NASCAR engines are more powerful than most of their street legal counterparts. Turbocharged engines can provide even more instant power, which could make them appropriate for NASCAR. However, they also have a few drawbacks, so it’s fair to wonder if NASCAR cars are turbocharged.
NASCAR cars are not turbocharged, and are instead naturally aspirated, which is more cost-effective. Another reason NASCAR has yet to venture into using turbocharged engines is the presence of turbo lag, which may cause safety issues. However, this does not make NASCAR engines any less powerful.
NASCAR engines are custom-built, which gives them their power to race at high speeds for 300 to 500-mile durations. In the article below, we will explore how this is possible and discover what type of engines are required for NASCAR cars to reach peak performance on a weekly basis.
NASCAR cars use naturally aspirated V8 engines with a displacement no larger than 358 cubic inches, or about 5.87 liters. They can produce up to 670 horsepower when tapered spacers are not in use, and they are made by one of three manufacturers: Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota.
The kinds of engines NASCARs use can vary between the manufacturers Chevrolet, Toyota, and Ford. However, NASCAR does not allow manufacturers to gain an unfair advantage in competition, so there are certain specifications each manufacturer must follow, making the engines almost identical.
For a manufacturer to build an engine for competition, they must submit their design to NASCAR for approval. If approved, the manufacturer may proceed to build the engine for their cars. Since certain specifications exist, you will see many similarities between NASCAR engines, regardless of whether Chevrolet, Toyota, or Ford produces them.
One reason racing fans love spec series is that they place emphasis on a driver’s skill. NASCAR understands this, so to keep the playing field level, they strictly regulate what their manufacturers can and cannot do. This makes the sport more about the drivers’ abilities rather than the engine under the hood.
However, NASCAR doesn’t want to hinder innovation, which is why it’s not a true spec series. They want their manufacturers to continually improve their engines and motivate other manufacturers to challenge one another to keep pace. Competition, it’s said, breeds innovation.
But they don’t want to see any one manufacturer gain such a large advantage that the other two manufacturers cannot pose a challenge. Suppose Chevrolet found a way to routinely beat Ford and Toyota. NASCAR’s on-track product would not be so exciting. Therefore, NASCAR retains and mandates new specs to keep on-track excitement at an all-time high. This keeps races from becoming predictable.
Now that you know a little about how NASCAR prevents one manufacturer from getting too far ahead of the other, you probably guessed all three manufacturers use the same type of engine. For NASCAR’s Next-Gen Car, introduced in 2022, specifications include a V8, naturally aspirated FR layout no larger than 358 cubic inches. As a baseline, the Next-Gen engines target 670 horsepower.
They decided on the type of engine following two years of collaboration and meetings with drivers, NASCAR competition officials, team representatives, and manufacturers. The 2022 engine used was one of four engine configurations, which drivers tested at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in late 2021.
The final configuration, which contained the targeted horsepower figure of 670, proved to be the most popular among drivers. For the Next-Gen engines, NASCAR prided itself on returning the power of choice to its drivers, and it’s the type of engine that will stick throughout the Next-Gen’s life cycle.
NASCAR engines can produce 670 horsepower. This allows drivers of the Next Gen NASCAR cars to reach nearly 200 miles per hour during a race. NASCAR cars may be fitted with tapered spacers to reduce this total power for superspeedway races.
One thing you need to know about NASCAR engines is that they hold far more power than many street-legal vehicles. Even those rides with larger engines capable of producing more speed and power on the highway cannot match the power of NASCAR engines. However, the power of street-legal sports cars comes close.
For example, NASCAR’s Chevy Camaro may resemble its street-legal equivalent in aesthetics, but the latter isn’t far off in power. Its 6.2-liter engine is slightly larger than the 5.9-liter engine of NASCAR’s Next-Gen Camaro, and its horsepower sits at 650, not far below its stock car counterpart.
The 2022 Ford Mustang Shelby has 760 horsepower, eclipsing its NASCAR equivalent by 90 horses. Only the Toyota Camry pales in comparison with its NASCAR counterpart, with just 301 horsepower.
Superspeedways call for less power than the package shown above, with a targeted 510 restrictor plate/tapered spacer horsepower. NASCAR determined the Superspeedway Package in January 2022 and put it to use when the Daytona 500 rolled around in February.
Testing sessions for the Superspeedway Package ran between January 11th and January 12th at the Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR also talked about expanding the Superspeedway Package to their fastest tracks, most notably, the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
NASCAR engines are naturally aspirated, not turbocharged. The opposite of turbocharging, NASCAR’s engines do not force air induction from the surrounding environment. Instead, these engines naturally pull in air as they operate, giving them more dependability as they run.
Turbocharging allows engines to achieve maximal power and torque. The process involves forcing air into internal combustion engines, which creates more power. Sports cars like Chevy Camaros are turbocharged, along with large trucks like Ford-150s. Some of the biggest benefits to such engines involve increased performance and efficiency.
As a bonus, you also hear that cool sound the engine makes when the turbo winds up. However, turbocharged engines come with higher prices. There is also lag associated with them directly after you engage the throttle. Finally, with so many more parts a turbocharged engine requires, the more potential maintenance and repairs you need to make.
Naturally aspirated engines don’t experience the same kind of lag as turbocharged engines, instead delivering more consistent speed and power. This is ideal in NASCAR, as naturally aspirated engines also last longer than their turbocharged counterparts. They also require less power to operate. With fewer parts and maintenance, naturally aspirated engines are more cost-effective as well.
NASCAR has never used turbochargers. NASCAR has strict regulations for their engines, and they get stricter as manufacturers seek new ways to improve their product. Not only must Toyota, Ford, and Chevy follow regulations set forth by NASCAR, but they must also refrain from using specific parts.
One obvious reason NASCAR bans specific types of engines or parts is that they do not want to give manufacturers unfair advantages. However, they also do not want manufacturers to use specific features like turbocharging in the interest of safety. The turbo lag associated with turbocharged engines can deliver an instant power boost which, when done incorrectly, may lead to unnecessary crashes.
Despite NASCAR’s uptick in safety awareness since 2001, the organization has tweaked its rules and regulations in the interest of safety since the sport began in 1949. Therefore, no NASCAR car has ever used a turbocharged engine in a race.
NASCAR will only switch to a turbocharger if they feel doing so will improve the product in a safe, cost-effective manner. Naturally aspirated engines are currently the better option. While things can always change, there is little chance of a switch to turbochargers in the near future.
NASCAR, despite placing a heavy emphasis on safety, is always looking for ways to improve their product. However, naturally aspirated engines have provided entertainment throughout 300 to 500-mile races for decades, which has negated the need for NASCAR to seriously consider turbocharged engines.
It’s safe to assume NASCAR will at least monitor innovations in turbocharging and consider it if they feel turbocharged engines will better serve the sport and its millions of fans. If not, expect NASCAR to use the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality and stick to naturally aspirated engines.
NASCAR engines are so powerful because they are custom built created through millions of dollars of research and development. NASCAR engines are finely crafted, highly tuned machines that need to withstand a 500-mile race at nearly 200 mph.
Builders fit these engines with high-power yet lightweight parts, like titanium valves, pistons, connecting rods, valves, and pushrods. It’s also worth noting that, beyond a NASCAR engine’s basic anatomy, their teams have access to the latest technologies. They also have enough money to hire a team of top-notch specialists with the knowledge to both build and maintain their engine’s power.
NASCAR engines are not turbocharged. They are naturally aspirated, which is more cost-effective and smoother to operate. The engines are far more powerful than most of their street-legal counterparts. NASCAR’s engines are fully customized and built with durable, lightweight parts.