What Engines Do NASCAR Cars Use? (Full Spec List)

Engines are the lifeblood of a NASCAR car, and they are subject to strict specifications. These engines are also not the same as what you see in your road car. They are purpose-built for NASCAR. Because of this, you may wonder what engines NASCAR cars use. 

NASCAR cars use 90-degree pushrod V8 engines, featuring 358 cubic inches (5.9 liters) of displacement. These engines come from 3 manufacturers – Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota – and while they must follow strict specifications, there is also enough room for variation if they remain within the rules. 

Below, we will check out the NASCAR Next Gen car’s engine spec list, before we dive into further detail regarding just how similar and how different NASCAR engines are between manufacturers. We’ll then reveal if these engines are turbocharged, and just how different they are from road car engines.

White Toyota Camry NASCAR car racing around a corner on a track with FedEx sponsor on the hood, What Engines Do NASCAR Cars Use?

NASCAR Next Gen Engine Spec List

SpecValue
Manufacturers Chevrolet / Ford / Toyota
Configuration90-degree pushrod V8
Displacement 358 cubic inches / 5.9 liters
Cylinder Bore4.2 inches / 107 mm
Piston Stroke4.5 inches / 114 mm
ValvetrainOverhead Valve (OHV)
Weight575 lb / 260 kg
Compression Ratio12:1
Fuel SystemElectronic fuel injection
Fuel TypeSunoco Green E15 Racing Fuel

Do All NASCAR Cars Use The Same Engine?

Not all NASCAR cars use the same engines, as there are 3 different engine manufacturers. These are Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota, and each is used by a varying number of teams. In 2022, 15 full-time cars used Chevrolet engines, 15 used Ford, and 6 cars used Toyota.

On the surface, you may think all NASCAR engines are the same, and while they have their similarities, they also have a plethora of differences. NASCAR is not a spec series, and they also have three different manufacturers, However, there are certain specifications each team must meet, which prevents them from gaining an unfair advantage over the others. 

Race Inspections

Therefore, NASCAR subjects each car to a pre-race inspection to ensure each engine meets specifications. If they fail the inspection, they can face penalties such as starting the race at the rear. The same thing occurs when a driver wins a race, which is why you will see, in rare cases, a disqualification occur if a driver fails an engine inspection or that of another specification. 

Failed inspections post-race could also lead to fines, suspensions, and even docked points. Despite the potential penalties, NASCAR manufacturers, and by extension the teams, work diligently to find loopholes in the rulebooks to give their cars slight (but legal) advantages. 

Keeping Things Fair

However, if NASCAR feels one team or manufacturer is gaining too much of an advantage, they will change engine specs, sometimes even during the season if they feel they must immediately address the advantage. This ensures as close to an equal playing field as possible without sacrificing manufacturer identity from Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota. 

Each NASCAR engine also has the same targeted horsepower. For the Next Gen car, that horsepower target sits at 670 HP for most intermediate tracks, all road courses, and short tracks. The Next Gen car’s second horsepower package sits at 510 HP, and is used for high-banked superspeedways like Daytona and Talladega, plus one intermediate track (Atlanta). 

Not Always So Similar

When you go back through the generations of NASCAR, starting with Generation 1 in 1949, you will notice a pattern that the engines gradually become more similar with time. Generation 1 had an “anything goes” concept, so we know about very few of their engines besides popular ones like the Hudson Hornet. They also had a wider range of horsepower and displacement specs. 

Generation 2 saw the specifications become significantly more stringent from its inception in 1967 until 1980. This is around the time the 90-degree V8 pushrod engines came about. And even in the Next Gen era, they have been a fixture ever since. They featured differences in displacement, but strongly resemble what was to come starting with Generation 3 in 1981 and beyond. 

Finding The Balance

To better increase competition and cost-effectiveness, NASCAR’s specs became stricter over the past four decades. This tightening of specs has been controversial, as NASCAR had to deal with making the engine specs fair to their teams and drivers, but with enough leeway so that manufacturers could still innovate and try to find an edge over the others. 

Today, manufacturers will build prototypes, send them to NASCAR for approval, and once approved, they may use that blueprint for their respective teams. The teams can further modify the engines as long as they remain within NASCAR specs. 

KEY POINTS

• NASCAR engines vary between the 3 manufacturers

• The specifications have become gradually more strict over the years

• There is still some leeway to allow for small differences between Chevy, Ford and Toyota

Are NASCAR Engines Turbocharged?

NASCAR engines are not turbocharged, and are instead naturally aspirated. There are several reasons for this, with one being cost. Naturally-aspirated engines cost less to build, and NASCAR has gone out of its way to ensure their respective components are cost-effective without sacrificing safety. 

This allows the 36 chartered teams to be more competitive on race day, as opposed to the past, where richer teams always had access to better equipment. Another reason behind the lack of turbocharged engines in NASCAR stems from turbo lag, which is a delay in the throttle response – something that’s undesirable for drivers trying to go as fast as possible! 

NA vs Turbos

Naturally-aspirated engines perform as they are named. They pull in air naturally from the surrounding environment. Turbocharged engines do the opposite, forcing air inside them, which, in turn, increases power. Many sports cars are turbocharged, even some of NASCAR’s road car counterparts, like the Chevy Camaro, and so it’s natural to wonder if NASCAR turbocharges their engines. 

NASCAR has never, throughout its existence, used turbochargers, but the option might remain open in the future. If NASCAR can find a way to improve its cars’ safety components while introducing a turbocharger, and if they can find a way to keep the overall costs down, you may see them in the cars in future. 

Which NASCAR Engine Is Best?

No NASCAR engine manufacturer is significantly better than the others. If this were the case, NASCAR would put a stop to it immediately. However, the best teams often have the best engines because their mechanics can find ways for their drivers to gain slight edges while remaining within the specs.

Larger Teams Make For Better Engines 

The three largest teams in NASCAR are Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Stewart-Haas Racing. Each team fields four cars, and their drivers often find themselves in contention for a spot in the NASCAR playoffs. To make matters more interesting, Hendrick uses Chevrolets, Joe Gibbs Racing uses Toyotas, and Stewart-Haas uses Fords. 

These teams can each hire the best mechanics, engineers, and specialists to find ways to maximize their respective engine’s performance. Contrast this with less lucrative teams, like Kaulig Racing (Chevrolets) and Rick Ware Racing (Fords). Although they are using engines from the same manufacturers, they are nowhere near as competitive as Hendrick or Stewart-Haas. 

NASCAR Engines Over The Years 

YearsConfigurationDisplacementHorsepowerWeight
1949-1966Inline 6-Cylinder (Hudson Hornet)
303-440 cubic inches / 5-7.2 liters230-300+ HPN/A
1967-198090-degree pushrod V8335-440 cubic inches / 5.5-7.2 liters430-700 HP575 lb / 260 kg
1981-199190-degree pushrod V8358 cubic inches / 5.9 liters700-850 HP575 lb / 260 kg
1992-200790-degree pushrod V8358 cubic inches / 5.9 liters600-825 HP575 lb / 260 kg
2007-201290-degree pushrod V8358 cubic inches / 5.9 liters550-750 HP575 lb / 260 kg
2013-202190-degree pushrod V8358 cubic inches / 5.9 liters550-750 HP575 lb / 260 kg
2022-present90-degree pushrod V8358 cubic inches / 5.9 liters510-670 HP575 lb / 260 kg

How The Engines Have (Not) Changed

NASCAR engines have varied since the sport’s inaugural season in 1949. Regarding the Generation 1 era, which lasted until 1966, there is little information on the engines, given the overall “anything goes as long as it’s stock” mantra. However, there is some information available on the Hudson Hornet, plus a wide range of power outputs during this time. 

With Generation 2, the overall size, displacement, and configurations have remained either exactly or almost the same. This was one subject of popularity regarding the Next Gen car when it debuted in 2022. Regardless of how much the car changed from a components standpoint, the engine’s specifications remained much the same. 

The only major change comes from in the power department, which fluctuated through the generations, starting at the lower end of the spectrum with the Generation 1 car before, it went up and down in subsequent generations.

KEY POINTS

• NASCAR engines are not turbocharged

• No manufacturer’s engine is substantially better than the others

• The engines have remained largely the same throughout the history of the sport

How Are NASCAR Engines Different From Road Car Engines?

NASCAR engines are purpose-built for racing, while road car engines are built on production lines and designed for efficiency and reliability. However, when it comes to specifications, there are actually many similarities between NASCAR engines and some road car engines.

Chevrolet Camaro

For example, the 2022 Chevy Camaro ZL1 road car uses a 379 cubic inch (6.2 liter) displacement, only slightly larger than its NASCAR equivalent. It is also somewhat similar regarding horsepower, capable of 650 compared to NASCAR’s 670 (in its non-superspeedway package).

Ford Mustang

The Ford Mustang’s road version has a smaller build, at just 317 cubic inches (5.2 liters) of displacement. Yet it makes 760 horsepower, putting it above not only the Next Gen car, but also the Generation 6 car when the latter had the 750 HP package

Toyota Camry

However, the Camry’s road counterpart doesn’t even come close. This engine has a V6 configuration as opposed to a V8. Its displacement sits at 214 cubic inches (3.5 liters), and it can put out just 301 horsepower. This is about 40% smaller than its NASCAR equivalent, and its horsepower sits at just 45% of the 670 HP seen at most NASCAR tracks. 

Other Similarities & Differences

The cars also differ significantly in other components, like their transmissions. While the Next Gen car has a five-speed sequential gearbox, none of the road cars listed above have these. Therefore, although the Next Gen cars may resemble road cars, there are still significant differences between them in their engines and many other components. 

They used to differ dramatically in other areas, like the wheels, but when NASCAR introduced the Next Gen car in 2022, we saw 18 inch (46 cm) wheels match the road counterparts. Aluminum wheels also returned, and even the body styles better resembled what you would see in a showroom. 

We may even see more similarities in the future, but with NASCAR’s strict engine specifications, don’t expect to see them return to strictly stock any time soon

Final Thoughts 

NASCAR engines are naturally aspirated, pushrod V8s, and because of specifications, no single manufacturer’s engine is better than the others. The engines have 358 cubic inches of displacement (5.9 liters), and they are capable of 510 or 670 horsepower, depending on the track.

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