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Are All NASCAR Cars The Same?

To many new fans, NASCAR cars can look identical to each other. Since NASCAR enforces strict specifications, they pay close attention to how each driver, team, and manufacturer sets up their cars. So, you may therefore ask whether all NASCAR cars are the same. 

Not all NASCAR cars are the same. At first glance, they may look identical, but when you look at the body of each car, that alone tells you that they are not all created identically. But with such strict specifications, many components on all NASCAR cars are the same, regardless of manufacturer. 

Below, we will elaborate on how all NASCAR cars are not the same. We will also touch on the specific specifications that give each car some similar qualities. We will further touch on the differences between NASCAR manufacturers, and what makes each one unique. 

Are All NASCAR Cars Identical?

Not all NASCAR cars are identical. While the cars do have some similarities, whether it’s a Ford, Chevrolet or Toyota, there are still big differences in the bodies of the cars. The cars may also be set up differently between the teams, although they are limited in what they can change.

NASCAR cars have a plethora of identical components in the Next Gen era. In many cases, NASCAR outsources components like tires, wheel rims, and even the fuel cell from just one company in the industry. For example, AP Racing Limited supplies all the brakes and BBS of America supplies all the wheels. Goodyear, who supplies the tires, is perhaps the most popular example. 

Not A Spec Series

Even NASCAR engines must conform to strict specifications, even if they do not come from one exclusive manufacturer. For this reason, NASCAR is not a spec series. The obvious differences between the cars involve the manufacturers and car bodies. 

But, when you look closely, the roof flaps are all in the same spot and so are the air vents and flaps on the hood. The exhaust is located in the same area regardless of whether the vehicle is a Camaro, Mustang, or Camry. So, the cars are not identical, but they feature many shared qualities, from exclusive vendors. 

They also comprise identical templates, and even the chassis are the same. So, although the car bodies are different between the three manufacturers, Technique Chassis, LLC supplies the chassis for all eligible NASCAR teams, chartered and non-chartered

Other Identical Components

The cars must all feature a 110 inch (280 centimeter) wheelbase and weigh at least 3,200 lb (1,451 kg) without the driver and fuel. With the driver and fuel, the car must weigh 3,400 lb (1,542 kg). Each car must have 18 inch (56 centimeter) wheels, and they must all use the same E15 Green Sunoco Racing Fuel. 

You will also notice the cars must also be the same height, length, and width. Each Next Gen ride stands at 54 inches (137 cm) in height, 193 inches (490 cm) in length, and 78.4 inches (199 cm) in width. 

KEY POINTS

• NASCAR cars are not identical, although they do all share some of the same features

• They contain parts that are standardized and provided by specific manufacturers

• They are all built to the same physical dimensions

Are All NASCAR Engines The Same?

NASCAR engines are not all the same, because Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota all manufacture their own engines. However, they must all conform to various specifications. All NASCAR engines must be naturally aspirated, 358 cubic inch (5.9 L) V8s. They all must use fuel injection systems. 

While the Next Gen car has moved NASCAR further into the 21st century by ridding the series of much of its old technology, these engines remain the old pushrod type, as opposed to using overhead cams. They also feature a 12:1 compression ratio. 

Specs Can Get Tighter

However, engine specifications can change from year-to-year. So, if one manufacturer seems to have a clear-cut advantage over the others, NASCAR may crack down on specs if they feel the advantage is coming from the engine. 

It is also appropriate to mention that some engine components, like the car components, may be outsourced from an exclusive vendor. However, each manufacturer, in a bid to keep NASCAR at least somewhat true to its roots in strictly stock, will base their engines on their road car counterparts. So Chevy, for example, bases their engine on that seen in a street car Camaro. 

Do All NASCAR Engines Have The Same Horsepower?

All NASCAR engines do have the same maximum horsepower because they feature tapered spacers that cap the horsepower at 670 for most tracks, and 510 for Atlanta, Daytona, and Talladega. This means the Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota engines are all equal in power.

With each passing generation of NASCAR, you will see differences in horsepower. For example, the Generation 6 car had a 550/410 horsepower package, depending on whether they raced on an intermediate track, short track, or road course with the higher package, and a superspeedway for the lower package. 

When NASCAR tested the Next Gen, they used several packages before deciding on one for superspeedways and Atlanta, and another for the other tracks. Every NASCAR engine must follow the same horsepower specification for every race. 

Different Packages For Different Tracks

So even if the engines can differ in their maximum horsepower by a few either way, they use tapered spacers to cap them at 670 horsepower for the short tracks, intermediate tracks, and road courses, and 510 horsepower for Atlanta, Daytona, and Talladega. 

Without the tapered spacers present, you would see deviations in these engines that could potentially range from 750 to 900 horsepower. But with the tapered spacers inside the engine, you will only see the cars reach the same maximum horsepower, depending on the track. 

KEY POINTS

• NASCAR engines are not all the same

• They come from three different manufacturers: Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota

• They are all capped at the same maximum horsepower, usually 670 HP

What Are The Differences Between NASCAR Manufacturers?

NASCAR has three manufacturers: Toyota, Chevrolet, and Ford. Each manufacturer gives their cars a different body, attempting to resemble their street car counterparts. If you studied the tail lights of a Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang, and Toyota Camry, you will notice that they are in nearly the exact same spot. 

The only difference is that the tail lights you see on those cars are just decals instead of the real thing. When you study the front of the cars, you will also see major differences. The Camaro used on the NASCAR track has, minus the safety features NASCAR requires, the same front as the Camaro on the road. The same goes for the Mustangs and Camrys. 

So, the first major difference between the manufacturers, before anything else, is in the shape of the bodies to closely resemble those you find on the road. Yes, all three manufacturers must ensure their cars are the same height, width, and length as one another, with required safety components, but that’s as far as they go in terms of looking alike. 

Differences In Engines

As noted above, each manufacturer’s engine is unique so long as it remains within NASCAR’s specs. It is common for NASCAR teams to skim the rulebook and look for loopholes or a way to circumvent the rules. This is a controversial practice, but it is also an acceptable one since before each race, each car must undergo an inspection to ensure they remain within the specs. 

Other Differences 

When you take a closer look at the cars’ actual engineering, you will also notice how unique the Chevrolets, Fords, and Toyotas are. Check the inside of the driver’s cockpit, and you will find different types of ignitions. Coolant, oil, and steering pumps are also different from manufacturer to manufacturer. The same goes for the crankshafts, camshafts, and valve lifters. 

Do NASCAR Drivers Use The Same Car At Every Track? 

NASCAR drivers do not use the same car at every track, although they do at most tracks on the circuit. The Bristol dirt race requires a modified Cup car with dirt tires, while Atlanta, Daytona and Talladega all require a reduced horsepower package of 510 HP, and a larger 7-inch spoiler.

When you watch the Daytona 500 in February before switching to the Bristol Dirt Race later in the year, you see similar cars at first glance. But the truth is, they are anything but similar. For one, NASCAR uses a lower horsepower, taller spoiler package for Daytona, with the horsepower clocking in at 510 and the spoiler being seven inches tall (18 cm). 

At Bristol and all other tracks except Atlanta and Talladega, NASCAR uses the 670 horsepower engine package, with a four inch (10 cm) spoiler. Further, you may have grown used to believing NASCAR cars only use slick tires, but they actually use grooved, bias-ply tires at the Bristol Dirt Race since they are necessary for drivers to navigate through the dirt. 

Different Cars For Different Tracks

Further, when you look at all the NASCAR tracks on the calendar, they each differ in length, banking, and in some cases, track surface. Tracks with higher banking, like Daytona and Bristol, are called fast tracks. If a track has lesser banking, like New Hampshire, it is called a flat track. These differences usually require different car setups. 

Everything, even changes in the weather, will impact how a car is operating. So, not only will NASCAR teams use different cars for different tracks, but the number of necessary adjustments means that the car a driver is operating at the end of the race is, in a manner of speaking, not the same car they climbed into before the race began

For example, NASCAR visits Daytona twice a year, once for the Daytona 500 to open the regular season and again for a 400 mile night race. The night race, despite using the 510 horsepower and seven inch (18 cm) spoiler, can require a different setup based on cooler, slicker conditions

Before the 2022 season began, NASCAR reconfigured the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Therefore, even had they stuck to the Generation 6 car for another season, NASCAR would still have required the superspeedway package for Atlanta. So, if a track is reconfigured, either through its surface, banking, or length, teams will show up with a different car.

Do NASCAR Drivers Use The Same Car For Each Race? 

NASCAR drivers do not always use the same car for each race. The obvious example is when they crash the car and need to essentially have a new one built for the next event. However, even if they race cleanly, they will usually have many of the parts replaced for the following race.

Suppose a NASCAR team ran such a clean race the previous week that they could logistically use the same exact car for the following week’s race. For the purposes of this section, we are not talking about differences in horsepower and aerodynamics packages, but instead we are focusing on whether drivers are using the same engine, body, chassis, wheels, etc

Reusing Engines

The short answer to this question is that they do not use the same car for each race. NASCAR teams use over a dozen engines per season, and they are required to use 13 of those for two races. They do not need to be back-to-back races, but between Race A and Race B, teams must seal the engines to ensure they are untouched before they are used again. 

While a team may use the same chassis, engine, body, and other components at some races, this only occurs a few times per season. Obviously, if a driver crashes or otherwise damages the car, various parts will need to be replaced between races.

For each track, NASCAR drivers will use a fresh car designed specifically for that particular track. And since the previously used car may not be specifically designed for the following race, NASCAR teams must haul the used car back to their headquarters in North Carolina to immediately get to work on a fresh car for the following race. 

A Word On West Coast Trips

NASCAR takes its version of a road trip early each season when they go to Auto Club, Las Vegas, and Phoenix in the weeks following the Daytona 500. Since it makes little sense for NASCAR to haul its car back to the east coast only to turn around and return to the west coast three times, teams send a second hauler out to meet the first one, exchange cars and parts, and drive to the next track. 

This is especially important if a car crashes out of the previous race, as the sense of urgency for fresh components arises. You may think they could just use their backup car, but it is important to remember that even the backup cars are specifically designed for the race at hand, and so it may not be set up in the right way for another track. 

Overall, expect to see between three and five different cars, and two variations regarding the horsepower and aerodynamic packages between them, in all NASCAR body shops. That goes for all drivers, whether they are part of Team Penske, Roush-Fenway, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, or an up-and-coming team. 

So, although the cars may physically look the same from track to track, know that each driver and team may be using a different chassis, engine, body, or other component at the latest race on the schedule. 

KEY POINTS

• NASCAR drivers won’t use the same car at every track

• Each track requires its own unique setup and possibly even horsepower package

• Drivers will often use completely different cars between events

Final Thoughts

NASCAR cars are not all the same. They differ by manufacturer, and each manufacturer is allowed to design the car in their unique way provided they conform to NASCAR’s specifications. They also use different packages for superspeedways compared to short and intermediate tracks.