You may notice that there are no windows on the driver’s side of a NASCAR car. Since NASCAR cars have no air conditioning and little air flow, having windows on the passenger side of the car could also be a hindrance to drivers. So, you may therefore ask if NASCAR cars have any windows at all.
NASCAR cars do not have windows on the driver’s side of their car while the passenger side sometimes does not contain a large portion of the window. The lack of windows on the driver’s side of the car is a safety feature that allows the drivers to exit the car quickly in case of an accident.
Below, we will explain fully why NASCAR cars do not have windows on the driver’s side, and why you occasionally won’t see them on the passenger side. We will also explain the purpose of window netting, before we move on to what type of material NASCAR windshields are made of.
Why Don’t NASCAR Cars Have Windows?
NASCAR cars don’t have windows primarily for safety purposes. In the event of a crash, drivers need to be able to get out of the cars quickly, and having window netting instead of a glass window is the easiest solution. Broken glass would also create another unnecessary safety risk.
Looking at a NASCAR car, you may think they have windows just like your road car. The truth is, they do not have windows in a traditional sense. You will first notice that there is no structure whatsoever where the driver’s side window would be.
You may think that this would not be comfortable, since if you are cruising on a highway at a moderate speed, the loud wind whipping inside your car is not always a pleasant feeling. For NASCAR, this is all done for safety reasons.
Starting with the driver’s side, there is just window netting and nothing else separating the driver from the elements. This is done because drivers need a quick entry or exit into and from their cars in the event of a crash. If, for example, the car was to catch fire after a crash, the driver cannot be trapped in there longer than 30 seconds or else their fire resistant suit will be ineffective.
The reason they need an easy way out is because they can’t simply open the door of the car, as there isn’t one. This is also for safety reasons, as during a wreck, a normal door could open leaving the driver fully exposed.
When you look to the passenger side of the car, there are instances where NASCAR will do away with most of the window. This is often done on days where it is so hot that the interior of the car becomes unbearable, and heat exhaustion can become a reality.
Why Do NASCAR Cars Have Window Netting?
NASCAR cars have window netting in order to keep the driver safe in the event of a crash, and the cars have had window netting since the 1970s. Richard Petty’s rollover crash at Darlington at the beginning of that decade prompted NASCAR to mandate window netting going forward.
Petty’s head repeatedly smacked the asphalt since nothing separated him from the track surface, and the wreck briefly knocked him out. Had netting been installed, Petty would have likely walked away from the crash with only a shoulder injury, which he also sustained. The netting where the window would be keeps the driver safe while also being easy to remove.
KEY POINTS• NASCAR cars don’t have windows for safety reasons
• Drivers must be able to easily get out of the car if they’re involved in a crash
• Window netting provides basic protection, but can also be removed easily if the driver needs to get out
Would NASCAR Cars Be Faster If They Had Windows?
NASCAR cars likely wouldn’t be faster if they had windows. Currently, the window netting is pulled so tight that it blocks most of the airflow into the car anyway, and the shape of the car means air is effectively directed around the window, meaning almost no air would flow in at high speed.
Drivers May Think Differently
If you ask a NASCAR driver, they will tell you that it is at least worth trying to close every little gap in the windows to gain speed. In 2018 during NASCAR qualifying, the broadcast pointed out that drivers stuck their hand up into the window net’s opening to try and again an advantage speed-wise.
This was done to reduce air flow coming into the car through the opening. As a result, the philosophy was that it would shave fractions of a second off their qualifying time. However, the true efficacy of this strategy was inconclusive.
Window Netting vs No Window Netting
When you look at a NASCAR car’s window netting, you will find there is just one tiny opening near the front side of where the door would be, and nothing else. You may also inquire about what the average speeds were before NASCAR mandated window netting, and if adding the netting had any effect on the cars.
When you look at the NASCAR history books, there still wasn’t much of a difference between the speeds during the 1970 spring race at Darlington and the 1979 race, long after NASCAR installed the window netting mandate.
The average speed of the 1970 event clocked in at 129 mph (209 kph), while the 1979 spring race sat at just 122 mph (196 kph). You may point to track conditions as a possible reason for the slower speeds at the 1979 event, so we need to therefore turn to qualifying, where Donnie Allison won the pole by posting a qualifying speed of 151 mph (243 kph) in 1979.
Going back to 1970, when Charlie Glotzbach won the pole, he did so with a speed of 154 mph (248 kph). This was without the mandated netting, yet Glotzbach’s speed was slightly faster than Allison’s. This is of course just one data point, so it doesn’t tell us too much, other than that there is clearly more at play than simply having or not having window netting!
Windows On The Right Side
NASCAR drivers always seek to gain an aerodynamic advantage, and the presence of right-side windows will affect the car’s speed since its purpose is to restrict air from flowing into the car. The thought is that with the closed window, they can decrease drag.
Further, the presence of a right-side window can act as a safety feature during a high-speed crash. When a car spins, the closed window allows air to flow over, instead of inside, the car, which helps keep it planted onto the track surface, rather than trying to lift it up into the air.
There is a downside to the presence of windows on the right side of the car though, and it comes in the form of heat. In 2020, before the Dover race, NASCAR removed a portion of the driver’s side window given the hotter cockpit windows on the passenger side can cause. This allowed for some increased airflow into the car to keep it cooler.
What Are NASCAR Windshields Made Of?
NASCAR windshields are made of polycarbonate. Five-Star Race Car Bodies supplies NASCAR’s windows, windshields, and body panels and they have done so since 1992. They design NASCAR’s windshields out of polycarbonate to make them safe in the event of a crash.
Regardless of how hard a NASCAR car crashes, these windows don’t shatter. Not only are polycarbonate windows shatterproof unlike glass, but they are also lighter and much easier to mold into unique shapes. You also won’t just see Five Star Race Car Bodies’ polycarbonate windows and windshields in NASCAR, as they are also used in drag racing, off-road dirt racing, and road racing.
Although NASCAR has made many changes between the Generation 4 car – when Five-Star’s products first graced the track – and into the Next Gen era, their polycarbonate windows and windshields are one of a few components that stood the test of time.
NASCAR cars don’t have windows on the driver’s side for safety purposes. If a wreck occurs, a driver needs a quick escape route if their car catches fire. The lack of a window allows the driver to get a quick getaway when a crash occurs, while the window netting still offers some protection.
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