Climbing the NASCAR Ladder

November 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Features

What would you do if your track were not a part of NASCAR? The answer is simple but unthinkable, because no racing can survive without NASCAR. Investment in the sport is a certain drain if you do not make the grade for NASCAR to sit up and take notice.

You cannot blame the body because there are limits to the numbers of sponsorships available. Schedules tend to clash, and you cannot have crews and machines, to say nothing of drivers, cavorting all over the countryside for small amounts of money. The competition to make the NASCAR grade is so tough that track owners would happily give an arm or a leg to make it to the top.

However, desperate measures will only get you nowhere fast. The path to NASCAR lies in developing racing conditions in a professional way. You have to ensure uniform racing conditions, and a level playing field for outside teams. Favoring locals with an in-depth knowledge of the bends, or looking the other way when someone sneaks in little extras by way of power and handling, is the best way to keep NASCAR away. It is not just a matter of the Association, even top drivers and sponsors will not support events which are poorly regulated.

Variations in racing rules, and problems which teams from other places have in adjusting to a particular track, make for massive headaches within NASCAR, and they hinder proper development of this popular sport as well. NASCAR is pretty clear on auto dimensions and matters related to engines, so it is really up to tracks to arrange racing events which are entirely above board. Fair competition is the cornerstone on which track attendance and fan following are built, and we all know that companies which work for profit will not put up the sums of money NASCAR standards demand, if no one turns up for the show!

There is much track owners can do to enhance the level of competition at their sites, so that the best in the business know that they simply have to participate to make or to retain their standings. Just as you are no driver if you have not raced in NASCAR events, so a track may also present unique challenges which bring out the best in machines and men. So quit cribbing, and work on your track and your local rules!

NASCAR cars: it’s all in the body – Auto Racing

June 13, 2006 by  
Filed under Features

A lot of racecar enthusiasts consider NASCAR to be F1‘s less-fortunate cousin. So many differences in the design and maneuverability of the cars, the attitude of the races and drivers. But any NASCAR fan will tell you that the cars themselves demonstrate a rare form of workmanship that is fast disappearing from the auto-racing.

Just about every part a NASCAR car is made by hand. The bodies are built from flat sheet metal, the engines are assembled from a bare block and the frame is constructed from steel tubing.

The frame consists of a structure of round and square steel tubing of varying weights and thickness. The bulk of the structure surrounds the driver. This part of the frame – the roll cage – is made of the thickest tubing and is designed to stay together, protecting the driver during every turn and in every potential or realized accident or crash.

The front and rear sections of the frame, called the front clip and the rear clip, are built from thinner steel tubing so that they will crush when the car hits another car or a wall. In addition to being collapsible, the front clip is designed to push the engine out of the bottom of the car – rather than into the driver’s compartment – during an accident. And if you don’t think that’s a good thing to know when you’re spinning out of a curve than you just don’t know NASCAR.

When the frame comes into the shop, the firewall (the metal panel separating the engine compartment from the driver’s compartment) and floor panels are welded in, along with various mounting brackets for things like the engine, suspension, seat, fuel cell and body.

The shape of the car is mostly determined by NASCAR rules. These rules are determined by a set of 30 templates, each shaped to fit a different contour of the car. For instance, the biggest template fits over the center of the car from front to back.

After the pieces are shaped, they are welded to the car and to each other, using the templates to check their location. Not all of the cars are built to the same specifications. Some cars are dedicated short-track cars, and others are dedicated super-speedway cars. There are some major differences between the two types.

Since the speeds are lower on the short race tracks, getting an adequate volume of cooling air to the engine and brakes can be a challenge — especially since the engines and brakes generate more heat during short-track racing. Conversely, the body on a super-speedway car is mounted forward on the frame to reduce drag.

Simple in theory, but advanced in application – the success of NASCAR racing cars goes deeper than just under the hood. It lies in the frame and the body itself.