With so much action taking place during a race, it’s hard to imagine just how much focus a NASCAR driver needs to have to navigate his opponents at close to 200 mph. This can leave new fans wondering if NASCAR cars have anything to help the driver, such as rear-view mirrors.
NASCAR cars do not have rear view mirrors, and instead the cars are equipped with rear view cameras that provide a visual on what is happening behind them. Drivers also have spotters for visual assistance, who actively alert the driver of surrounding cars.
Below, we will look at how NASCAR’s rear-view cameras work and what the drivers think of the new feature. We will also explore whether drivers need to look to know what’s going on behind them, and if they do, what other types of visuals they use to know if opposing cars are nearby.
NASCAR cars do have rearview cameras, and these replaced the convex review mirrors. The cameras are located in the center of the dashboard or to the left of the steering wheel. The cameras are similar to what you see in some modern road cars.
The rear-view camera was introduced in 2022 as one of the many upgrades in the Next-Gen car. The previous Gen-6 car lacked visibility, mostly due to the high-set spoilers. For 2022 onwards, they opted for the rear-view camera as it does not block the windshield and provides better overall visibility.
While some drivers love the new rear-view cameras, other drivers would rather stick to using the mirrors. It is not mandatory for drivers to use the rear-view cameras, and many exercise other options.
Denny Hamlin, for example, does not run the camera. Drivers that share Hamlin’s opinion believe NASCAR could provide further upgrades by lowering the spoiler, which would allow greater visibility for drivers who do not use the camera. NASCAR’s younger generation seems to prefer the camera. Chris Buescher noted that he had much more visibility with the cameras than with the Gen-6 rear view mirror.
NASCAR drivers do not necessarily need to see behind them. However, they must be aware of their surroundings. They need to know the position of other cars and whether a car is approaching. There are various ways for taking note of their surroundings, and seeing behind them is just one option.
Drivers have multiple ways of knowing whether a car is fast approaching, or if they have a car high (nearer to the wall), or low (nearer to the apron). Just as you need to be aware of your surroundings on the highway, drivers must know what’s happening around them.
During a race, drivers must also account for more than whether there is a car surrounding or approaching, they must also know the drivers that are behind them. Most racing teams are part of a larger organization. If you hear the term “teammate” to describe two drivers, NASCAR commentators are referring to two or more drivers that race for the same owner.
Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson, who both drive for Rick Hendrick in 2022, are a good example of teammates. When a teammate approaches from the rear, it’s common to see both drivers align with one another to create a draft, augmenting the overall speed of both cars. This allows them to pass opponents easier.
If the approaching car is not a teammate and belongs to a rival organization, a driver may attempt to block the approaching car. Drivers must also account for manufacturers. It is important to know if an opponent driving a car from the same manufacturer is approaching. In NASCAR, three manufacturers exist, and a sense of manufacturer loyalty has developed across multiple organizations.
It’s also important for slower drivers to know what is going on behind them. Every NASCAR driver must always maintain a minimum speed to remain on the track. While each driver wants to win or at least finish the race in a respectable position, unfortunate events can occur throughout a 300-to-500-mile race, which could call for a slower speed.
Suppose a driver wrecked in stage one of a race where his car performed well in practice and in qualifying. His team would work on the car in the garage area to try to get him back onto the track so he could accrue as many points as he can, even at 50 or more laps down.
Since his chances of finishing in the top 30 in such a situation would diminish, he could collect his points by driving the duration of the race at a minimum speed. However, this would mean constantly allowing faster cars to pass.
While a spotter can inform them of an approaching car, they also need to be aware of who is running high and low of their driver. With so many faster cars approaching a car as slow as the one in this situation, he would constantly need to know who is approaching and when to move. Spotters and rear-view mirrors/cameras are therefore essential in NASCAR.
NASCAR cars do not have side mirrors. Their safety regulations prohibit them. However, before the Next-Gen car, drivers were allowed to use side mirrors if they remained within the car. Side mirrors are no longer necessary with the better visibility offered from rear view cameras.
Although new car designs released tend to serve as the status-quo for the next decade, NASCAR will still adjust as needed. One example is the Car of Tomorrow. The Gen-5 design initially contained a raised wing instead of a rear spoiler upon its debut in 2007. By 2010, NASCAR realized the wing decreased downforce, which caused a high number of airborne crashes, and reverted to the spoiler.
NASCAR does use spotters. The spotters act as human side and rear-view mirrors. Standing at high vantage points, a spotter’s job is to inform drivers of their immediate surroundings. They let drivers know about opposing cars approaching quickly from the rear, and if they are riding high or low.
They will also warn their driver about a three-wide, which occurs when three drivers are racing horizontally, with one riding high nearer to the wall, another in the center, and a third riding low, closer to the apron. In rare cases, a four-wide can also occur.
It’s impossible to drive between 150 and 180 miles per hour and simultaneously know what’s happening on each side and behind, and so spotter communication is essential. NASCAR spotters communicate with their drivers via a two-way radio system. This allows them to remain in constant contact throughout the race’s duration.
How Many Spotters Do NASCAR Drivers Have?
Depending on the race, a NASCAR driver can have multiple spotters. For shorter or smaller speedways, it’s common for teams to employ just one spotter since they can see the entire track with ease from their vantage point. For longer races, it is common to have two or three spotters for one driver.
NASCAR cars no longer have rear view mirrors. The Next-Gen cars eliminated the convex rear-view mirrors in favor of rear-view cameras. Along with the cameras, drivers also have spotters for visual assistance. Although some drivers dislike the cameras, they provide a better visual than mirrors did.
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