By Stefan Kristensen
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July 30, 2022
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What is NASCAR? The Guide to understanding the Popular Motorsports Series

NASCAR is one of the leading car racing companies in the world. Established in 1948, the company went from strength to strength, and there are currently 1,500 races held under the NASCAR banner each year, predominantly in North America.

But what is NASCAR? Where did the company come from? What sorts of races do they run? Well, we are going to tell you as much as we possibly can.

What is NASCAR?

As we said, NASCAR is a car racing company. They are based in Daytona Beach, Florida. However, they have operations throughout the world. However, the vast majority of their races are confined to the United States and Canada. While the company does run a few races throughout Europe, they do not have anywhere near the same amount of success there, with other racing promotions (e.g. Formula One) dominating. 

The company specializes in stock car racing. In the past, NASCAR events would have been run using production model vehicles (i.e. the same vehicles that you and I would drive on the road). However, the popularity of NASCAR means that has now gone out of the window. Instead, NASCAR is all about racing at top speeds in vehicles designed specifically for racing. 

NASCAR Rules

It is impossible for us to tell you everything that there is to know about NASCAR rules. Not just because there are a lot of them (there are), but THE fact that most of the rules are kept top-secret. The only way to get access to those rules is by being a member of NASCAR.

Most of the rules for NASCAR are related to the specific design of the vehicle (the rear spoiler must be at a 70-degree angle, for instance). NASCAR vehicles need to have very specific engine specs too.

In recent years, the bulk of the rules for NASCAR has been related to safety on the track. This includes better support for the driver's necks, safety features inside of the vehicles, etc.

The rules for NASCAR are ever-changing, and they can vary depending on the competition being run. In fact, the specifications change each year, in line with changing technologies in the automotive world.

NASCAR Tracks

NASCAR is a motorsport that is best known for its oval tracks. The idea of the oval track is that NASCAR becomes less of a competition of skill, but the quality of the vehicles. Obviously, driver skill is going to take a bit of a role (learning how to draft, track positioning, etc.), but just going around in a circle really helps to showcase what the vehicle is able to achieve.

The vast majority of the tracks that NASCAR races are held on will be oval tracks, or very close to oval in shape. However, there are a few which are more complicated race tracks (without being exceedingly hard to drive on). These tracks include:

  • Watkins Glen International
  • Road America
  • Portland International Raceway
  • Pocono Raceway
  • Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway
  • Circuit Of The Americas

Outside of the Americas, NASCAR still tries to aim for courses that have more of an oval design to them. However, the limited number of oval tracks outside of the United States and Canada means that this isn't always possible. Since NASCAR has not really taken off in the way that it would like to on the international scene, it is unlikely that this is something that is going to change any time soon either. 

NASCAR Competitions

NASCAR runs around 1,500 races per year throughout the world. Although, once again, the bulk of these are going to be held in the United States and in Canada.

The competitions are broken down into a few broad categories, each with their own collection of events under them.

National Series

The National Series is the place that every NASCAR driver wants to be. As the name suggests, this is based on the United States alone.

While there are a variety of competitions under the NASCAR series banner, it is the NASCAR Cup that attracts the majority of viewers. If you win the NASCAR Cup, then you know that you have made it in the world of NASCAR. Your name goes down in history.

The Camping World Truck Series is one of the more interesting things that happen under the National Series. Instead of racing stock cars, pickup trucks are driven. Obviously, it is not the most popular competition that NASCAR runs. However, it is one of the only competitions that they run that gravitates away from stock cars, which does make it a slightly more interesting watch for those that want something a little bit different. 

International Series

The International Series features competitions in Canada, Mexico, and Europe.

These competitions are pretty close to the NASCAR Cup, albeit with prizes nowhere near as lucrative. Because the tracks in these countries aren't quite oval in shape, the racing is a little bit different. Although, you still get to see amazing NASCAR vehicles traveling at incredibly fast speeds.

Most of the competitions that NASCAR sanctions overseas had their roots away from the world of NASCAR. However, because NASCAR does stock racing and many of these established competitions were doing stock racing, it seemed to be a pretty good fit. 

Regional Racing Series 

The Regional Racing Series is formed of a collection of NASCAR-sanctioned tournaments limited to certain regions in the United States. Most of these regional racing series competitions are renamed car racing competitions.

A lot of the regional competitions for NASCAR are going to be for specific models of vehicles, almost all are less powerful than the ones that are happening out there on the big stage.

It is the Regional Racing Series where the bulk of the races under the NASCAR banner are going to happen, although that is mostly owing to the sheer number of regional racing competitions. 

NASCAR Online Competitions 

Interestingly, NASCAR also runs online competitions through the iRacing Game, a game designed to simulate driving NASCAR vehicles as closely as possible. These competitions have worked superbly for NASCAR branding over the years. These competitions regularly have prizes of $300,000+. Not quite the amount that you would get from winning a full competition, but it is certainly nothing that you would sniff at.

The History of NASCAR

Let's wrap up by talking a little bit about the history of NASCAR. This way, you will be able to get more of an idea as to why NASCAR exists in the way that it does not. It should also give you more of an idea about what NASCAR actually is.

The Origins of Stock Car Racing

Before we even think about the formation of NASCAR, we need to think about why NASCAR is based in Daytona, and what the purpose of stock car racing actually is.

In the 1930s, the bulk of speed records was happening around Europe. However, at some point, this moved on over to Daytona Beach. In the 1930s, if you wanted to race your vehicles for speed, then it was going to be happening around Daytona Beach. So, that clears the part up about why NASCAR is based here. But, what about stock car racing?

Well, around the same time that Daytona Beach was taking off, there was still prohibition happening in the United States.  Of course, that didn't stop people from wanting a drink. Alcohol smugglers would often put together blisteringly fast vehicles from stock production models of vehicles. It is this concept that gave birth to the idea of NASCAR. Pushing stock models of vehicles to the absolute brink.

Of course, it is worth pointing out that NASCAR has gravitated away from this idea a little bit. In fact, it has gravitated away from it a lot. While the body of the vehicles racing in NASCAR is similar to stock, it is heavily modified to the point that it is going to be nothing like you would get off a production line. 

The Founding of NASCAR

By 1936, there were regular gatherings of drivers happening throughout Daytona Beach. Here, people were racing their vehicles, showing them off, etc.

For many of these gatherings, Bill France was in attendance. He noticed that there was an opening in the market. People were loving the idea of racing vehicles, and he thought that he should be the person to provide those sponsored tournaments. In 1947, he formed the National Championship Stock Car Circuit, or NCSCC, for short. 

The first tournaments were a great success, and Bill France decided to go one further. He founded NASCAR. The first three divisions were Strictly Stock, Modified, and Roadster. The latter was dropped pretty quickly. The Strictly Stock Division is what we now know as the NASCAR Cup.

The Growth of NASCAR

The early days of NASCAR saw some slow, but steady, growth. The rules of the competition continued to be refined, and while Bill France eventually changed up the tournament to encourage more racing vehicles, a lot of what was on the track was still stock.

The biggest changes started to happen in 1970 when NASCAR vehicles hit 200mph for the first time. In 1971, the company had managed to secure a TV contract, and that contract allowed the popularity of NASCAR to explode, and the fans really started to pour in.

In 1999, Fox, Turner, and NBC all became NASCAR partners. This introduced many more millions to the sport, providing them with access to the races on a regular basis, including the regional competitions. Although, by this point, NASCAR was easily the most popular racing sport in the United States, and it has been in that position ever since. 

Of course, all of this meant that more and more cash was being pumped into the sport. As a result, the vehicle companies had started to swing away from the idea of the vehicles being strictly stock. Instead, they began to invest heavily in building racing vehicles. These were vehicles designed specifically for the track, albeit still with the idea that they resembled stock vehicles. Although, as we mentioned a bit earlier, these aren't vehicles that you are going to be driving on the roads yourself. They are built for one thing and one thing only. To zip somebody around an oval track as quickly as possible. 

The Future of NASCAR

In recent years, NASCAR has started a massive push toward getting the sport more internationally recognized. The development of the NASCAR competitions in Europe in 2012 is a testament to that.

Whether NASCAR is able to take over the world in the way that it wants is anybody's guess. At the moment, it does seem as if NASCAR is a very American sport. It is about pure speed. Although, that being said, it is clear that NASCAR is able to pick up a few international fans.

In terms of their standard competition, they are likely to only get bigger and better. Vehicles are getting faster. Expect faster and longer competitions. 

NASCAR is a sport that still has a lot of legs in it. We expect the sport to certainly continue to grow within the United States. Even now, almost 100 years down the line, NASCAR is picking up brand new fans on a yearly basis. 

Conclusion 

NASCAR is one of the most popular racing companies in the world, and for good reason too. While the company had a rather humble beginning, it is a company that went from strength to strength, with some of the highest financial prizes in the racing industry being found in the world of NASCAR. While the company hasn't quite managed to crack the international scene anywhere near as well as it was able to crack the United States, there are many people who believe that NASCAR is close to getting there.

For now, if you want to see some amazing vehicles blitz around the track at incredible speeds, then you need to watch NASCAR. They may only be traveling around the track in an oval, but it is a mesmerizing sport. 

Written by Stefan Kristensen
Passionate about motorsports ever since I was a little boy. Back then, I cheered on the racing cars simply based on their colors. Later I fell in love with the many stories behind racing that make it so interesting.
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