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What RPM Do NASCAR Engines Run At?

NASCAR engines run at a significantly higher RPM than the typical production car. Since their engines are more powerful, they hold several key differences that range from RPM to their aesthetics and even their sounds. But you may be wondering at what RPM NASCAR engines run.

NASCAR engines typically run between 8,500 and 9,000 revolutions per minute (RPM). They idle at about 2,500 RPM, and they can rev up to 10,000 RPM. These engines can also reach temperatures up to 290 degrees Fahrenheit (143°C), but a special cooling system keeps them from dramatically overheating. 

Below, we will outline what NASCAR engines look like and reveal a few numbers regarding where their engines idle, why they rev so high, and when they redline. We will also tackle the burning question of why NASCAR engines sound different than others, and why they are so loud. 

What Do NASCAR Engines Look Like?

All NASCAR engines are naturally aspirated V8 engines with a displacement of 358 cubic inches. Each engine also uses pushrods. NASCAR has strict specs for all 3 of its manufacturers, so while NASCAR engines may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, they are also alike in many aspects.

NASCAR is an acronym for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. But even as NASCAR rolled out the Next Gen car, you can argue that they aren’t truly stock cars. And while the new Chevy Camaros, Ford Mustangs, and Toyota Camrys have more identical bodies to that of their showroom counterparts, you probably guessed the engines differ dramatically. 

One major difference between engines on your production car and NASCAR’s is that the latter is not built on an assembly line. Instead, a NASCAR team’s manufacturer submits a design to NASCAR for approval. Once approved, manufacturers may work on building engines for their teams.

Horsepower And Tapered Spacers

Instead of restrictor plates, tapered spacers are used to cap the engine’s horsepower at 670. However, at Daytona and Talladega, they take things a step further and cap the engines at just 510 horsepower. 

Overall, these engines look much like their predecessors in the Gen 6 car, which also held similar displacement, 8 cylinders, and natural aspiration. Only the horsepower differs, with the older models hovering between 550 and 750

Teams May Modify Engines

When NASCAR’s manufacturers ship engines to their respective teams, the latter may modify engines to their liking. To this degree, NASCAR is not a spec series. But, just as the manufacturers must remain within NASCAR’s specs, so must the teams. 

Therefore, NASCAR teams may modify their engines, but they cannot for any reason do so outside specifications. If NASCAR catches them in the act, they will penalize the team points, issue fines, and even warrant suspensions. 

Key Points

NASCAR engines look like fairly standard road car engines

The engines put out up to 670 horsepower

Engines from all three manufacturers look fairly similar due to strict regulations

What RPM Do NASCAR Engines Idle At?

NASCAR Cup car engines idle at about 2,500 RPM, between 2.5 and 4 times that of a production car. As in your road car, the idling of a NASCAR engine keeps the engine from premature wearing at a low RPM, and prevents the car from stalling.

NASCAR’s engines work in a similar capacity to the engines in a production car. However, since their engines aren’t exactly the same as your road car’s, their idle speed is much more than the 600 to 1,000 RPM range that most road cars receive. 

Why Do NASCAR Engines Rev So High?

NASCAR engines rev higher than the average production car because they are more powerful. A NASCAR engine can rev at 10,000 RPM, and power the car to 200 miles per hour. The engines often run between 8,500 and 9,000 RPM. The more powerful the engine, the more it can usually rev. 

NASCAR Next Gen cars have a displacement of 5.86 liters, or 358 cubic inches. An engine that has a 2.0-liter displacement would not come close to that of a NASCAR engine unless RPM or torque were artificially increased. 

Not Truly Stock Car Engines

Since NASCAR engines are built specifically for the sport, they are not actual stock car engines. Therefore, they are not being artificially enhanced to reach their desired rate of RPM. Instead, manufacturers build them within NASCAR’s specifications and ship them to the teams. 

At one time, this wasn’t the case. During NASCAR’s early days, drivers and teams bought cars from local dealerships like Plymouth and modified the engine, which explains why NASCAR was once known as Strictly Stock.

What Do NASCAR Engines Redline At?

NASCAR engines redline at around 8,500 to 10,000 RPM. During a race on a 1.5-mile intermediate oval, the cars often run between 7,000 and 10,000 RPM. For many production cars, the max RPM could be as little as 7,000 or 8,000. For an F1 car, it can be beyond 15,000 RPM.

Why Do NASCAR Engines Run So Hot?

NASCAR engines run so hot simply because the cars are racing at such high speeds and the engines are put under immense stress. NASCAR engines might run at up to 290 degrees Fahrenheit, or 143 degrees Celsius, but their ideal operating temperature window may be a fair bit below that.

Fun Fact

The average production car’s engine runs at around 170-220 degrees Fahrenheit (75-105 degrees Celsius), around the boiling point of water 

NASCAR engines can run as high as 280 to 290 degrees Fahrenheit (138-143 degrees Celsius). This comes from limited airflow into the engines designed to keep them operating at an optimal minimum temperature, which can be around 230 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit (110-115 degrees Celsius). 

Limited Air Flow

In the past, to reduce the airflow, NASCAR teams would tape their grills partially. When air hit the tape, it flowed over the car instead of inside it, which helped create more downforce. With the Next Gen cars’ introduction in 2022, NASCAR did away with the grill tape thanks to air vents on the hood. 

These air vents allowed the same reduced airflow, yet it still allowed air to flow over the car, creating even more downforce. Expect the air vents to remain part of the cars during at least the Next Gen’s life cycle, if not longer if they get positive feedback from drivers and teams.  

How Are NASCAR Engines Cooled?

NASCAR is one of those sports that likes to innovate, but they also like to keep things from changing if they can help it. However, they have changed some things for the better, especially since 2001. Most of their changes focus on safety. And although they made plenty of strides in safety over the past two decades, they consistently find ways to make the sport even safer. 

For example, the Car of Tomorrow (CoT) provided numerous safety upgrades. NASCAR also added SAFER barriers to the tracks instead of concrete walls, continued to find solutions to keep cars from flipping, and mandated the HANS device, among other safety aspects. 

NASCAR also changed numerous procedures. These ranged from the way they handled qualifying and even ways they cooled down engines. In the past, NASCAR would have its drivers take part in cool-down laps, which resulted in them running slower laps after an event. 

However, NASCAR drivers and teams were not fond of this. During practice and qualifying, for example, NASCAR had its drivers shut down their cars and run cool-down laps while other cars whipped by them at full speed. You can see the obvious danger. 

Enter The Cooling Hoses

In 2014, NASCAR issued a rule that required teams to attach cooling hoses through the cowl, which will safely cool the engine. For the older generations of cars, this was a better method since teams often taped the entire grill during qualifying, which restricted airflow to the engines. 

Engine Cooling During A Race

Throughout a race, NASCAR engines must remain at optimal temperatures, just like your road car. But they also cannot attach a cooling system onto the car every few laps, as that would make for some very boring racing. Instead, they must find creative ways to keep their engines running optimally. 

For us, it is easy to keep our engines running at optimal temperatures since we add engine coolant. However, NASCAR bans the use of these antifreeze compounds. This is because antifreeze contains substances that, when spilled, can cause slippery conditions on a NASCAR track. It is also tough to clean up.

Water And Air

Instead, they use water. However, when engines reach over 212 degrees Fahrenheit, that water can boil. So, to prevent the water boiling, NASCAR teams must run engines at roughly 75 psi of pressure. When this occurs, the boiling point can rise to over 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150+ degrees Celsius), which keeps the engine from overheating.

Also, the air vents will also bring airflow into the engine. This further keeps the engine at an optimal temperature. And as we covered earlier, the airflow into these vents also helps with downforce, making the Next Gen cars even safer by providing an additional 1,000 pounds of it. 

Key Points

NASCAR engines are cooled with water and air

Cooling fluids that are common in road cars could present dangers in a NASCAR race

NASCAR engines are run at around 75 psi of pressure to prevent the water from boiling

This all keeps the engines ‘cool’ – at 230+ degrees Fahrenheit

Why NASCAR Engines Sound Different From Other Motorsports

When you listen to a NASCAR engine, you can probably say that you will never hear anything like it. Of course, they sound different than your road car’s engine. They even sound different from other engines in motorsports. 

There are a few reasons behind this, one of which is the type of engine NASCAR cars use, which are naturally aspirated V8 engines. By contrast, Formula 1 and IndyCar both use V6 engines that are turbocharged instead of naturally aspirated. 

When a naturally aspirated engine takes in air, they do so via the air around them. Turbocharged engines differ since air intake runs through a turbo and an intercooler. This creates a more muffled sound, and can allow the engine to produce more power.

Some racing fans describe NASCAR engines as more harmonious and richer than their IndyCar and Formula 1 counterparts. So, the differences in engine size plus the fact that NASCAR engines are naturally aspirated are the main reasons behind the differences in sound. 

Why Are NASCAR Engines So Loud?

One reason NASCAR engines are so loud is the fact that they have no mufflers attached to the cars. Mufflers slow down air flow out of an engine, so when you get rid of the muffler, that engine is going to be much louder than your road car’s (which usually has a muffler).

Slower airflow via a muffler creates slower exhaust, which also creates slower cars, as the engine cannot dispel all of the exhaust gases as quickly as it could without a muffler. Drivers learned early in NASCAR’s existence that mufflers kept their cars from driving their fastest, which prompted drivers to remove them.

Fun Fact

NASCAR engines can produce noise levels of around 100 decibels

You may have attended a sporting event, or even a NASCAR event that consisted of a jet flyover following the National Anthem. Now, NASCAR races often run between 3 and 5 hours. So, imagine a jet flyover occurring for the entire duration of an NFL game. That’s how loud NASCAR engines are, in decibels, throughout a race barring pit stops and cautions. 

Final Thoughts

NASCAR engines run between 8,500 and 9,000 RPM, and they can reach up to 10,000 RPM. The engines are powerful, and they can produce up to 670 horsepower. Their engines can get up to 290°F/143°C, but special cooling systems help keep oil, water, and other components from overheating.