How Hot Does A NASCAR Car Get? (Temperatures Explained)

NASCAR is a sport that takes place during the hottest months of the year. Racing predominantly in the southeast during the spring, summer, and early fall, you see some ultra-high temperatures, but they get even hotter in the car. Knowing this, you may wonder how hot a NASCAR car gets.  

A NASCAR car can reach temperatures of at least 135 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Celsius), and on rare occasions the temperature can reach a maximum of 150 degrees Fahrenheit (66 degrees Celsius). NASCAR drivers have a ventilation system that can keep the temperatures down slightly in the cockpit.

Below, we will elaborate further on the temperature of a NASCAR cockpit. We will also reveal whether NASCAR cars have an air conditioning system, and we will also explain how drivers can keep the temperature from becoming too unbearable. 

NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson leading drivers Jamie McMurray and Kyle Busch at the Martinsville Speedway driving close to the apron, How Hot Does A NASCAR Car Get?

What Temperature Is A NASCAR Cockpit?

NASCAR cockpits can get extremely hot. With steel components making up the interior chassis of a NASCAR car combining with the heat of the spring, summer, and early fall months during which the races take place, a NASCAR cockpit is often 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit (17-22 degrees Celsius) warmer than the ambient temperature outside the car

Surprisingly, this is not always as much of a problem in places like Las Vegas or Phoenix, because of the drier heat. In the Southeast and across the Eastern United States, where we see most NASCAR tracks, the humidity makes for a much hotter cockpit

Do NASCAR Cars Have Air Conditioning?

NASCAR cars do not have air conditioning. This is as a safety measure, because air conditioning could require a refrigerant that also involves pressurized liquids and gasses. And since the probability of a racing-related accident is high at any NASCAR race, this would be a problem in a wreck. 

Suppose two drivers collide and the air conditioning unit ruptures. This would allow the refrigerant to enter the atmosphere. That would be dangerous for those attending the race, and especially for drivers involved in the wreck. Further, traditional air conditioning units would use too much energy for a car designed to maximize its speed. 

And since NASCAR cars are hotter than your road car, they would require a larger unit and more energy to do their jobs effectively. Plus, since the driver is already wearing a fire-resistant suit, gloves, and a helmet, they wouldn’t feel the air conditioner’s effects anyway. Therefore, adding an air conditioning unit would not be effective unless it was incredibly powerful, which would add weight and cost. 

How Do NASCAR Drivers Stay Cool?

NASCAR drivers have a built-in ventilation system that keeps them cool throughout a race’s duration. This system may sound primitive, since it only makes the car cooler by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius). However, this ventilation system is only intended to prevent drivers from suffering heat-related issues like cramps or heat exhaustion. 

NASCAR drivers have an air hose that connects to the top of their helmet to pump some cool air into it. There is also a bag that the driver sits on that’s connected to the cooling system, which allows cool air to come through their seat. This bag continues up the seat, blowing air onto the driver’s back. The cool air also travels to their feet. 

This system allows air to flow constantly, preventing it from becoming stale. It is also pulled in from outside, where a filter gets rid of the carbon dioxide, exhaust fumes, and other toxins, providing fresh air for the driver. 

The System Can Fail

The greatest example of this occurring was at the 1998 NAPA Autocare 500. Ricky Rudd pulled off what may have been the most heroic effort in NASCAR history between 1949 and 1998 when his ventilation system failed on Lap 5. This caused Rudd to push through the near 150 degree Fahrenheit heat (66 degrees Celsius) for 500 laps, almost boiling in the cockpit. 

Rudd also had the best car on the track that day, and he decided to stay out the entire time without relinquishing the ride to a substitute driver. He ended up winning the race, but he was so exhausted that his team had to pull him out the car in Victory Lane. He also sustained multiple burns and blisters, given the excruciating temperatures of the hot components around him.

This race also showed that the ventilation system was not incredibly effective in keeping drivers cool. A few drivers had to pull out of the race because of the heat. 

Other Ways Drivers Stay Cool

One major way NASCAR drivers stay cool is to keep themselves in top physical shape. While it may sound strange, the fitter a driver can keep themselves, the lower their overall percentage of body fat, and the faster their body can shed heat. Staying hydrated throughout an event is another way drivers can ward off the effects of extreme heat. 

Thermal shields on the floors is another mechanism drivers use to keep heat from below the car getting into the cockpit. They can also wear what is called a cool shirt under their race suit. You may have seen a driver wearing these if they looked like they had tubing protruding from them. 

The tubing in these shirts allows cold water to snake through it. These shirts also absorb body heat the driver produces. If the driver is involved in a race that runs into the night, like the Coca-Cola 600, they can reduce the cooling by simply pressing a control button. Or, if they are running a race where the ambient temperature in the car is climbing, they can increase the cooling. 


• NASCAR cars can reach temperatures of 135-150 degrees Fahrenheit

• The cars don’t have air conditioning to combat this heat

• Instead, drivers use a variety of methods to stay cool

How Do NASCAR Drivers Stay Hydrated?

Because a NASCAR cockpit gets so hot, drivers must stay hydrated throughout a 3-5 hour race. If not, they will lose too much fluid through sweat, which will cause cramps, dehydration, and lack of mental clarity, which is rather dangerous for drivers operating a car capable of reaching 190+ mph (306+ kph). 

NASCAR drivers are allowed to keep bottles of water or a beverage of their choice in their cars. Others opt for a complete hydration system that delivers their chosen beverage through a straw in their helmet. Even with the ability to get fluids into their systems, it is not uncommon to see a driver lose up to 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) during a race. 

If a driver runs out of fluids during an event, either through their hydration systems or other means, they can get water delivered to them during pit stops in the second half of the race. A sixth crew member is allowed over the wall during this time, often called the utility man. One of their tasks is to hand more water to the driver if necessary. 

Because it can get unbelievably hot inside a NASCAR cockpit, drivers can still get lightheaded and even disoriented following a race. Therefore, they may need to rehydrate following the event via IV fluids either at the infield care center or a nearby hospital. 

A Must For Double Duty Drivers

While rare, if a NASCAR driver performs Double Duty, they almost always need to rehydrate with IV fluids between events. The Double Duty comprises a driver racing in both the Indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600, which occur on the same day during the Memorial Day Weekend. 

They will race for 200 laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before flying to Charlotte to race in the 400-lap Coca Cola 600. Although IndyCars have an open cockpit, it does not make the driver immune from losing ample amounts of fluid during the event. Drivers like Tony Stewart rehydrated on the plane ride from Indianapolis to Charlotte via IVs in 2001 and he managed to finish both races. 

The 5 Hottest NASCAR Races

RaceTrackAmbient Temperature
1998 NAPA Autocare 500Martinsville150°F / 66°C
1995 DieHard 500Talladega145°F / 63°C
2020 O’Reilly Auto Parts 500Texas140°F / 60°C
2017 Camping World 500Phoenix140°F / 60°C
2018 Southern 500Darlington 140°F / 60°C

What made the above races so hot wasn’t exactly the temperature displayed on the right, but the overall humidity. The 1995 DieHard 500 and the 1998 NAPA Autocare 500 were reportedly so hot that drivers had to drop out of the race just to keep themselves from suffering heat exhaustion

How Hot Do NASCAR Engines Get? 

NASCAR engines often reach between 230 degrees Fahrenheit (110 degrees Celsius) and 260 degrees Fahrenheit (127 degrees Celsius), but they can get as high as 290°F (143°C). This is well above the boiling point of water, which means they need a special cooling system to stop them overheating.

Final Thoughts

NASCAR cars can reach between 135 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Celsius) and 150 degrees Fahrenheit (66 degrees Celsius). Drivers keep themselves from overheating through a ventilation system and by constantly hydrating throughout the event. There is no real air conditioning system in a NASCAR car.