NASCAR has used a plethora of makes and models since its inaugural season in 1949, across 7 distinct generations. This can make it difficult to get a clear answer as to what type of cars are used in NASCAR.
Next Gen cars are used in the NASCAR Cup Series, which use Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Ford Mustang GT, and Toyota TRD Camry bodies to better resemble showroom equivalents, something not seen since the 1980s. These Next Gen cars replaced the Gen 6 cars at the start of the 2022 season.
Below, we will dive into greater detail about what kind of cars NASCAR uses. We will also go through each make and model NASCAR used in the past, and the years they used them. Finally, we will explain each of NASCAR’s previous six generations and how they differed from one another.
What Cars Does NASCAR Use?
NASCAR uses cars from Toyota, Ford, and Chevrolet, and in the past, they have also used Dodge among other manufacturers. The current models used are the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, the Ford Mustang GT, and the Toyota TRD Camry. They’ve changed their models many times over their years of racing.
Throughout its history, NASCAR has used a plethora of different makes and models. Manufacturers like Chevrolet and Ford have been around NASCAR for virtually its entire existence, and they remain a staple in the organization to this day. In 2007, Toyota became the first Japanese-based manufacturer to race in the NASCAR Cup Series, then known as the Nextel Cup.
From 2007 to 2012, NASCAR used four manufacturers before Dodge left, dwindling the number of manufacturers to three. From 2013 until 2021, they rolled out the Generation 6 cars that initially featured a second-generation Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, and Chevy SS.
Gen 6 & Next Gen
Through the Generation 6 car’s life span, Ford, Chevy, and Toyota changed their models. Toyota stuck with the Camry, but they featured an updated body to better resemble the 2015 Camrys on the production line. Chevy unveiled the Camaro ZL1, and Ford introduced the Mustang GT. Then, in 2022, the Next Gen car hit the track.
As the Next-Gen era continues into the 2020s, the number of manufacturers can expand, especially if NASCAR unveils a hybrid powertrain. Manufacturers like Honda, Nissan, and Hyundai have seen rumblings surrounding them in recent years, but as of 2022, there have been no finalized plans for any of the aforementioned manufacturers to reach a deal with NASCAR.
What Is The Next Gen Car?
The Next Gen car is NASCAR’s latest car generation, introduced in 2022, taking on a sportier appearance than those cars of prior generations. It prioritizes safety above all else, and showcases an abundance of new components. In addition, it features more horsepower than prior generations.
The Next Gen car debuted in 2022, and it took on a drastically different look than its Generation 6 predecessors. NASCAR’s ultimate endgame with the Next Gen car included safety above everything else. But they also wanted to return the cars’ aesthetics to their old stock car roots, meaning that NASCAR intended the cars to closely resemble their showroom counterparts.
Take just one look at the Next Gen car, and you will notice it takes on a sleeker, sportier appearance than its Generation 6 predecessors. You can see these differences from the cars’ bodies to their tires, which now feature 18-inch, forged aluminum wheels requiring just one lug nut.
Other features that make the Next Gen car resemble their street-legal counterparts include both shorter deck lids and wider track widths. NASCAR intended the bodies to be fully symmetrical and not skewed, as had been the case in the past. However, some teams did skew the rides at practice for the 2022 Daytona 500 before NASCAR stepped in and implemented rule changes.
Modern Car Components
One major drawback regarding the previous generations of NASCAR cars is that they did not always feature modern technology. For decades, NASCAR used truck arms, but that changed with the Next Gen car with its independent rear suspension.
They also introduced rack-and-pinion steering, larger brakes, plus a five-speed, sequential manual transmission. NASCAR merged the car’s rear gear and transmission into a single package via upgrades to the transaxle. This new design will also help them shift over to a hybrid car when they believe the time is right.
New Safety Features
Improved aerodynamics and downforce help keep the Next Gen car planted on the ground better than its predecessors. This comes thanks to the new underwing and rear diffuser, which reduces turbulent air that once negatively affected the handling of trailing cars. Further, the hood features two air vents that allow for better engine performance, which further improves a car’s handling.
The chassis has long been considered a paramount safety feature in NASCAR since the advent of the Generation 2 car. For the Next Gen design, NASCAR introduced a reconfigured chassis which further reconfigured the front and rear bumpers.
Repairing damage is also easier on the Next Gen car since the car’s front and rear clips bolt into the chassis’ center. This means cars that crashed out of races in the past might be able to see themselves continue racing if the damage is not too severe.
Next Gen Engine Designs
The Next Gen engine features more horsepower, targeted at 670 at most tracks but just 510 when they race at superspeedways like Daytona and Talladega. For the 670 package, you will also find a four-inch spoiler gracing the rear decklid and a seven-inch spoiler for the superspeedway package.
NASCAR is also using the 510-horsepower, seven-inch spoiler at the Atlanta Motor Speedway since it boasts extremely fast track conditions. During the waning years of the Generation 6 car, NASCAR went with lesser horsepower, which eventually sat at 550. Their goal at the time was to create more competitive racing and to captivate potential Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) into the sport.
NASCAR admitted in December 2021 that their goal still included attracting new OEMs, and they believed the 670 horsepower engine was still within range to lure another manufacturer or two. Time will tell if NASCAR succeeds in this endeavor.
Outsourcing Car Components
Previously, NASCAR manufactured and assembled most car components in-house. However, it can be quite expensive to own and operate a NASCAR team, whether it is in the Cup Series, the Xfinity Series, or the Truck Series. Even owning an ARCA Team will cost six figures, especially without big-time sponsorship.
To remedy this, NASCAR signed exclusivity deals with a variety of companies that teams then buy components from. Examples include BBS of America Inc for NASCAR’s wheels, PWR North America for radiators and oil coolers, and XTRAC Inc for the clutch shaft, driveshaft, and transaxle.
More Exposure For Sponsors
One component of the Next Gen car that will jump out at you is the position of the number. In the past decade, teams lobbied NASCAR to push the number closer to the front wheel well to give them more space for sponsors.
Theoretically, this will increase the sponsor’s overall value. It also allows the sponsors to potentially receive an even larger return on investment (ROI) to the Cup teams they are sponsoring because of increased visibility.
And if the sponsor is happy, they will continue to pay for their name, logo, and colors to grace the hood and sides of these cars. Throughout the latter portion of the 2010s, NASCAR had been steadily losing sponsors, so this is one strategy they can use to keep them around long-term.
NASCAR also designed the Next Gen cars to excel on road courses better than its predecessors, which often made only left turns in 34 of the 36 points-paying events until 2021. That season, they ran a schedule that included seven road course races – eight if you count the Clash at Daytona.
The Next Gen car may end up being the first generation of NASCAR cars to run a street race since the organization was known as Strictly Stock in its early days. During that period, NASCAR held races on runways and even on Daytona Beach and the adjacent highway.
This new car design can also adopt a hybrid powertrain, which NASCAR plans on unveiling in 2024. It would mark a major step in the car’s evolution toward a fully-electric vehicle should they go in that direction.
What Cars Has NASCAR Used In The Past?
NASCAR has used a variety of cars in the past, featuring a plethora of different manufacturers and models. These models were active in the years of 1949 to the present day, each representing a different part of NASCAR’s history.
The Next Gen car is NASCAR’s seventh generation. The previous six generations of cars had gone through many makes and models, especially during NASCAR’s formative period when they were Strictly Stock. The table below reveals these makes and models and the years they were active in NASCAR.
One common misconception regarding NASCAR makes and models is that many believe they remained exclusively American until Toyota joined the Cup Series in 2007. However, this isn’t the case. You will see that in NASCAR’s earliest days, Italian, German, and British manufacturers were well represented.
NASCAR Cars Over The Years
|Manufacturer||Models (Active Years)|
|Alfa Romeo||Giulietta (1962)|
|Aston Martin||Unknown (1953)|
|Chrysler||300 (1954-56)Imperial (1981-85)|
|Dodge||Coronet (1953-57, 1965-68)440 (1964)Charger (2005-07)Charger Daytona (1966-77)Magnum (1978-80)Mirada (1981-84)Intrepid (2001-04)Avenger (2007)Charger R/T (2008-12)|
|DeSoto||Unknown (1952, 1959)|
|Plymouth||Belvedere (1959-67)Road Runner Superbird (1968-77)Savoy (1950s)|
|Ford||Fairlane (1955-59, 1966-67)Fusion (2006-18)Galaxie (1960-66)Mustang (2019-Present)Taurus (1998-05)Torino Talladega (1968-77)Thunderbird (1959-60, 1977-97)|
|Mercury||Monterey (1950s-62)Marauder (1963-66)Comet/Cyclone (1966-67)Cyclone/Montego (1968-80)Cougar (1970s-80s)|
|Buick||Regal (1981-85, 1988-92)Century (1976-80)Gran Sport (1970s)LeSabre (1986-87)Somerset (1980s)|
|Chevrolet||Bel Air (1955-58)Chevelle/Malibu (1964-82)Chevelle Laguna (1973-77)Impala (1979-80, 2010-12)Impala SS (2007-09)Lumina (1989-94)Monte Carlo (1971-88, 1995-07)SS (2013-17)Camaro ZL1 (2018-Present)Beretta (1980s)|
|Oldsmobile||88 (1949-60)Cutlass/Cutlass Supreme/442 (1960s-94)Delta 88 (1986-87)|
|Pontiac||Catalina (1959-63)Firebird (1970)Grand Prix (1981-04)LeMans (1970s)Tempest (1960s)GTO (1960s)|
|MG||T-type (1954)MGA (1960-63)|
Past NASCAR Generations
NASCAR’s Next Gen car kicked off the seventh generation of NASCAR cars. And while the car has the most up-to-date aerodynamic and safety features, its creation would never be possible if it wasn’t for the six previous generations of cars to grace the NASCAR track.
Starting from the strictly stock era of the Generation 1 cars, NASCAR soon saw faster, sleeker cars take the track starting in Generation 2. The table below outlines a few quick points for each of the previous six NASCAR generation cars, and they dive into deeper depth in the following sections.
NASCAR Generations Over The Years
|Generation 1 (1948-1966)||These cars strongly resembled their road car equivalents, and teams were banned from modifying the frame or the body.|
|Generation 2 (1967-1980)||This generation outsourced its chassis manufacturing to three companies, which teams were allowed to modify. Generation 2 debuted as larger oval tracks grew more popular.|
|Generation 3 (1981-1991)||With sleeker designs, the bodies deviated more from their production car equivalents. They also added larger spoilers and smaller, 110 inch/280 cm wheelbases.|
|Generation 4 (1992-2007)||They barely resembled their street-legal equivalents. This was the first generation to use steel bodies.|
|Generation 5 (2007-2012)||Known as the Car of Tomorrow (CoT), Generation 5 focused primarily on safety. They also had the shortest life span of the generations.|
|Generation 6 (2013-2021)||Generation 6 brought back some resemblance to their road car counterparts. They carried more bulk and speed than Generations 4 and 5.|
|Next Gen (2022-Present)||The Next Gen car brought more power and more downforce to the Cup Series. These cars were designed to better resemble their road car counterparts.|
Generation 1 (1948-66)
This generation saw several manufacturers vying for wins and recognition in NASCAR. NASCAR lifers like Chevrolet graced the track, but so did Chrysler, which also became a notable name in NASCAR during the Generation 3 days. This was also the only generation in which you could call a car strictly stock. So much that they also came straight from the dealer.
When you look at NASCAR cars from Generation 2 and onward, they lacked doors. However, the Generation 1 car did not. But drivers did have to either weld or bolt them into place. NASCAR also urged teams to install heavy-duty rear axles to help keep the cars from rolling.
Generation 2 (1967-80)
When R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company started sponsoring NASCAR in 1971, they wanted them to clean up their act. This meant more speedways and no dirt tracks, which NASCAR did away with from 1970 to 2021.
However, NASCAR had spent the greater part of the 1960s deviating from those dirt tracks anyway, which called for a new type of car. The cars were no longer strictly stock as NASCAR allowed teams to modify the car’s frame and chassis. However, they could not yet modify the body.
Banjo Matthews, Hutchensen-Pagan, and Holman-Moody were tasked with supplying chassis to drivers and teams.
Generation 3 (1981-91)
Whether the cars still resembled their street-legal equivalents or not is up for debate. Some sources will say they didn’t, while even some NASCAR historians say that they did. Either way, their wheelbases were smaller, measuring just 110 inches/280 cm to better resemble their counterparts at the dealership.
Aerodynamics became a huge deal for Generation 3, and as a result, it became known as NASCAR’s fastest generation. Bill Elliott set the all-time record for the fastest recorded lap speed at 213 mph (343 kph), and the cars were so fast at superspeedways that NASCAR mandated restrictor plates to be used at those tracks.
These cars also introduced larger spoilers as part of the aerodynamics package. Because of the smaller wheelbases, Generation 3 cars were smaller compared to previous generations.
Generation 4 (1992-07)
Many NASCAR historians rightfully claim Generation 4 was the first generation that did not look anything like the cars coming off of the production line. Just one glance at the cars, and you could tell they did not belong on the street.
Until Generation 4, NASCAR used fiberglass bodies. However, they phased them out in favor of steel. This made the car lighter and more powerful. They were more technologically sound from an aerodynamics standpoint, being the first generation to fully utilize wind tunnels.
During the Generation 4 era, popular brands like Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac departed NASCAR. However, Toyota joined the Cup Series in 2007, serving as the first manufacturer from Japan. As of 2022, they remain one of NASCAR’s three manufacturers.
Generation 5 (2007-12)
The CoT debuted in 2007, but they did so in a timeshare with the Generation 4 car. Initially, they were not to debut until 2009, but NASCAR bumped them up to full-time starting in 2008. The CoT’s development began shortly after the death of Dale Earnhardt, and safety was their primary focus.
These cars featured the most radical redesigns until the Next Gen, with a new front splitter and a rear wing that hadn’t been seen in decades. Although teams could adjust the splitter and wing for the track at hand, NASCAR eventually phased out the wing and replaced it once again with the spoiler in 2010.
Many fans and drivers complained about the cars’ bodies, stating they looked identical to one another. This made NASCAR resemble a spec series, despite Chevy, Ford, Dodge, and Toyota fielding cars throughout the CoT’s short life span.
Generation 6 (2013-21)
Following the 2012 NASCAR Season, Dodge left the series as a champion thanks to Brad Keselowski’s run. This brought NASCAR’s total number of manufacturers down to three, and they were once again distinguishable from one another. However, their chassis were basically spec.
The cars featured more bulk than their CoT predecessors, and they gripped the track much better. Although the Next Gen car would even improve upon these new aerodynamic features, come 2022.
What Cars Are Used In The NASCAR Xfinity Series?
The Xfinity Series has cars that are nearly identical to NASCAR Cup cars. However, they come with slight variations. The cars have wheelbases that are just 105 inches compared to the Cup Series’ 110 inches. They also aren’t fuel-injected and have 4-speed transmissions and a different wheel diameter.
Despite their differences, the NASCAR Xfinity Series continues to use the same manufacturers and models as the Cup Series. So if you turn on a Saturday afternoon race, you will still see the same Camaros, Mustangs, and Camrys you are used to seeing in the NASCAR Cup Series. The only difference is that as of 2022, they are not yet the Next Gen models.
What Cars Are Used In The NASCAR Truck Series?
The NASCAR Truck series features race trucks, using Chevrolet Silverados, Ford F-150s, and Toyota Tundras as the main vehicles. They have slightly larger wheelbases and measure out to be larger than the cars used in both the Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Cup Series.
While the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity cars have more subtle differences, the NASCAR Truck Series has always looked dramatically different since they race trucks instead of cars. They use slightly larger wheelbases that clock in at 112 inches (284.5 cm) and are both longer and wider, measuring at 206.5 inches (524.5 cm) in length and 80 inches (203 cm) in width.
They are also 60 inches (152 cm) tall. In contrast, the Xfinity cars measure 203.75 inches (517.5 cm) in length, 75 inches (190.5 cm) in width, and 51 inches (129.5 cm) in height.
Like the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series, the Truck Series uses Chevrolets, Fords, and Toyotas. However, they use Chevy Silverados, Ford F-150s, and Toyota Tundras. Of NASCAR’s top three series, the Truck Series has seen the smallest turnover in models. They have stuck with Silverados since 1998, F-150s since 1995, and Tundras since 2004.
Further, when new manufacturers entered NASCAR, they often went through the Truck Series. As you can see, Toyota entered in 2004, but they did not make their Cup Series debut until 2007. Likewise, Dodge returned to the Cup Series in 2001, but they started back in the Truck Series in 1995.
NASCAR uses distinct cars in their races, relying on Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota as their primary manufacturers. The Cup Series utilizes the Next Gen car, which first appeared in 2022. They’ve used a variety of vehicles throughout their history and have different vehicles for other series.