Stock car racing

Stock car racing
NASCAR practice.jpg
NASCAR vehicles practicing at Daytona International Speedway in 2004
Highest governing bodyNASCAR
Characteristics
ContactYes
Team membersYes
Mixed genderYes
TypeOutdoor

Stock car racing is a form of automobile racing found mainly and most prominently in the United States and Canada, with Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Brazil[1] also having forms of stock car auto racing. Traditionally, races are run on oval tracks measuring approximately 0.25 to 2.66 miles (0.4 to 4.3 kilometers). The world's largest governing body for stock car racing is the American NASCAR, and its Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the premier top level series of professional stock car racing. Top level races typically range between 200 to 600 miles (322 to 966 km) in length.

Top level stock cars reach speeds in excess of 200 mph (322 km/h)[2][3][4] at speedway tracks and on superspeedway tracks such as Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.[5][6][6]Contemporary NASCAR-spec top level cars produce maximum power outputs of 860-900 hp[7][8] from their naturally aspirated V8 engines. In October 2007 American race car driver Russ Wicks set a speed record for stock cars in a 2007-season Dodge Charger built to NASCAR specifications by achieving a maximum speed of 244.9 mph (394.1 km/h) at the Bonneville Salt Flats.[9][10] For the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, power output of the competing cars ranged from 750 to 800 hp (560 to 600 kW).[11][12]

History

1934 Ford stock car racer. Notice the reinforcement in the front.

Early Years

In the 1920s, moonshine runners during the Prohibition era would often have to outrun the authorities. To do so, they had to upgrade their vehicles—while leaving them looking ordinary, so as not to attract attention. Eventually, runners started getting together with fellow runners and making runs together. They would challenge one another and eventually progressed to organized events in the early 1930s. The main problem racing faced was the lack of a unified set of rules among the different tracks. When Bill France saw this problem, he set up a meeting at the Streamline Hotel in order to form an organization that would unify the rules.[citation needed]

When NASCAR was first formed by Bill France, Sr. in 1948 to regulate stock car racing in the U.S., there was a requirement that any car entered be made entirely of parts available to the general public through automobile dealers. Additionally, the cars had to be models that had sold more than 500 units to the public. This is referred to as "homologation". In NASCAR's early years, the cars were so "stock" that it was commonplace for the drivers to drive themselves to the competitions in the car that they were going to run in the race. While automobile engine technology had remained fairly stagnant in World War II, advanced aircraft piston engine development had provided a great deal of available data, and NASCAR was formed just as some of the improved technology was about to become available in production cars.[citation needed] Until the advent of the Trans-Am Series in 1967, NASCAR homologation cars were the closest thing that the public could buy that was actually very similar to the cars that were winning national races.

The 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket V-8 with a displacement of 303 c.i. is widely recognized as the first postwar modern overhead valve (OHV) engine to become available to the public.[13] The Oldsmobile was an immediate success in 1949 and 1950, and all the automobile manufacturers could not help noticing the higher sales of the Oldsmobile 88 to the buying public.[citation needed] The motto of the day became "win on Sunday, sell on Monday". However, in spite of the fact that several competing engines were more advanced, the aerodynamic and low-slung Hudson Hornet managed to win in 1951, 1952, and 1953 with a 308 c.i. (5.0 L) inline six-cylinder that used an old-style flathead engine, proving there was more to winning than just a more powerful engine.

At the time, it typically took three years for a new design of car body or engine to end up in production and be available for NASCAR racing.[citation needed] Most cars sold to the public did not have a wide variety of engine choices, and the majority of the buying public at the time was not interested in the large displacement special edition engine options that would soon become popular. However, the end of the Korean War in 1953 started an economic boom, and then car buyers immediately began demanding more powerful engines.[citation needed]

Also in 1953, NASCAR recommended that the drivers add roll bars, but did not require them.

In 1955, Chrysler produced the C-300 with its 300 HP 331 c.i. (5.4 L) OHV engine, which easily won in 1955 and 1956.

In 1957, several notable events happened. The Automobile Manufacturers Association (AMA) banned manufacturers from using race wins in their advertising and giving direct support to race teams,[14] as they felt it led to reckless street racing. This forced manufacturers to become creative in producing race parts to help racers win. Race teams were often caught trying to use factory produced racing parts that were not really available to the public, though many parts passed muster by being labeled as heavy-duty "police" parts. Car manufacturers wanted to appear compliant with the ban, but they also wanted to win.

The NASCAR tracks at the time were mainly dirt tracks with modest barriers, and during the 1957 season a Mercury Monterey crashed into the crowd. This killed many spectators, and resulted in a serious overhaul of the safety rules, which in turn prompted the building of larger, more modern tracks.[citation needed] Also in 1957, Chevrolet sold enough of their new fuel injected engines to the public in order to make them available for racing (and Ford began selling superchargers as an option), but Bill France immediately banned fuel injection and superchargers from NASCAR before they could race. However, even without official factory support or the use of fuel injection, Buck Baker won in 1957 driving a small-block V-8 Chevrolet Bel Air.

In 1961, Ford introduced the F1 390 in a low drag Galaxie "Starliner", but 1960 and '61 championships were won by drivers in 409-powered Chevrolet Impalas.

Pontiac introduced their "Super Duty" 421 in Catalinas that made use of many aluminum body parts to save weight, and the Pontiacs easily won in 1962.

Golden Years

The desire from fans and manufacturers alike for higher performance cars within the restrictions of homologation meant that carmakers began producing limited production "special edition" cars based on high production base models. It also became apparent that manufacturers were willing to produce increasingly larger engines to remain competitive (Ford had developed a 483 they hoped to race). For the 1963 season NASCAR engines were restricted to using a maximum displacement of 7.0 liters (427 cu.in.) and using only two valves per cylinder.

Also, even with heavy duty special editions sold to the public for homologation purposes, the race car rules were further modified, primarily in the interest of safety. This is because race drivers and their cars during this era were subjected to forces unheard of in street use, and require a far higher level of protection than is normally afforded by truly "stock" automobile bodies.

In 1963 Ford sold enough of their aerodynamic “sport-roof” edition Galaxies to the public so it would qualify as stock, and with the heavy-duty FE block bored and stroked to the new limit of 427, the top five finishers were all Fords. Chrysler had bored their 413 to create the “Max Wedge” 426, but it still could not compete with the Fords. General Motors' headquarters had genuinely tried to adhere to the 1957 ban, but their Chevrolet division had also constantly tried to work around it, because the other manufacturers had openly circumvented the ban. In 1963 GM gave in and openly abandoned compliance, and Chevrolet was allowed to produce the ZO6 427, but it did not immediately enjoy success.

Then, in 1964 the new Chrysler 426 Hemi engine so dominated the series[citation needed] in a Plymouth Belvedere "Sport Fury", the homologation rules were changed so that 1,000 of any engine and car had to be sold to the public to qualify as a stock part, instead of just 500. This made the 426 Hemi unavailable for the 1965 season.

In 1965 Ford adapted two single-overhead-cams to their FE 427 V8 to allow it to run at a higher RPM (called the Ford 427 Cammer). Ford started to sell "cammers" to the public to homologate it (mostly to dealer-sponsored privateer drag racers), but NASCAR changed the rules to specify that all NASCAR engines must use a single cam-in-block. But even without the cammer, the Ford FE 427 won in 1965.

In 1966 Chrysler sold enough of the 426 Hemis to make it available again, and they put it in their new Dodge Charger which had a low-drag rear window that was radically sloped. It was called a "fast-back", and because of this David Pearson was the series champion that year with Richard Petty dominating 1967, winning 27 of 48 races (including 10 in a row) in the boxier Plymouth Belvedere.

The 1969 season featured the Torino Cobra or Torino "Talladega" which had enough aerodynamic body improvements that it gave it a higher speed than the 1968 Torino, with no other changes. The Cobra, featuring extended nose and reshaped rockers, was renamed Talladega part way through the 1969 season when the Boss 429 replaced the 427. Starting in 1963 up till this point, Ford had won six straight Manufacturer Championships, and by the end of the 1969 season Ford would make it seven in a row. Richard Petty was tired of winning races but losing the championship, so after a private viewing of Ford's new Talladega and Boss 429 engine, he signed a lucrative deal with Ford.

Prior to its first race at the Daytona 500, David Pearson's 427 powered Ford Torino Cobra set a new NASCAR record by being the first to exceed 190 mph when he qualified at 190.029 mph. When the race started Donnie Allison's Torino lead the majority of the race (84 laps). Towards the end of the race the Torino of LeeRoy Yarbrough chased down the Dodge of Charlie Glotzbach, who had an 11-second lead. It was the first Daytona 500 won on a last lap pass. Things got worse for Dodge when NASCAR, a few months later, finally allowed Ford to run its hemi-headed Boss 429 engine.

With Ford winning the majority of the races, Dodge was forced to develop a better car of their own. Using the Charger 500 as a basis, they added a pointed nose. This nose was almost a carbon copy of the nose on the 1962 Ford Mustang II prototype. This radical body shape required a wing to remain stable at speeds over 180 mph. They named it the Dodge Daytona after the race they hoped to win. Even though it never won a Daytona 500 race, it was still a significant improvement over its predecessor the Dodge Charger 500.

NASCAR feared that these increasing speeds significantly surpassed the abilities of the tire technology of the day, and it would undoubtedly increase the number of gruesome wrecks that were occurring. As a result, the 1970 Homologation rules were changed so that one car for every two U.S. dealers had to be built for sale to the public to qualify, hoping to delay the use of aero-bodies until tires could improve.

For the 1970 season Dodge raced the 1969 model Daytona, but Plymouth managed to build over 1,920 Plymouth Superbirds, which were similarly equipped to the Daytona. Petty came back to Plymouth in the 200+ mph Superbird, and Bobby Isaac won the season championship in a Daytona. NASCAR restricted all "aero-cars" including the Ford Talladega, Mercury Spoiler II, Charger 500, Dodge Daytona and Plymouth Superbird to a maximum engine displacement of 305 cu.in. (approx. 5.0L) for 1971. Almost all teams switched to non-aero bodystyles. NASCAR eventually adopted a restrictor plate to limit top speeds for the 7.0L engine as teams switched to small-block 358 cu.in. (5.9L) engines.

Fans, drivers, and manufacturers alike demanded a complete revamping of the rules[citation needed]. NASCAR responded in a way that they hoped would make the cars safer and more equal, so the race series would be more a test of the drivers, rather than a test of car technology.

The era drew to a conclusion in the 1970s. 1972 brought so many rule changes, it has prompted many to consider this year as the start of the modern era of NASCAR racing[citation needed]. In addition, R.J. Reynolds (the tobacco conglomerate) took over as the major sponsor of NASCAR racing (changing the name to the "Winston Cup") and they made a significantly larger financial contribution than previous sponsors. Richard Petty's personal sponsorship with STP also set new, higher standards for financial rewards to driving teams. The sudden infusion of noticeably larger amounts of money changed the entire nature of the sport.

The 1973 oil crisis meant that large displacement special edition homologation cars of all makes were suddenly sitting unsold. Through the balance of the 1970s until 1992, the factory stock sheetmetal over a racing frame meant the cars looked very much like their street version counterparts. It can be said that 1993, with the addition of ground effect wrap-around type spoilers marked the beginning non-stock sheetmetal and from that point forward, stock cars were quickly allowed to differ greatly from anything available to the public. Modern racing "stock" cars are stock in name only, using a body template that is vaguely modeled after currently available automobiles. The chassis, running gear, and other equipment have almost nothing to do with anything in ordinary automobiles. NASCAR and the auto manufacturers have become aware of this, and for 2013 each brand (Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, and Toyota) have redesigned their racing sheetmetal to more resemble the street models of their cars.

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