NASCAR cars are very different to their road-going counterparts. One major difference between the car in the parking lot and a NASCAR car is what you will find on the dashboard. But you may wonder if NASCAR cars even have the basic dials, like speedometers.
NASCAR cars do not have speedometers, fuel gauges, or tachometers. But since NASCAR drivers are experts in their chosen profession, they don’t need them to know how fast they are going or to gauge how much fuel they have left. Precise information is relayed by the crew chief and car engineers.
Below, we will reveal why NASCAR cars do not have speedometers, fuel gauges, or tachometers. We will also discuss what is on a NASCAR car’s digital dashboard and talk about why they contain so few gadgets and how drivers overcome the lack of them so easily.
NASCAR cars don’t have speedometers because the drivers have no use for them. A driver is mostly focused on the cars around them while racing and they don’t want unnecessary distractions. The driver’s crew chief will let the driver know about the car’s performance, including speed, during the race.
On the road knowing your exact speed is very important. When you turn onto a new road or even another portion of the highway speed limits can change. If we didn’t have built-in speedometers, few of us would have a solid feel for how fast we are really going.
Thankfully, our road vehicles let us know if we are driving the maximal, or minimal allowed speed on the freeway or through town. However, NASCAR cars do not have that luxury. There are no speedometers on the dashboard letting them know how fast they are going.
Although drivers need their cars to be fast, speed is the least of their concerns given the number of factors they need to worry about. Drivers are more worried about their response time than they are of their speed. If you have ever heard the saying that you need to worry about other people when you drive in heavy traffic, NASCAR drivers use the same mindset.
NASCAR drivers focus on what other drivers are doing so they can get behind and push a teammate or avoid a potential collision. Drivers need to be fast at making their decisions and react to what is happening on the track. A speedometer showing changes in miles per hour would draw attention away from that.
While the casual NASCAR fan might find it confusing, when you really think about it, drivers are operating a 3,200-plus-pound vehicle at high speeds. The fewer distractions they have, the better. The drivers are still aware of their car’s speed. Often, the driver’s crew chief will relay the car’s speed in regularintervals to let a driver know how well their car is performing.
NASCAR drivers use their skill and experience to know how fast they are going. Spending most of their lives driving cars very fast gives them a great feel of how fast they are driving. They will often use the level of grip they have to determine their speed.
World-class drivers who make a living driving at top speeds for nine months each year, knowing how fast they are going on a track is second nature. Just like mastering any skill, it involves time, patience, and learning specific techniques.
Earlier, we discussed that the crew chief will keep a driver informed of their speed. However, the crew chief cannot realistically relay a driver’s speed to them all race long. Instead, drivers further measure their car’s speed with the grip their car has on the track.
NASCAR drivers will practice all week in preparation for a race. So, chances are, they will already have a good feel for how their car runs come race day. For inexperienced drivers, they can use practice laps to gain a feel for their car’s grip and accurately gauge its speed.
Drivers also need to gauge their own speed during a caution and when they visit pit road for a tire change and a fill up. It is much more important during these times when going too fast could cost them a penalty.
In 2017, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said that drivers gauge their speed going down pit road with four lights on the dashboard. Earnhardt Jr. revealed that if he sees four lights, it meant he was going too slow while two green lights and two yellow lights meant he was going the ideal speed.
Some pit roads, like those at the Sonoma Raceway, have turns in them, this is where orange lights come in. Earnhardt Jr. confirmed two orange lights were a good sign in these situations, but red lights meant the driver was speeding, which would lead to a penalty.
NASCAR cars do not have fuel gauges. Since fuel gauges can be inaccurate on a banking, it is likely it would not give a helpful readout. As with the speedometers, NASCAR drivers rely on their engineers and crew chief to calculate how much fuel they have left and strategize accordingly.
Fuel gauges are another luxury we take for granted. Hitting the infamous red zone, we know we either need to fill up or plan on walking to the nearest gas station if we run out of gas. If you ever experienced that conundrum, it is not a fun walk. Thanks to fuel gauges in our road cars, this often does not happen unless we temporarily lose track of how many miles are left in the tank.
Shifting gears over to NASCAR, you may recall races where drivers run out of fuel in the closing laps. It leads you to wonder whether the drivers forgot to look at their fuel gauge in the heat of the race’s final moments. Or you may wonder whether they have a fuel gauge at all.
NASCAR cars have striking resemblances to their street legal counterparts, but they have differences from the tires to the engine, and definitely the vehicle’s interior. They also do not have a fuel gauge. Instead, there are other ways for drivers and teams to measure how much fuel their NASCAR car has.
The next time you drive through a set of hills or uneven roads, you may notice that your fuel gauge does not always accurately display how much is left in the tank. NASCAR tracks often contain constant banking, which would also provide an inaccurate measurement.
As with a speedometer, NASCAR drivers do not need to worry about how much fuel is left in their tank for most of the race. They may worry toward the end if they are in contention to win, but the crew is ultimately responsible for knowing how much fuel a driver has left.
Joey Logano once said that the car’s engineers and crew chief provide calculations to accurately measure how much fuel is left in the car and relay this to the driver. They calculate how much fuel is left in the car given their lap times. From there, they can strategize on how to save fuel during specific stages in a race.
NASCAR cars do not have tachometers. NASCAR drivers do not feel they need a tachometer to shift gears, which they do by matching their revs with their speed, so they don’t put one in the car. It would just be another unnecessary distraction when the driver needs to focus on racing.
NASCAR cars have always had manual transmission. But it might surprise you that they rarely use the clutch to shift gears. In your passenger vehicle, you probably use the clutch often if your vehicle has manual transmission. So how do drivers shift gears?
They do so in two ways. Some will use the dog clutch, but this isn’t as ideal as a technique known as RPM matching. RPM matching requires drivers to match their revolutions per minute with their speed before shifting gears. This allows for smoother gear changes.
But if NASCAR cars don’t have speedometers, how can they match RPM with their speed to shift smoothly? As mentioned before, NASCAR drivers are the best in the world at what they do. So, when they shift gears, they can feel a car to gauge their speed and their RPM.
Even if their cars do have a tachometer. For the normal driver, matching speed with RPM would be challenging enough. It goes to show how well-versed NASCAR drivers are in knowing just how fast they are going at any given time.
If you are noticing a common denominator between the lack of fuel gauge, speedometer, and tachometer,it is that both NASCAR and its drivers have determined that if they are not necessary, they will not require them. As with fuel gauges and speedometers, expect NASCAR to implement a tachometer only if drivers and teams request them.
NASCAR cars have digital dashboards. This means the drivers can customize them to display whatever information they want to see. This can range from lap times to tire pressures to water and oil temperatures. Having a completely customizable dashboard has been popular with the drivers.
You probably interact with your car’s dashboard often. You have the air conditioning, the heater, gadgets for music if you listen to the radio while on the open road, plus clock adjustments, a speedometer, gas gauge, tachometer, etc.
The things that NASCAR drivers need on their dashboard are completely different. While they can tell a lot by the feel of the car, there is still a lot of information that can only be measured by instruments.
NASCAR cars have digital dashboards, which they implemented during the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Season. These replaced the old analog gauges, and they are set behind the steering wheel, much like you would see in your own car.
Drivers can customize the units any way they want. They read as a circular gauge that strongly resembles the old analog gauges, or they can be customized to resemble something that you would see on a digital clock. If drivers wish, they can also change the colors and positioning of each indicator.
These indicators give NASCAR drivers information like RPM, water and oil pressure measurements, lap times, voltage, fuel pressure, rear end temperature, and tire pressure. While this was initially an adjustment for drivers, they also praised the fact they could customize this new dash.
NASCAR cars do not have air conditioning, aside from a few basic hoses intended to keep a driver from suffering burns during a race. This is partly for driver safety but also because it would add unnecessary weight to the cars, slowing them down.
They may also have nominal air conditioning that creeps up from their seat. But this only decreases the temperature in the car by about ten degrees. So regardless of any way you look at these primitive air conditioning units, they will not truly help a NASCAR driver stay cool.
Besides the fire-retardant suits drivers must wear coupled with special gloves and a helmet, you would think they need to keep themselves cool somehow. Especially since these cars can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit. But the truth is, drivers can only replace the sweat they lost through fluids.
Drivers can lose at least five pounds during a race, with about six pounds being the average. To prevent heat cramps and disorientation that comes with driving in a hot car for up to five hours, they can only rely on copious amounts of water and Gatorade until the race ends.
It is mainly a safety thing for NASCAR as to why there are no air conditioners in the car. Next to the temptation that drivers would take their eyes off the track and adjust the AC, the main reason NASCAR cars lack them is that air conditioners would add unnecessary weight to the car.
Air conditioning in vehicles contain pressurized liquids and gasses, and NASCAR bans all of these. One reason is because NASCAR also cannot risk an air conditioner rupturing during a wreck. If this occurred, those gasses would escape into the atmosphere, causing further safety issues.
Given all the risks involved regarding air conditioning, it is not likely that NASCAR cars would implement air conditioning in the future, unless a new technology developed that did not require pressurized gasses. NASCAR is always looking to innovate when necessary. But not at the expense of safety.
NASCAR cars have no speedometers, no fuel gauges, and no tachometers. The cars don’t even have air conditioning. The driver’s ability to go without these shows how talented they are in determining their speed, RPM, and fuel level simply by the car’s feel (and some help from their crew).
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