Three Odd Questions About NASCAR Racing

The National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing, otherwise known as NASCAR, is by far the most popular racing series in the United States. But there are some parts about this sport which some people have never known but always would have liked to. On this blog, we look at just a few of these rubber-burning questions to give you the answers you have been searching for.

“Why do they always turn left?”
One of the most common digs at NASCAR is that races just consist of a seemingly-endless cycle of left turns around an oval track. But why left? Why are there no races where the drivers take the oval turning right? Nobody really knows how the tradition started, but today the reason why NASCAR doesn’t simply adopt right-turning races is one of safety. Because drivers sit on the left side of the car when driving and cars tend to slide outward to the right when turning, this places far more armor and safety equipment between the driver and the retaining wall.

The exact opposite is true in what was Australia’s equivalent of NASCAR, otherwise known as AUSCAR. Australia drives with the wheel on the right hand side of the car, so to preserve safety, they drove in a clockwise direction, making right turns for the duration of the race. Unfortunately, AUSCAR shut down in the year 1999 and is no longer running down under.

“Why do NASCAR cars not have doors or mirrors?”
Similar to the previous question, the answer once again has to do with safety. Doors are prone to flying open and crunching during accidents, so engineers opted to get rid of them. This means the car will hold its integrity better in a crash. Likewise, it also gave engineers the ability to install additional safety features, such as a solid roll cage along the sides of both cars, which further decreases the chance of a serious accident and allows more drivers to walk away from the high-speed crashes.

Cars don’t have mirrors simply because they race so close together all of the time. To be more accurate, cars don’t have side-view mirrors, but they do have a long rear-view mirror that allows them to see into their blind spots easier while racing. If cars came with side-view mirrors, they’d get knocked off easily nearly every race (especially in the tight conditions of restrictor-plate racing) and a loose mirror could spell disaster for another car that strikes it.

“How big is a pit crew?”
It’s impossible for a NASCAR vehicle to go the entire duration of a 500 mile race without having to stop for fuel or new tires, so pit stops are an integral part of the race. In a pit stop, a driver’s team members, known as his pit crew, will jump over the wall, change the tires, fill the car with fuel, make adjustments to the suspension or steering, clean the windshield, and even give the driver a drink of water if necessary. And they’ll do all of this in about 12 to 14 seconds.

While a race team is composed of dozens of members, the actual pit crew is composed generally of about nine members, with up to seven being allowed over the wall to work on the car at any given time. Each crew consists of a tire carrier and changer for both the front and rear of the car, as gas man, a jack man, and on occasion, an “extra man” who does things like cleaning the windshield or making a car adjustment. Teams also have support crew members who do things such as retrieve wrenches and air hoses and hand things to the crew members working on the car, but they must remain behind the pit wall for the duration of the stop.

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