Can You Switch Cars In NASCAR? (Rules Explained)

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NASCAR is a sport where crashing is inevitable. Because of the high speeds, perpetually changing track conditions, and lack of familiarity at a specific track, wrecks can also occur during practice. Knowing this, you may wonder if it is legal to switch cars in NASCAR. 

You can switch cars in NASCAR, but only before a race. NASCAR prohibits drivers from switching cars during an event. So, if a driver wrecks or something happens to their car during a race, their crew has 10 minutes to repair the car. If repairs cannot be made, the driver is out of the race. 

Below, we will dive into more detail on why you can’t switch cars during a NASCAR race. We will also reveal whether NASCAR teams can change drivers during an event, if NASAR requires the drivers to use the same car for each event, and we will elaborate on the rules regarding backup cars. 

Can You Switch Cars During A NASCAR Race?

NASCAR is a sanctioning body with stringent rules and breaking them will lead to harsh fines and penalties. Most teams will bring two cars to a race, and they must use just one of those cars if they wish to avoid penalties. However, accidents can occur in practice, and they can happen in qualifying, which may require a car switch for the race. 

Any type of car switching must occur before the race, meaning teams are unable to switch cars during a race. This is why you don’t see teams revert to a backup car if their driver totals the first one early in the race. In the event of an accident, NASCAR gives the teams 10 minutes to repair the car. 

If they cannot repair it in that allotted time frame, their driver is out of the race. The 10-minute rule is a relatively new one put in place in August 2022. Before that, NASCAR allowed teams just a six-minute time slot to repair a car and return it to the track.

Can NASCAR Teams Swap Drivers Mid Race?

NASCAR teams can swap drivers mid race, but 2 drivers on the same team may not swap rides. So, you will never see 2 drivers from Hendrick Motorsports pull into pit road and swap, though one individual team may swap out a driver for another if they choose. 

In the latter case, a driver will pull down pit road and a substitute driver that did not start the race may enter the car and complete the race for the driver who started the race. This often occurs if the primary driver has some type of ailment like an injury or illness, but they are still well enough to climb into the car and start the race. 

The primary driver must start the race to receive full credit for the points. If they are unable to start the race for any reason and the substitute starts and finishes the race, the latter gets credited with the start unless NASCAR grants them a waiver. However, this is a rare occurrence. 

Do NASCAR Drivers Use The Same Car Every Race?

NASCAR drivers do not use the same car for every race, as different tracks require different versions of the Next Gen car to be used. Drivers may also use different cars at different events if they are involved in a wreck that renders one car unusable.

When the sanctioning body rolled out the Next Gen car, they offered two different packages with the engine and spoiler. At most intermediate tracks, short tracks, and road courses, drivers use a four inch (10 centimeter) spoiler, and engines targeting 670 horsepower. 

At superspeedways and Atlanta, drivers use a horsepower package of just 510 with seven inch (18 centimeter) spoilers. Cars also need a unique setup between races, depending on the kind of track they are racing at. 

Car components also wear down quickly on NASCAR cars, and teams must continually replace them. Wrecks are a natural part of NASCAR, and drivers are not immune to them regardless of how defensive they may be on the track. If a driver totals their car, teams will salvage what they can from the wrecked car, and sometimes they’ll need to make use of a backup car.


• NASCAR drivers can’t swap cars during a race

• Teams can swap their drivers during a race under certain circumstances

• Drivers will often not use the same car at different events

Do NASCAR Teams Have Backup Cars?

NASCAR teams do have backup cars, but ideally, they will not need to switch to them. This is because if a driver wrecks their primary car in practice and their team cannot repair it for the race, they must start the race at the rear regardless of where they qualified. 

For some drivers, this is not an issue. Suppose a driver wrecked their primary car during practice at a road course. If that driver runs their absolute best on road courses, they will most likely work their way through the field quickly. If a driver is not as well-versed at a specific track, starting from the rear may cost them the race before the green flag drops. 

While rare in today’s NASCAR landscape, some teams can’t afford backup cars. With the chartered system in place, nearly every team can, but the newer teams without charters may only have one car available due to limited funds, meaning their driver must protect the car in practice and qualifying if they wish to secure a starting spot for the race.

Final Thoughts

You can switch cars in NASCAR, but that switch must come before the race begins. Although it is legal to switch into a backup car before a race, drivers must pay a penalty by starting at the back. Sometimes, teams will swap their drivers mid-race if the primary driver has an issue.