorant.

    Ya Nascar is a contrived show. But it’s a damned exciting show being waged by 43 bad ass race cars. And sure F1 races can be like watching a line dance, but it’s a line dance by 20 of the sexiest gals on the rock.

    I’ll take em both thank you.

  10. Darren said on 23rd January 2010, 17:04

    F1:
    Exciting, testing, extremely varied circuits.
    More skilled overtaking on varied corners.
    Far higher speeds, insanely spec’d cars.
    Team tactics, logic, strategy.
    The competition of the forefront of technology.
    Less than a second difference between the cars.
    Worldwide.

    NASCAR.
    An oval. Over and over and over and over and…
    So much overtaking it’s meaningless.
    Slower speeds. Primitive American cars.
    No tactics. Races kept bunched up.
    No push on tech. At all. Ever.
    Equality in the cars. Strive for nothing.
    American. Like pro-wrestling. Or the ‘world’ series.

    Make your own minds up.
    If your attention span will allow it…

  11. Like I said Darren…ignorant.

  12. Darren said on 23rd January 2010, 22:43

    Haha!
    Pot. Kettle. Black.

    Don’t deal with the points made or anything, just attack the personality. F1 exceeds Nascar on all fronts.

  13. Darren said on 23rd January 2010, 23:24

    You’ve failed to notice how I mentioned nothing about the drivers or their skills. Because skilled they are, in both race disciplines.

    Labelling any opinion other than your own as ignorant is ironic because in doing so, you are embodying the definition of the very word,

    You can’t deny that most of the things Montoya mentions in the article are also prevalent, if not more in a formula 1 car. There are differences sure, but hardly enough to warrant Nascar as a higher form of racing.

    How about turning corners in another direction? Chicanes? High and low speed tracks? Etc.

    NASCAR just doesn’t hold up. Sounds to me like Montoya may have been defending his decision to move somewhat.

    Oh and f1 is worldwide, not just European.

    • I lived in England for two years I know where it’s at. Again you don’t seem to understand my position. They are both great forms of racing. And in case you don’t know; there is not one honest pro racer in the US who doesn’t concede F-1 is the very most exstream form of auto racing on the planet. And most have dreams of winning an F-1 event. The question “IMO” shouldn’t be which is better because they are apples and oranges. They are different…not the same game. However they are both world class motor sport. Here’s another sight you may find entertaining – http://www.epi-eng.com/piston_engine_technology/comparison_of_cup_to_f1.htm – I love F-1 Darren I watch it closer than NASCAR because I prefer road racing and high tech cars. But I love NASCAR too. I’ve never experianced a more electric time at a sporting event than I have at Cup races I’ve been to. It’s a really good show dude. And by the way being ignorant is not a bad thing. It simply means you don’t have a solid knowledge base about the subject at hand. No insult intended, although what I wrote did read that way. Cheers Bloke

  14. Darren said on 24th January 2010, 0:41

    I’m not doubting your knowledge of geography! I’m saying there are more than European fans who have a vested interest in F1.

    I understand your point! Put this post is F1 vs. NASCAR! Like who would win in a fight between… Let’s say, a bear and a lion? It’s a loaded question which forces you to draw comparisons!

    And I still have to say, F1 is the superior sport on so many aspects. Where the two tie is in the calibre of the drivers, and it could be argued, the teams. Where Nascar reigns is, as you say quite rightly, is in the fan participation and atmosphere.

    F1 is to Nascar, like wine is to coke. I like coke.

    Oh, and if I had to bet, I’d put money on the bear.

    • Agree 100% with the last one. What kind of lion, what kind of bear? I kinda like my money on an African lion forced to fight for his life vs a black bear. Peace dude

  15. The Limit said on 24th January 2010, 4:54

    I had to laugh at comments earlier about safety. Anyone who seriously believes that there is anything safe about hurtling around at 200mph is plain crazy. Comments like that really are just stupid.
    When we look at some great drivers who have been killed in recent times, the likes of Aryton Senna, Dale Earnhardt, or Greg Moore, it proves that this argument is null and void. Prior to Earnhardt’s death in 2001, NASCAR suffered several fatal accidents. One of those killed was none other than Adam Petty, grandson to stock car legend Richard Petty. In IRL they sadly lost Greg Moore and, most recently, the young rookie Dana in 2006 at Miami.
    F1 has gone nearly sixteen years without losing a driver, but that does not mean it cannot and will not happen again.
    As for the entertainment value, I was caught watching an old F1 grands prix on the internet the other day. The race was the better part of twenty years old, and the commentators were still complaining about the same things we complain about in this era. The lack of overtaking, the dependance on aerodynamics, extra extra! It is nothing new.
    For me, the biggest change in NASCAR has been its bigger corporate profile. It has totally changed from its grass roots level fanbase of mostly Southern based circuits, and has branched out to tracks more traditionally associated with open wheel and sportscars.
    This has been a huge cash injection for NASCAR, and has pulled away many mainstream fans from rival series, but at the same time has upset the purists who followed the sport from day one.
    The NASCAR races of the 1960s, 1970s,and 1980s were far more brutal than those of today. Drivers were able to get away with far more ‘dubious’ acts on the racetrack, acts that would be unthinkable in the world of Formula One.
    The bottom line is that both series are multi billion dollar businesses, funded by major corporations in the attempt to advertise and sell their products. That is their priority, more so than that of the actions on track. That is more refective of the world we live in, than anything else, but a sad fact of life.

  16. Choosing between F1 and NASCAR as to which is better. Well, there’s a losing proposition. It all depends on one’s personal preference, or one’s opinion…well, guess those two things are so closely tied together, they might as well be the same.

    F1 is open-wheel cars racing on non-banked road courses. NASCAR is full-bodied cars racing on high-banked ovals. Those who have said it is like comparing apples to oranges may now go to the front of the class.

    Still and all, I find myself in the position of feeling a need to point out some things. Keep in mind I have been an F1 fan for over 50 years.

    Some have said that NASCAR requires little or no driver skill and talent. I ask those folks to list for me their credentials as a pro or semi-pro driver. If you never drove, you have no idea of the skill level involved in ANY racing series. So shut up, sit down and rest your neck. You are allowed a personal preference/opinion on what you …YOU …like to watch, for whatever reason, but you are not allowed to comment on the skill level required.

    NASCAR gets a really bad rap because they use templates to make sure the cars conform to certain standards. I think this is better in many aspects than F1. Had F1 done this, the whole difusser thing could have been nipped in the bud by one simple tech inspection. F1, unfortunately, was unable to sort out in advance just what the rule was. And this IN SPITE of Homologation. Geeeeeeeez, even when F1 demands that everything is approved, they still can’t get it right. One up for NASCAR.

    Another knock to NASCAR is all the cars look the same. OMG, I am laffin so hard. K, here is what we do….you close your eyes, I’m going to take one car from each F1 garage and spray all 13 of them white and set them in the middle of a Tesco car park. OK, now go ahead and tell me which is the Ferrari, the Toro Rosso, the Lotus, the McLaren … etc etc etc. Anyone who says they can is kidding themselves.

    Along that same line….I’ve read complaints(knocks) that NASCAR doesn’t allow innovation technically. Perhaps. Perhaps they like the racing to be more about the driver than the car/technology. And those unlearned about NASCAR would be amazed to learn just how much technology does go into it.(Talk to Montoya.) They don’t just grab a good ole redneck hotrod off’n the streets and paint a number on her.

    The other big knock I read against NASCAR is that it isn’t real racing, it’s only entertainment. OK, you get in the car and run 200mph with another car 3 inches off your side and the concrete wall just another 6 inches off your other side…Mind you now, there are NO run-off areas…only the track…and the wall…and then tell me it isn’t racing. Tell me it’s just manufactured entertainment, not real competition.

    There is a world of things that go on during a NASCAR race, in the way of strategy, that these people knocking NASCAR have no idea about. They condemn it without knowing anything about it. For years the only strategy in F1 is when to pit, in hopes of leapfrogging another car for position. No question as to whether to pit or not….btw, NASCAR rules don’t force a car to pit at all, for any reason…will it be 2 tires or 4…will it be tires only….will it be gas only…just WHEN to pit, that’s all F1 cares about, so they can pass in the pit cause they can’t pass on the track.

    As for NASCAR being “entertainment, not real racing”…may I remind all the F1 snobs knocking NASCAR without a clue as to what it is really about, that it is the FiA that created a Working Group whose mandate is to “improve the show”. FiA and F1 lack only a Working Group to improve the racing.

    And now a special shoutout to We Want Turbos….you have made possibly the most reprehensible comment I have ever seen on Keith’s blog. You see, whether or not you have relations with your sister simply has nothing to do with this thread. But it is a distinct indicator of just how low some people will stoop.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 24th January 2010, 20:24

      Agreed. Have deleted that comment.

    • The Duster rises from his seat in the peanut section. crosses the room to where Darren is seated at the front of the class. politely taps Darren on the shoulder to get his attention and says, “Uh Darren? dsob says that’s my seat now.” Sorry…couldn’t resist ;)

    • lol that’s quite a post.

      Firstly let me say I’m not talking about better or worse, I agree it’s a personal preference. Also I’ve never liked that oranges and apples saying it’s illogical and clearly false.

      Some have said that NASCAR requires little or no driver skill and talent. I ask those folks to list for me their credentials as a pro or semi-pro driver. If you never drove, you have no idea of the skill level involved in ANY racing series. So shut up, sit down and rest your neck. You are allowed a personal preference/opinion on what you …YOU …like to watch, for whatever reason, but you are not allowed to comment on the skill level required.

      That all seems a bit harsh. You don’t have to be an Astronaut to be an expert about space travel. Likewise you don’t need to be a racing driver to understand the skill it takes to drive a racing car. I bet Ross Brawn has a pretty good idea of the skill it takes to drive an F1 car but has he ever driven an F1 car? No. If someone wants to comment on something they can, there is no law prohibiting the ignorant, naive or uninitiated from an opinion. It may be inaccurate, poorly informed or biased etc. but if you value freedom of speech then you’ll agree with me that people are entitled to express an opinion about anything.

      F1, unfortunately, was unable to sort out in advance just what the rule was.

      That’s not true. The rule never changed. Some teams misinterpreted it and felt hard done by so challenged the rules interpretation, the FIA provided clarification in a manor consistent with their procedures which while not to everyone’s liking (including mine) does have a basis in reasonable logic.

      get in the car and run 200mph with another car 3 inches off your side and the concrete wall just another 6 inches off your other side…Mind you now, there are NO run-off areas…only the track…and the wall…and then tell me it isn’t racing.

      Technically what you describe isn’t racing, racing involves some form of competition, I’m not saying NASCAR isn’t “real” racing, it is, I’m just being pedantic, sorry.

      Along that same line….I’ve read complaints(knocks) that NASCAR doesn’t allow innovation technically

      It doesn’t really though does it? I mean I don’t think F1 allows for much innovation either the rules are so tight.

      For years the only strategy in F1 is when to pit, in hopes of leapfrogging another car for position. No question as to whether to pit or not

      That’s not true. Quite significantly set up effects strategy and vice versa. Also the idiosyncrasies of the car, the tyres, qualifying, the weather and what you want to achieve from the race and how all of those things effect each other, all affect your choice of strategy.

      Also (at least in F1) it is faster to make a pit stop than not make one so even if they had the option of not stopping they nearly always wouldn’t because it would be slower.

      Lets be honest F1 does generally demand more skill than NASCAR. I’m not saying that it doesn’t take any skill to be a NASCAR driver, clearly it does, but the demands in F1 are greater. I don’t think that makes one better than the other.

    • Brandon said on 7th September 2010, 23:24

      —–[[[[[Some have said that NASCAR requires little or no driver skill and talent. I ask those folks to list for me their credentials as a pro or semi-pro driver. If you never drove, you have no idea of the skill level involved in ANY racing series. So shut up, sit down and rest your neck. You are allowed a personal preference/opinion on what you …YOU …like to watch, for whatever reason, but you are not allowed to comment on the skill level required.]]]]—-

      It doesn’t take a professional to know its easier to drive faster in a constant line than switching up.

  17. Tulio said on 24th January 2010, 22:33

    Ack… Funny stuff to read. We’re all entitled to our opinions, anyone is welcome rocorrect or ignore them.

    As for choosing one or the other – agreed completely a choice. It’s like choosing college football and NFL.

    Regards

  18. Europa said on 29th August 2010, 2:55

    So why hasn’t NASCAR safety tires advents much in 45 years?

    I found an old Rodder and Super Stock magazine from July 1965 and there was an article about Goodyear’s LifeGuard racing tires. It went on about how Darel Dieringer raced 5 laps until he noticed he was loosing speed and came in for a tire change and how at over 180mph, Ned Jerrett’s tire shredded on a cut tire slowed to 140 and just pull into the pits at over 100 mph and get it changed. This was in 1965. It seems our tire dependability has gone down hill since than.
    I normally watch open wheel F1, cart and Daytona prototype because it seems every time I flick on NASCAR they are on an 11 lap yellow because a hot dog rapper blew onto the track or something. Not to mention how many times cashes occur due to flat tires for more yellow lap runs.
    Since NASCAR is a speck race why don’t they just put tires on them that don’t blow out? They did it in 1965. And maybe for other classes of racing too. Most off road racers use Moose foam inserted of various types (some use air/inner tubes and foam). I want to see racing not cut tires.

    I could not find the article I was looking for but here is one from a Google search.

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1876&dat=19670427&id=AEEsAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Ms0EAAAAIBAJ&pg=4902,4981199

    even the run flat tires sold today granted just have thick side walls. Late one night I’ve driven one on a mini with a chunk taken out of the rim (after a big pot hole on rt 95) for over 150 miles and got home fine. Felt the vibration but it worked.

    Just want to know what you think.

    I just think the tire technology should be better.
    It just if they could run for several Lapps 45 years ago on a flat/shredded tire; tires should be doing better than they are today. Why not? Is more the question.

  19. Brandon said on 7th September 2010, 23:09

    I have known of F1 since I was a kid (28 now) I never had access to formula one coverage here in the usa. I did how ever have access to things like, moto-cross, drag racing, monster truck racing, tractor pull racing, and of course nascar. ALL OF IT, mind numbingly boring. I watched my first ever F1 race just the other day. i replay of the 2010 Monaco Gran Prix. It was electric to me. Then i watched the SPA-francorchamp race which was even better. Maybe its because I like the techincal detail to it. Maybe its because I’m not a redneck and I prefer to associate with a higher degree of racing detail than that. I dunno. Maybe it is the announcers they joke, they have a sense of humor, they are blunt, they will confront drivers who do stupid moves, bad moves, illegal moves, right after the race and put them on the spot.

    Nascar had its roots tainted when it decided to move away from true “stock car” racing which its a shame to even use that term in the title, since NOTHING is actually stock anyway.

    I might watch nascar if it cut down the on sponsor ship paint jobs (I’d rather have teams), nascar vehicles look like kindergarten finger paintings, where as F1 cars look like sleek pieces of art, and on top of that paint, if they would race around actual tracks that require more skill than just going around in an oval, that would be great addition to nascar.

    I dunno, maybe it is because I watch Top Gear and learned about the drivers the history, and such.

    This is an opinion coming from someone who grew up in missouri, small hick town, with a dad who watched nascar ever time it was on. I could never get into it. But now a grown man, I watch one race of Formula One and I am captivated. Maybe its because they look like race tracks, ovals seem so b level, so kiddy-pool like.

  20. To whomever said this:
    “If you never drove, you have no idea of the skill level involved in ANY racing series. So shut up, sit down and rest your neck.”

    Not sure how good an argument that is. I’m not good at football, but I understand it well enough to know that NFL is a more demanding and needs better players than College football, I hope we all agree. But I know I’ll get my butt kicked by a high school player.

    I think most drivers around here would be able to go around the oval on a Nascar car at reasonable speeds, maybe from a rolling start. I think quite a few people here would spin out / stall an F-1 car pretty quickly, even at reasonable speeds.

    Plus, can a Nascar drive on the ceiling like an F-1 could (in theory)??? It would fall like a brick.

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