Power steering is used in various motorsports, and it’s present in your average road car too. It’s designed to make steering easier through hydraulic and electronic systems, but do NASCAR cars have power steering?
NASCAR does make use of power steering. The cars are heavier and more difficult to control than many other race cars, so making use of power steering is the safer option. It also allows for better wheel to wheel racing, which is what the NASCAR series is all about.
Driving a NASCAR car at 200 mph would be very difficult without power steering, as the cars are 3,000+ pound monsters that are almost constantly bumping one another during a tight race. Below, I’ll take a closer look at why NASCAR uses power steering.
The Introduction Of Power Steering In NASCAR
NASCAR avoided the use of power steering for many years. The old days involved tough drivers who wrestled and manhandled their cars around the racetrack through pure brute force (although they definitely do still have to wrestle the cars!).
The lack of power steering meant that the cars were more difficult and more physically demanding to drive than the current generation. In a racing series that offers a lot of wheel to wheel action, this presents obvious difficulties for the drivers. In addition, the nature of NASCAR racing means that very precise and minute corrections and adjustments on the steering wheel are essential to stay on track.
Who Introduced Power Steering In NASCAR?
It’s a little unclear who actually used power steering first in NASCAR. Some sources say it was Dale Earnhardt, who sourced parts for it through a Chevrolet dealership he owned. However, others say it was Geoff Bodine, and there are rumors Bobby Allison actually ran a version of power steering in the 1970s. However, it was around 1981 that we started seeing it used widely in NASCAR.
Why NASCAR Cars Need Power Steering
NASCAR cars are heavy, V8 powered, rear wheel drive cars. This naturally makes the cars incredibly difficult to drive, in terms of the handling and navigating the rest of the 40-car field for several hours at a time. This means that power steering is definitely a necessity when it comes to NASCAR cars.
On top of that, NASCAR cars are meant to emulate their road legal counterparts. Since road legal cars these days are all equipped with power steering, it makes sense for NASCAR to also adopt power steering into their race cars. But there are other more practical reasons that NASCAR uses power steering.
It Would Be Exhausting Without Power Steering
Even when NASCAR drivers go around an oval racetrack, we can see that they are constantly adjusting their steering angle and making really small corrections as they power through the corners. With the cars being so heavy and powerful, not having power steering would make this an extremely difficult and exhausting process for the drivers.
NASCAR is a highly entertainment-driven form of motorsport, with close wheel to wheel action at the center of the overall racing product offered to fans. Without power steering, this would be much more difficult to do at high speed without making contact with other drivers. This would arguably take away from the racing, as some drivers may be less likely to go for bold moves.
The Safety Aspect
Since it is such a challenge to get these powerful cars around an oval racetrack, power steering has also made the sport safer. The enormously powerful V8 engines can easily cause the driving wheels to lose traction in the middle of a corner if the driver isn’t careful.
With power steering it is a lot easier to correct that wheelspin and scary oversteer moments. This leads to fewer big pile ups in the middle of corners (although we do still see them, and it’s why many people watch NASCAR). The lack of steering assistance would likely cause many drivers to spin and not be able to recover the car from oversteer.
In the end, having more control over your car is what makes the sport safer for drivers and fans alike, and the value of that cannot be understated. We all want to enjoy the races, but we also want to go home safe and hope the drivers can do the same, and power steering likely plays a part of that in NASCAR.
KEY POINTS• NASCAR didn’t always have power steering, with it being introduced in 1981
• Power steering makes the heavy cars easier to control
• This makes wheel-to-wheel racing easier, and it also makes the sport safer too
Should Power Steering Be Banned In NASCAR?
It could be argued that drivers in NASCAR before power steering was introduced were more skilled and perhaps stronger than the current grid. This is because it’s a driver assist (it’s often called power assisted steering), and that arguably takes away some of the skill required on the part of the driver.
Note: Having power steering does not mean modern NASCAR drivers are not skilled! They’re incredibly good drivers, and power steering simply allows them to control the cars with greater ease and put more focus on their consistency and navigating other drivers on the track.
However, as I discussed above, power steering makes the sport much safer by allowing the drivers to have more control over their cars. The benefits that power steering brings to the sport, both in the level of competition and in safety, outweigh the potential drawbacks of having it.
NASCAR is an extremely exciting motorsport, and it puts a huge focus on the entertainment factor. Power steering plays a big role in keeping that excitement going, and it is hugely important for the safety of the sport as well.
I created and have been writing on this site since 2019, collaborating with drivers, coaches, engineers and manufacturers to provide you with the most reliable information about motorsport. Find out more about me here.