Power steering is a key element used in a car. It can make the car much easier to control, and cars that do not use power steering can certainly be more challenging to drive. However, we have seen that some racing cars feature power steering, and some don’t.
NASCAR does make use of power steering. The cars are heavier and more difficult to control, 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.
IndyCar on the other hand does use power steering. Using power steering in NASCAR is beneficial to them because of the nature of the race cars and the type of racing that happens in the series.
The Introduction Of Power Steering
For many years NASCAR did not implement power steering into its race cars. The ‘old days’ involved tough drivers who wrestled and manhandled their cars around the racetrack through pure brute force.
The lack of power steering meant that the cars were more difficult and more demanding to drive. In a racing series that offers a lot of wheel to wheel action such as NASCAR this makes it extremely difficult. In addition, the nature of NASCAR racing means that very precise and minute corrections and adjustments on the steering wheel are essential and can make a huge difference in your speed.
Dale Earnhardt was the first river to use power steering in NASCAR. He owned a Chevrolet dealership, and so was able to easily secure the power steering parts as soon as they came onto the market.
He was somewhat ridiculed for using power steering, since it made the car easier to drive and it seemed a bit like cheating in a way. However, after introducing power steering into his car he kept winning races. Shortly after, the entire NASCAR field has power steering installed into their cars. It had become somewhat of an ‘essential’ element to NASCAR racing cars.
NASCAR racing cars are heavy, V8 powered rear wheel drive cars. This naturally makes the cars incredibly difficult to drive, especially in terms of handling and manoeuvring the cars around one another on a racetrack. This means that power steering is definitely a necessity when it comes to these types of cars.
On top of that NASCARS is meant to emulate their road legal counterparts as much as possible. Since road legal cars these days are all equipped with power steering, it is only natural for NASCAR to also adopt power steering into their race cars.
When NASCAR drivers drive 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.
This means that power steering has allowed drivers not only to drive faster, but also over longer distances. The same is also true for the straights. Without power steering, the car would be difficult to keep going in a straight line. The sheer amount of power being sent to the wheels means that the car is constantly on the edge of losing control. Making a big save would definitely be much more difficult and less likely if these cars did not have power steering.
NASCAR is a highly entertainment driven form of motorsport, with close wheel to wheel action at its centre. Without power steering it can be argued that we would definitely see a lot less of this type of racing.
In order to be able to effectively overtake on an oval circuit, drivers need to make really small and precise inputs on the steering wheel. This is made easier through power steering. On the banking of a corner, the car is much more difficult to control.
While keeping the power down, the car will naturally gravitate towards the outer edge of the circuit and fighting off g-forces and off camber corners can be an extreme challenge without power steering.
Power steering has certainly made overtaking a much easier and more ‘in control’ process than it was before power steering. However, it can again be argued that the drivers who used to race without power steering were much better and a lot stronger in order to still provide that overtaking action despite the lack of steering assistance.
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.
With power steering it is a lot easier to correct that wheelspin and scary oversteer moments. This leads to less big pile ups in the middle of corners (although we do still see them). The lack of steering assistance would 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 addition of power steering to these cars is what makes the difference in that. We all want to enjoy ourselves in motorsport, but we also want to go home safe at the end of a long day of excitement at the racetrack.
Should Power Steering Be Banned?
This is an interesting concept to think about. Banning power steering would certainly take NASCAR back to the old days of hard-working racing drivers. The problem is that it will be creating a whole new safety issue.
As previously discussed, power steering makes the sport much safer by allowing the drivers to have more control over their cars. However, the cars are not impossible to control without power steering, it’s just an extreme challenge.
That being said, it would definitely be interesting to see how the racing compares without power steering. NASCAR in itself is already an entertaining form of motorsport and keeping power steering in the sport is definitely the way to go. The benefits that power steering brings to the sport, both in the level of competition and in safety trump the drawbacks of having it.
NASCAR is an extremely interesting form of motorsport. It is hugely focused on entertainment both to the drivers and the spectators. Power steering plays a big role in keeping that excitement going, and it is hugely important to the safety of the sport as well.