Why You Should Watch… NASCAR

Why You Should Watch

Daytona, NASCAR, 2013The 2013 NASCAR championship starts this weekend with one of America’s best-known races: the Daytona 500.

The race has already grabbed headlines as Danica Patrick has become the first woman to take pole position for the 500-mile race.

And there are plenty more reasons to turn in for this year’s series as Dominik Wilde explains.

The basics

NASCAR is sometimes derided by fans of European-style motor racing for its frequent crashes and oval-heavy schedule. There’s no denying a lot of the action takes place on ovals – all bar two of the 36 races on this year’s Sprint Cup are.

But the two road course events are always among best races of the year. They take place on two fantastic tracks, Sonoma and former F1 venue Watkins Glen. But with only two tracks with right turns in the whole championship, why should you watch oval racing?

With 43 cars on track, all racing together closely at speeds reaching 200mph, the competition is undoubtedly tough. It demands accurate driving: too high and you go too slow and hit the wall, too low and you again go too slow, and are likely to spin. Oval racing isn?t as simple as it seems.

Juan Pablo Montoya, Daytona, NASCAR, 2013Just ask Juan Pablo Montoya: Since deserting F1 for NASCAR in 2006, the seven-time Grand Prix winner is yet to score his first oval victory. Both his Sprint Cup wins came on road courses.

Likewise 1997 F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve has also given NASCAR a go, running 19 races in the past five years across all three main series without winning.

If talented F1 racers like Montoya or Villeneuve can’t dominate, surely you don?t need superhuman talent to compete? Not quite. F1 and NASCAR are completely different. Put a top NASCAR driver in an F1 car and it’s likely they’ll be quick, though not the fastest.

Part of that is down to the specific skill required to race ovals, but even IndyCar stars like Dario Franchitti, AJ Allmendinger and Sam Hornish Jnr failed to convert their success from single-seaters to stock cars. Racing in NASCAR demands a different and very specific kind of talent.

Races tend to last around three hours. That might sound boring, but you?re likely to see more overtaking in one lap than during an entire F1 race. And for some there is the added appeal of fairly frequent crashes which can involve dozens of cars or more.

In F1, drivers rarely win if they don?t start from the top five on the grid. In NASCAR though, due to the competitive nature of the sport and the length of the races, it is possible to win a race after starting 43rd.

The cars

Kyle Busch, Daytona, NASCAR, 2013An F1 car is a 600kg fine-tuned laboratory on wheels. In comparison a NASCAR stock car is incredibly simple. It weighs about 2 tonnes, is made of sheet metal and has a simple small-block V8 up front.

F1 cars cost millions, NASCAR machines cost about ??150,000 with several cars being built throughout the season for different kinds of tracks to suit the different sizes of oval tracks. Engines are 5.9 litre iron block V8s and produce 700 to 900bhp depending on the circuit.

Formula One steering wheels are littered with buttons and teams rely on an array of computers and sensors to monitor the car. All of that is alien to NASCAR.

The cars don?t even have fuel sensors: instead teams must calculate tyre wear and fuel use to make sure they last the race and the driver has to perfectly describe every single sensation they feel so the team can understand what is going on with the car.

There’s no power steering either. And with 42 other cars generating huge turbulence, wrestling a two-tonne beast and keeping it going in a straight line is no mean feat.

In 2007 NASCAR introduced the Car of Tomorrow. It was developed following the death of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500. Although it proved much safer than previous NASCAR chassisit was introduced to widespread criticism.

Kyle Busch claimed “this car sucks” after winning the first ever CoT and fans disliked how each manufacturer’s car (looked virtually the same.

Just as F1 has tweaked the appearance of its cars this year, the new ‘Gen 6′ NASCAR is aesthetically an improvement over its predecessor. Each car is easily distinguishable from another which is not only good for fans, but also manufacturers who of course want to advertise their product.

Drivers have also praised how the car performs on track. NASCAR strives to make sure all the cars are as equal as possible, without making the series a spec series, to ensure that it stays interesting and competitive.

Boys have at it

There?s no stewards enquiries, no expensive courtroom battles; drivers in NASCAR settle their own differences. In NASCAR, if a driver hits you unnecessarily, you hit them back. So long as things don?t get massively out of hand, drivers get away with retaliation too.

However, things often turn sour. Take Phoenix last year for example ?ǣ an on-track spat between drivers Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer resulted in an ugly brawl in the pits. Gordon was fined, which many considered too light a punishment.

Fights are not uncommon in NASCAR, but drivers tend to receive more severe punishments for their language. Kurt Busch was banned for one weekend in 2013 after using foul language to a reporter having been put on probation for a similar incident at the end of 2011

The chase

In most respects Formula One is more complicated than NASCAR. But NASCAR’s convoluted points system is an exception.

At each race the winner scores 43 points, second place gets 42 and so on down to to last place. On top of that the winner receives an extra three points and a further point is awarded to each driver who leads a lap and whoever leads the most laps, raising the maximum available for a driver at each round to 48.

In an effort to ensure the championship remains alive until late in the season, NASCAR introduced the Chase for the Cup in 2004.

Heading into the final ten races the top ten drivers in the championship standings plus two other drivers who have scored the most wins have their points tallies reset to 2,000. Got all that?

But wait, there’s more: The drivers who were in the top ten receive an additional three points per win, plus one point for leading a lap. The driver in the top ten who has led the most laps also gets another point. From that point on these 12 drivers are the only contenders for the championship.

While this has drawn criticism for being complicated, arbitrary and not necessarily rewarding the best driver, it has placed more emphasis on winning and contributed to the championship being decided at the final race of the season for the last three years.

Should you watch it then?

Danica Partrick, Daytona, NASCAR, 2013Yes! OK, the points system is a mess, the cars are as technologically advanced as an IKEA bookcase but the racing is fantastic. I?m a fan of both F1 and NASCAR: I started off an F1 fan and grew to love NASCAR.

Despite its simple-looking tracks, every lap keeps you on the edge of your seat. And the drivers are a world away from F1’s PR-trained corporate clones.

Over to you

Do you watch NASCAR? What do you like or dislike about it?

Have your say in the comments.

What motorsport would you recommend other F1 fans to follow? If you want to put the case for your favourite non-F1 category write a guest article and send it in. More information here: Write a guest article for F1 Fanatic

For more from Dominik see his website Dominik Wilde Motorsport

Why you should watch…

Images ?? NASCAR/Getty

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185 comments on Why You Should Watch… NASCAR

  1. This doesn’t apply to NASCAR but oval racing in general.

    I had plenty of time on my hands last year so I thought for the first time I ought to watch every race that is part of the triple crown, namely the Indy 500, the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Heures du Mans. The Monaco Grand Prix I watched throughout and despite it being one of the less enthralling races of 2012 I enjoyed it. I watched many hours of the Le Mans race (I think around 14) and again I enjoyed it; the spectacle of seeing several classes of cars racing in the same race new and exciting to me. The 500 though I did not enjoy: I viewed it after I had finished watched the Monaco GP and it failed to captivate me in the way the Grand Prix did. For me, seeing cars literally going round in circles was of little interest and the slipstreaming battles just didn’t compare to the challenges posed by the Monaco circuit.

    I persisted though and decided to watch a street course race (just to get a comparison between F1 and Indycar) during the summer break and I actually was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed it. So the conclusion I can draw from this is as follows: a) I don’t like the monotony of seeing cars circulating at near top-speed without any major changes in that speed and b) quantity of overtakes doesn’t equate to enjoyment. I think this view is shared by many non-Americans and explains why in general we have never really seen the attraction of NASCAR after having grown up with F1.

  2. Abdurahman (@) said on 23rd February 2013, 23:28

    Put a top NASCAR driver in a F1 car and they’ll go pretty quickly? Hmmm. Didn’t seem to be the case when Hamilton did that switch with whats his face at Watkins Glen.

  3. Old Lightnin (@lightnin-hopkins) said on 23rd February 2013, 23:40

    I don’t mind you trying to put people on to NASCAR. But I hate the premise and the way you have constructed your entire article. You fell into the old NASCAR is good because they do this, whilst f1 only does this. You don’t need to point out f1’s ”weak points” to prove NASCAR is good. Like saying o nascar anybody can win but in f1 you need to be on the top 3 rows of the grid most of the time. The whole article goes on along these lines and I just think its sloppy and poor writing.

    A simple way of writing this whole article would be – ‘ Watch nascar highlights, the end of the racing is pretty exciting”

    You should try and re-think an article about why we should watch the Australian v8 series.

  4. dam00r (@dam00r) said on 23rd February 2013, 23:56

    The fence around the circuit are built like american cars. Poorly.

  5. Toro Stevo (@toro-stevo) said on 23rd February 2013, 23:59

    I’ve tried to give it a go in the past, but have always stopped watching. And that’s usually long after I’ve stopped listening – I have to mute it to block out some of the commentators.

    Most of the reasons are highlighted in the article. Whilst I acknowledge that driving these cars round different oval circuits is difficult, it just isn’t interesting to me. The overtaking/drafting is artificial, and the propensity for large crashes too high.

    The two road circuits, while interesting, are really just a show of how badly most of the american drivers are at them. This is not because they are bad drivers, just that they have very little experience doing it (the same argument could be made in reverse for Montoya and Villeneuve on ovals). Marcos Ambrose the multiple Australian touring car champ very rarely gets anywhere near the top in the oval races, yet has finished 2nd, 3rd, 1st and 1st at the last 4 Watkins Glen races.

    But by far the biggest factor for me is what you labelled the “Boys have at it” philosophy. It’s what you expect of toddlers, not grown men. Having words is one matter, and fighting sometimes cannot be avoided although they should try to. But deliberately running another car off in a dangerous spot is a different matter entirely – and there are no safe spots in an oval. One driver a couple of years ago got pushed off in the early laps, told his team to repair his car just so he could go back out at the end and finish the offending drivers race by putting him into the wall at high speed. Don’t think he got a penalty, but he probably would have if he’d called him a name which ran afoul of the FCC…

    So I can understand it’s appeal, appreciate the skill involved, but the Nascar racing and culture just doesn’t sit with my personal tastes. I find Indy a flawed but watchable medium ground.

    • DominikWilde (@dominikwilde) said on 24th February 2013, 0:51

      NASCAR themselves labled it Boys Have At it, not me

      • Toro Stevo (@toro-stevo) said on 24th February 2013, 2:37

        Ah ok, my mistake. Had a quick search of it, seems to be a deliberate policy of the last 4 years, in response to perceived sterility of racing by fans.

        To be fair, the incident I was talking about (Gordon and Bowyer) it looks like the retaliating driver did cop a penalty for it. Fair enough too, given that he took out another driver as well. But he wasn’t suspended, and therein lies a problem with it. I’m sure it wasn’t the only time this has happened though.

        I don’t mind a little bit of elbows out driving, when the worst that can happen is someone runs wide and rejoins. But the policy wasn’t “sort it out if you can”, it’s “get into it lads”, a clear distinction.

  6. Carlito's way said on 24th February 2013, 0:39

    There is absolutely nothing anyone here on this website can do, say or write that will make me ever watch a NASCAR oval race. Ever.

  7. Owen Conwell (@skitty4lb) said on 24th February 2013, 0:43

    Back when I started getting into Formula 1, I was extremely anti-NASCAR. But as the years have passed, I’ve grown to appreciate the cars, drivers and, as mentioned in the article, the specific skill set required to be successful. I do not watch NASCAR. But I will be the first to admit that most F1 drivers would most likely be rubbish in a stock car (at least starting out) and vice-versa. The are two very different forms of motorsport. Each having positives and negatives. Still, my biggest issues remain: the ridiculous sponsorships (*cough* *Viagra* *cough*), the at times childish and immature drivers, the confusing and artificial competition of the points system (‘Chase for the Cup’? Isn’t that called a NASCAR season?) and a hypocritical, headline grabbing female driver.

    In the end, I prefer my race cars to take both right AND a left turns in a race.

    • David (@neiana) said on 24th February 2013, 4:14

      Hey, I decided I had to fix your post. It seems you were a little confused towards the end ;)

      Still, my biggest issues remain: the ridiculous sponsorships (*cough* *REDBULL* *cough*) the at times childish and immature drivers like Maldonado and Grosjean, the confusing and artificial competition of the DRS, KERS and “tyre” degradation and a hypocritical, headline grabbing Luca, Bernie, Flavio (a few years back), etc.

      Don’t worry, sometimes I get tired and forgetful, too. ;)

      • The Next Pope said on 24th February 2013, 4:35

        Err.. what’s ridiculous about Red Bull? I don’t get your point.
        Also, that’s why those two drivers you mentioned mostly get penalties. Most do not glorify what they do. You think people appreciate the dangers they bring to the sport?

        • David (@neiana) said on 24th February 2013, 4:57

          What’s ridiculous about Viagra? Oh I deleted part of my original comment on accident:

          What if Viagra decided to throw money into F1, buy out HRT and make them a viable team (with Viagra on the car, though). The team is made up of talented individuals who are level-headed and can drive at the front and fight for podiums.

          Is this a problem?

          And with my post below perhaps you can understand where that appreciation came from. NASCAR comes from a gritty background of doing the not-quite-right thing and getting away with it. It came from a time when your neighbor was the person you needed to deliver to faster than the other guy and it was your paycheck and it sometimes was on very dangerous roads.

          Sure you can say NASCAR should grow out of it and there was a time when NASCAR was all pretty boys from the coastal states that never lost their cool and there were 1 or 2 that were aggressive. Then a few years ago the head whatever guy finally blurted out (in a “I didn’t really think about what I’m about to say” sort of way): Let them have at it.


          Formula 1 is open wheeled and does not typically breed the kind of racing that NASCAR does. You can get away with driving 200+ mph grinding on the car next to you and enter the next corner just fine in NASCAR. You touch in F1 and you’re toast. It’s just the difference in culture of an enclosed sedan style body vs. open wheel. You can be aggressive in a bumping sort of way in NASCAR and it’s safe whereas in F1, no.

          It’s just different.

          And “bad” NASCAR crashes happen as often as “bad” F1 crashes. I’m fairly certain Alonso was a foot from serious injury in the 2012 season, no?

          • @neiana

            “bad” NASCAR crashes happen as often as “bad” F1 crashes. I’m fairly certain Alonso was a foot from serious injury in the 2012 season, no?

            They don’t. NASCAR has a much higher element of danger because of the speeds they race at and the nature of the racing, not to mention the fact the track is bordered by catch fences with dangerous posts.

            Alonso was involved in what had the potential to be quite a dangerous crash with Grosjean but thankfully everyone walked away without injury. I think actually the last time a driver was injured in F1 was 2009 (Felipe Massa getting not by the spring) and the last death of course was back in 1994 with Senna. Massa’s crash highlights the main flaw with open-cockpit cars that NASCAR doesn’t suffer from, but that is about it from where NASCAR is safer.

    • Fisha695 (@fisha695) said on 24th February 2013, 10:30

      Viagra hasn’t sponsored a car since 2005 & it’s not really any different then when Durex sponsored an F1 car.

  8. Eric (@fletch) said on 24th February 2013, 2:00

    I don’t mind NASCAR but I prefer my wins with champagne instead of Coca-Cola

    • MagillaGorilla (@magillagorilla) said on 24th February 2013, 4:56

      @fletch they use to do that, but I think stopped due to the image it gave, that and sponsors like Coke and Pepsi needed to be in winner circle for that extra nth of ad view.

      • Fisha695 (@fisha695) said on 24th February 2013, 10:22

        Yup that pretty much stopped when drivers started to get sponsorship by various beverage companies.
        Kevin Harvick is a Budwieser driver so he drinks Budwieser, Brad Keselowski is sponsored by Miller Lite so he drinks that, the Coca-Cola drivers drink Coke (or one of the Coke brands), Pepsi drivers drink Pepsi (or one of the Pepsi brands), Red Bull drivers drink Red Bull (well they would except a Red bull sponsored driver hasn’t won in a real long time, l0l), Monster drivers drink Monster, etc.

  9. David (@neiana) said on 24th February 2013, 4:08

    NASCAR is an American sport in my opinion, true and through. It came out of the “Roaring Twenties” prohibition when the moonshiners did fancy things with their cars to allow them to run faster and carry moonshine. Technically when the prohibition ended, everyone got together and thought: Aww nuts, what good are these cars, now?

    And so they decided to race on a beach to see who had the fastest and most reliable car.

    People who say “I miss when stock car racing was real stock cars” never seem to have understood that NASCAR and stock car racing… was never stock.

    Anyway, I’m gonna watch the race tomorrow. Rather, I’m going to listen to it while I do math homework and then just wait for something interesting to happen before I actually watch it.

  10. The Next Pope said on 24th February 2013, 4:31

    Sorry, this still does not convince me. /shrugs

  11. unbelievable

  12. Does this article need an update after the massive wreck that injured fans in the nationwide race today? When you contrive the racing to pack up the cars and race on ovals I guess that’s entertainment, unless you were one of the unlucky 28 fans today.

    • David (@neiana) said on 24th February 2013, 7:08


      Daytona and Talladega are the two restrictor plate tracks. The restrictor plate is one of the primary factors in what creates the pack racing and while I know of two regular season races at Daytona I only know of one at Talladega. That makes 3 of the (33?) races on the NASCAR schedule which utilize the “pack track” theology. 10%.

      And when considering in F1, more than 10% of the schedule last year was marred by what many people on this forum considered extremely dangerous driving…and in open wheeled cars, at that!

      • Fisha695 (@fisha695) said on 24th February 2013, 10:19

        You got your numbers a bit off.

        4 Cup points races (7 if you count the exhibition races too) out of the 36 points races on the schedule are at the Restrictor Plate tracks (Talladega/Daytona)

        3 Nationwide Series point races (of the 33 races for that series) are on those tracks (like you said, 2 for Daytona & 1 for Talladega)

        2 Truck series point races (of the 22 races in that series) are on those tracks (1 Daytona, 1 Talladega)

        So 9 out of the 91 points races across the 3 National Touring Series are held on those tracks.

      • @neiana – what F1 fans consider dangerous and what NASCAR fans consider dangerous differs immensely though. “Dangerous driving” in F1 is considered as a driver causing an avoidable accident; in NASCAR drivers deliberately crash. And even at that, the accidents themselves in F1 usually have a much lower potential for serious injury to fans and drivers alike due to the safety features in place at the tracks and in the cars, such as run-off areas and energy-absorbing barriers which can’t be implemented at an oval.

        So at a fundamental level, NASCAR is more dangerous than F1 due to the nature of the tracks themselves and the speeds achieved on them.

        • Fisha695 (@fisha695) said on 25th February 2013, 12:57

          Actually all oval tracks ran in the top 3 NASCAR series have energy-absorbing barriers around most of the track (a few have it around the entire track though that is costly). It’s called the “Steal And Foam Energy Reducing (SAFER) Barrier”. It was actually co-developed by Indycar, NASCAR and some engineering university.

          The SAFER Barrier is actually regarded as more safe then the traditional tire barriers because unlike with tires the SAFER doesn’t have the potential to “Grab & Flip” or “Grab & Sudden Stop” (both of which can be extremely dangerous), it absorbs the energy while allowing the car to ride along the wall to a stop.

          A similar concept is actually starting to be used in F1 with the plastic Tecpro barriers that are being used at more & more tracks to replace the tire bundles.

  13. BasCB (@bascb) said on 24th February 2013, 7:14

    Thanks for the write-up @dominikwilde, its clear that NASCAR brings up a lot of emotion here! Seems there are some that just hate the image, some love it.
    I have tried NASCAR a couple of times, but somehow it failed to capture me.

  14. SlackBladder said on 24th February 2013, 8:50

    I prefer the sound of a concert grand over that of a banjo, altho the Beverly Hillbillies theme song is a classic, it’s just not ‘F1′ is it?

  15. Fisha695 (@fisha695) said on 24th February 2013, 11:42

    I think the big thing that is missed in the comments & the article itself is NASCAR is so much more then just the Cup series. The following info is going to be the 2013 info for just the Touring Series not the local tracks that run with a NASCAR sanction.

    9 Series
    — Sprint Cup Series
    — Nationwide Series
    — Camping World Truck Series
    — K&N Pro Series (East & West Divisions)
    — Whelen Modified Tour (North & South Divisions)
    — Canadian Tire Series (Canada only)
    — Toyota Series (Mexico mainly, 1 USA round)
    — Ministock Series (Mexico; support series for Toyota Series)
    — Racecar Euro Series (NASCAR sanctioned series in Europe)

    198 races, 27 of them being Road Courses.

    Road Course Tracks (alphabetical order)
    — Autodromo Nazionale di Monza
    — Brainerd International Raceway
    — Brands Hatch
    — Circuit de Dijon-Prenois
    — Circuit ICAR
    — Circuit Le Mans Bugatti
    — Circuit Paul Armagnac
    — Circuit Trois-Rivières
    — Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course
    — Miller Motorsports Park
    — Mosport
    — Nuevo Autódromo de Querétaro
    — Road America
    — Road Atlanta
    — Sonoma
    — Watkins Glen
    ***The Euro Series also has an exhibition race at MotorLand Aragón***

    6 Countries have points races;
    — Canada
    — France
    — Italy
    — Mexico
    — UK
    — USA
    *** The Euro Series also has an exhibition race in Spain***

    5 Global Automotive Manufactures represented
    — FIAT (Dodge & RAM)
    — Ford Motor Company (Ford)
    — General Motors (Chevy & Pontiac. Pontiac is dead but some teams still run their motors in the Modified Tours)
    — Mazda Motor Corporation (Mazda, the Mazda 6 is ran in the Mexico based Toyota Series)
    — Toyota Motor Company (Toyota)

    And all that stuff is just the Stockcar Touring stuff, so it doesn’t include the Whelen All-American Series (multiple divisions at tons of paved & dirt short tracks across the country, this is the weekly local short track stuff), nor does it include the other series that NASCAR owns/sanctions which are Grand-Am (Rolex & Continental Tire Series), Ferrari Challenge North America (via Grand-Am), American Le Mans Series, IMSA & it’s IMSA owned support divisions(as of 2013), & AMA Pro Racing (just the Road Racing Motorcycles, not the Dirtbike side of things).

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 25th February 2013, 10:24

      – Mazda Motor Corporation (Mazda, the Mazda 6 is ran in the Mexico based Toyota Series) isn’t Mazda largely based on Ford technology for the last couple of years though @fisha695?

      • Fisha695 (@fisha695) said on 25th February 2013, 13:06

        The Mazda G platform (what the Mazda6 is on) which is also known as the Ford CD3 platform was actually developed by Mazda for Ford. Also as of 2010 Ford has sold most of their Mazda stock (I think they kept maybe 2%) & they are no longer co-developing/producing cars together.

        I know as of this year the new generation Mazda6 is based completely on Mazdas own “SkyActiv” platform for both actual chassis & driveline.

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