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Do NASCAR Cars Have Headlights?

You may notice that NASCAR cars have headlights positioned in the same location as their street-legal counterparts. But you may be wondering why they never turn on during a night race, and therefore whether NASCAR cars actually have real headlights.

NASCAR cars do not have real headlights. They have decals designed to look like the average car on the highway. There are several reasons NASCAR prohibits teams from installing real headlights onto their cars, citing safety above everything else, but they’re also just unnecessary.

NASCAR is strict regarding what their manufacturers can and cannot do, and we will explore in the article below the many reasons why teams implement headlight decals. NASCAR may care about its driver’s safety, but they also care about a few more benefits headlight decals bring.

Do NASCAR Cars Have Fake Headlights?

NASCAR cars do have fake headlights. They use decals, giving the illusion the cars have headlights. The stickers are exact replicas of the average Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota lights you see on the local highway. NASCAR mandates each car use the decals for every race, day or night.

Why Do NASCAR Cars Use Fake Headlights?

Since NASCAR cars don’t need headlights for reasons to be explained later, it’s cheaper for manufacturers to use decals instead of installing headlights the cars won’t need. For marketing purposes, NASCAR requires cars to resemble their street-legal counterparts. To better resemble the production vehicles on the lot of your local car dealership, teams stick headlight decals onto their cars.

NASCAR Cares About Brand Identity

When you look at the Mustangs, Camaros, and Camrys on a track, NASCAR’s stringent rules are making it harder to identify them from a distance unless you can see the name and logo, besides a few other traits. There are differences in the bodies of each car, but they’re growing smaller with each passing generation of stock car. The type of headlight will help clue you in on each brand’s identity.

Chevrolet’s bowtie logo, Ford’s trademark Mustang insignia, and Toyota’s T-shaped oval emblem are sometimes hard to see from an angle, either from the front or the rear. So, to further identify the cars’ manufacturers, check out the headlights. Chevrolet’s headlight decals are rectangular-shaped while Ford’s are egg-shaped. Toyota’s headlight decals are thinner and more diagonal.

Do Fans Care About The Manufacturer?

Many NASCAR fans follow a particular manufacture rather than a driver or a team. Instead of some fans saying Chase Elliott or Hendrick Motorsports are their favorite driver or organization, they may instead pull for all Chevrolets that entered the race.

NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip recalled a time when most NASCAR fans followed a specific manufacturer. It didn’t matter who took the driver’s seat in those cars, they just wanted to see their Chevy, Ford, or Dodge, among other brands, take the checkered flag.

NASCAR’s rules were less stringent during Waltrip’s career, which lasted between 1972 and 2000. Manufacturers were easier to spot on tracks as each car’s body varied drastically. This isn’t the case in the 21st century, so it makes sense to keep the make and model plastered on a car, along with headlights and other visuals, even if they are subtle, to distinguish each manufacturer.

Why Don’t NASCAR Cars Have Headlights?

NASCAR cars don’t need headlights because tracks must be well-lit for fan, pit crew, and driver safety. Headlights can also add unnecessary weight to NASCAR cars. While each car must weigh a minimum of 3,200 lbs without the driver or fuel, unnecessary weight like headlights can slow down a car.

Since headlights are made from glass, the caution flag would wave often throughout a race and the cleanup crews would be hard at work cleaning up shattered glass whenever the cars bang into one another. This would cause numerous unnecessary delays at almost every race.

Visibility Problems

If you have ever driven at night and someone approached you with their brights on full blast, you know the visibility issues it can cause. The same holds true for NASCAR, with between 36 and 40 drivers racing in packs.

If NASCAR cars used real headlights, drivers would have a tough time focusing with headlights shining in their rear-view camera. And if drivers kept the cameras off, spotters would have a tough time locating their driver with so many headlights flashing.

Headlights would also cause visibility and safety issues for NASCAR pit crews. Pit road is lit well enough for crews to see their car and opposing cars coming. Knowing who is approaching lets the pit crew know where their car is in the lineup so they can choreograph the pit stop.

Pit crew members would have a tough time seeing who was coming if NASCAR cars used headlights. Headlights could temporarily blind crew members, placing them at risk of a car running into them or running into members of opposing pit crews.

Do NASCAR Cars Have Brake Lights?

NASCAR cars do not have brake lights. Instead, they opt for decals to further emulate their manufacturer’s production line and to further promote brand identity. As with the headlights, you can tell manufacturers apart from the rear if you know what to look for.

While a full look at the rear end of a NASCAR car will let you know whether the manufacturer is a Chevy, Toyota, or a Ford, sometimes it’s not always possible to see the car’s entire backside.So instead, take time to learn a little of what distinguishes Chevy’s, Ford’s, and Toyota’s brake lights.

When you look closely at NASCAR’s Chevrolet Camaro, you will notice a decal featuring dual rear lights. The Ford features its brake light stickers closer to the center, with three on one side and three on the other. The Toyota’s brake light decals are thinner, and they extend out to the side of the car.

Why Don’t NASCAR Cars Have Brake Lights?

While NASCAR ensures their tracks are well-lit for every racing event to negate the need for headlights, you may think it necessary for them to have brake lights, so cars know who is slowing down while approaching a turn.

But the truth is, NASCAR drivers do not need their opponents to have brake lights to process such information. Instead, they have spotters that warn them about cars that are driving slower ahead of them, or if there are any potential on-track incidents they must be aware of.

And like headlights, brake lights are made of glass, meaning they are equally prone to shattering if an opposing car hits them at the wrong angle. Also like the headlights, adding actual brake lights would add unnecessary weight to the car.

Why Do NASCAR Cars Need To Resemble Real Cars?

NASCAR has strict rules regarding what its manufacturers can and can’t do. And while brand identity is important to drivers, there is one more reason the cars must resemble their production counterparts: They want NASCAR fans to buy from Chevrolet, Toyota, and Ford.

The old adage, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” is still used when discussing NASCAR. Winning teams will sell merchandise, and winning manufacturers will help sell cars across the country.

Final Thoughts

NASCAR cars don’t have headlights because they aren’t necessary and could shatter during a race and that would cause unnecessary delays. Instead, manufacturers use decals that look like the headlights of the street-legal versions of their cars to help fans identify the cars and to market their cars.