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NASCAR Cars vs Trucks – The Series Compared

When it comes to NASCAR cars vs trucks, you may notice several differences. But you may also notice there are many similarities, as the series will at times race at the same tracks. Therefore, you may wonder what makes NASCAR cars and trucks similar, and what makes them different. 

When comparing NASCAR cars vs trucks, the main difference is that the NASCAR Cup Series is the top-tier league in NASCAR while the Truck Series is a minor league. The vehicles are built differently, and while they race on some of the same tracks, trucks stick more to smaller or intermediate tracks. 

Below we will compare NASCAR cars and trucks from top to bottom, starting with what makes the two series different before moving on to how each vehicle is constructed. We will then outline which tracks both series race on, and where more of the differences lie in the racing. 

NASCAR Cup Series vs Truck Series 

The NASCAR Cup Series started its inaugural season as Strictly Stock back in 1949 while the Truck Series, once known as SuperTrucks, didn’t start until 1995. When you think of NASCAR’s top three series, consider the Cup Series as the flagship while the Xfinity and Truck Series are the minor league circuits

In professional hockey, we see this with the NHL, AHL, and ECHL. When you compare NASCAR with pro hockey, the Cup Series and the NHL are on the same level, while the Xfinity Series and AHL are equivalents. Finally, the ECHL and Truck Series sit third on the pyramid. This means the talent level tends to follow a similar pattern, although NASCAR truck drivers are still highly skilled. 

Many drivers who take part in the Truck Series are either young and just getting started, or are older after having posted pedestrian performances in the Xfinity and Truck Series. For example, drivers like Jack Sprague and Ron Hornaday Jr. never saw their Cup Series or even their Xfinity Series careers pan out, but they were legendary while racing trucks. 

Since the Cup Series and Truck Series have such a wide talent gap, the Cup Series is far more grueling than the Truck Series. The schedule is longer, and so are the races. Even the vehicles have major differences, despite some similarities. 

Major Differences Between Cup And Truck

While the two series see action at the same tracks with few exceptions, the Truck Series runs half the distance of the Cup races. For example, the February Daytona race for trucks lasts for 250 miles (402 km). This is the case for nearly every Truck Series race on the circuit when they run events at the same track as the Cup Series. 

So, if a NASCAR Cup race is 400 miles (644 km), the Truck Series race is usually 200 miles (322 km). The Truck Series runs just 23 points-paying races in a season compared to the Cup Series’ 36. While full-time Cup Series drivers are allowed to enter Truck Series races, the Truck Series bars them from entering three races on the schedule during an event known as the Triple Truck Challenge. 

For these three races, only primarily Truck Series competitors may enter, which gives attention to the series regulars. In terms of the teams, the Truck Series costs far less money to compete in. However, it is also easier for teams to lose money given the smaller payouts. 

Money And Driver Turnover

While the drivers themselves can make a good living racing trucks, teams have a tougher time staying afloat in the Truck Series, which is why they are more likely to vary from year to year. Further, driver volatility is more prevalent in the Truck Series than in the Cup Series. 

For example, midway through the 2022 Truck Series season, Young’s Motorsports already had 12 drivers, including Cup Series regular Austin Dillon, take the wheel. While this isn’t the case with the more established teams, it is prevalent for a good handful of them

KEY POINTS

• The NASCAR Cup Series is much older than the Truck Series

• While the Cup Series is the premier series in the sport, the Truck Series is the third tier

• The Cup Series races are longer than those in the Truck Series, and it’s a longer season too

NASCAR Cars vs Trucks

SeriesCup SeriesTruck Series
Engine358 cu in (5.9 L) V8358 cu in (5.9 L) V8
FuelSunoco Green E15Sunoco Green E15
Transmission5-speed sequential4-speed manual
Daytona Pole Speed181 mph180 mph
TiresGoodyear EaglesGoodyear Eagles
Wheelbase110 in / 279 cm112 in / 285 cm
Length193 in / 490 cm207 in / 526 cm
Width79 in / 201 cm80 in / 203 cm
Height50 in / 127 cm60 in / 152 cm

NASCAR’s Next Gen vehicles made the cars dramatically different from the trucks and Xfinity cars. For one, when you look at the Next Gen NASCAR cars from a technological standpoint, they are well into the 21st century, while (some of) the trucks and Xfinity cars are still using older technology like carburetors, truck arms, and the old four-speed transmissions

One major difference is the size, with NASCAR Cup cars being smaller than the trucks in all dimensions. On the NASCAR cars, you will also notice that the exhaust is just under the doors, while it is still on the right-hand side of the trucks. 

Although the Next Gen cars are not as fast as the Gen 6 cars, they are also faster than the trucks when we talk about average speed at a race. In their respective 2022 Daytona February races, the average speed of the Daytona 500 sat at 142 mph (229 kph). The Truck Series race, however, brought speeds of just 129 mph (208 kph). 

Some Similarities 

There are some similarities, however, as both NASCAR cars and trucks contain V8 pushrod engines with 358 cubic inches (5.9 liters) of displacement, with a 12:1 compression ratio. Like the cars, the trucks also use naturally aspirated engines. 

They also both use slick tires, but they will use dirt tires at the Bristol Dirt Race and the Eldora track (trucks), and rain tires during inclement conditions at road courses. They also both use Sunoco Green Ethanol E15 Racing Fuel. 

Are NASCAR Trucks Next Gen?

While the NASCAR trucks are not Next Gen, they received an update the same year NASCAR rolled out the Next Gen car. This update included making changes to the nose and tail, so the trucks better resembled their road counterparts, which are the Chevrolet Silverado, Toyota Tundra, and Ford F-150. 

When you look at the bottom of the trucks, you can clearly see they are not Next Gen, as they resemble what you saw on the Gen 6 car. However, the Next Gen’s underside is much sleeker, without the presence of the truck arms or the strange shape the NASCAR Trucks still have. 

Another clue telling you that NASCAR trucks are not Next Gen is the position of the numbers. When you look at their positioning on the Next Gen car, you will notice the numbers are closer to the fender. However, on the trucks, they remain in the center. 

Do NASCAR Cars & Trucks Race On The Same Tracks?

NASCAR cars and trucks do primarily race on the same tracks, but there are some differences. Tracks that the Truck Series races on that the Cup Series does not include the Knoxville Raceway (Iowa), Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Ohio), and Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park (Indiana). 

Since there are fewer races on the circuit in the Truck Series, you can guess the trucks do not race on every NASCAR Cup Series track. Notable tracks they do not run races on include Auto Club, Charlotte (Roval), Dover, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course), Michigan, New Hampshire, and Watkins Glen. 

One reason you don’t see the trucks racing on all NASCAR Cup Series tracks is that they predominantly race on ovals that are short or intermediate in duration. This means you only see them at two superspeedway events instead of four. Michigan and Auto Club, tracks that are 2 miles (3 km) in duration, are also excluded, but they do race one event at Pocono Raceway. 

With 23 races on the Truck Series schedule, six of the races take place at a track one mile or shorter in length. Further, another four occur on road courses, with 43% of all races in the series taking place on either short tracks or road courses. There is also talk of NASCAR bringing the Truck Series to North Wilkesboro, a historical short track that saw a revival in 2022. 

Are NASCAR Trucks Faster Than The Cars On Dirt?

NASCAR trucks are faster than cars on dirt, with the top speed at the Bristol dirt race being 93 mph for the trucks, and 90 mph for the cars. The Gen 6 cars were faster than that era’s trucks, but the Next Gen cars are slower than the current trucks by about 11 mph in terms of average race speeds.

In 2021, the NASCAR Cup Series returned to dirt for the first time since 1970 with the Bristol Dirt Race. However, few realize the Truck Series returned to dirt track racing first, with the event occurring at the Eldora Speedway in 2013. They ran at the track until 2019. 

After they held no dirt track events in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic, the Truck Series was granted two more dirt races on the schedule with the Bristol Dirt Race and an event at the Knoxville Raceway in Iowa. With the trucks running on dirt longer than NASCAR cars, you may think they are faster this type of racing surface. 

Since the Truck Series and NASCAR Cup Series each run a dirt race at Bristol, we can compare their average race speeds. During the Gen 6 era, the Cup Series cars ran at a faster speed of 46 mph (74 kph) to the Truck Series’ 41 mph (66 kph). However, the Truck Series ran faster in 2022, clocking in speeds of 46 mph (74 kph) while NASCAR Next Gens sat at 35 mph (56 kph). 

Who Was Faster?

But since on-track incidents and other occurrences can manipulate those numbers, it is wiser to turn to the fastest cars and trucks during practice. In 2022, Cup Series driver Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap time at Bristol Dirt Race practice, clocking in at 90 mph (145 kph). Harrison Burton was the slowest driver, with a speed of 87 mph (140 kph). 

Meanwhile, the Truck Series was indeed faster during practice, with Stewart Friesen clocking in the fastest lap at 93 mph (150 kph). Interestingly, the slowest truck, run by Keith McGee, ran at just 84 mph (135 kph), which was slower than Burton’s speed. 

KEY FACT: At the 2022 Bristol dirt race, nobody ran faster than 90 mph (145 kph) in the Cup Series, while 24 drivers hit the mark in the Truck Series

Final Thoughts 

There are several key differences to consider when comparing NASCAR cars to the trucks. But the differences don’t just end with the vehicles. The tracks each series race at are often different, as are the season structures, and the drivers and teams that take part in each one.