NASCAR and F1 cars can reach very different speeds. With differences in race formats, engine components, and car specifications, NASCAR cars and F1 cars require unique setups. With dramatically different setups, you may therefore wonder who is faster in the NASCAR vs F1 speed debate.
F1 cars are faster than NASCAR cars, with F1 cars reaching top speeds above 220 mph, and NASCAR cars rarely going faster than 200 mph. They are faster because F1 cars have a greater power-to-weight ratio, and with more downforce and engine power, they can lap a track much faster than NASCAR cars.
Below, we will dive into deeper detail regarding how an F1 car is faster than a NASCAR car. We will also reveal why an F1 car would defeat a NASCAR car even on an oval in a short race, before elaborating more on why an F1 car is the faster of the two cars.
Is An F1 Car Faster Than A NASCAR Car?
An F1 car is faster than a NASCAR car, and this remains true whether they are racing down straights or through corners. Higher downforce allows F1 cars to go around corners faster than NASCAR cars, and while NASCAR cars may take banked turns at 150+ mph, F1 cars take some corners at 190 mph.
F1 only races on what NASCAR fans would call road courses, and their tracks can have some of the tightest corners in motorsports. So, F1 cars must be built to dive into the narrowest turns as quickly as possible, while regaining speed as they enter a straight stretch. The nature of these turns vary, and they are not as predictable from what you see in NASCAR.
NASCAR races on more road courses now than they ever have in the past. And starting in 2023, they will hold their first street race in Chicago, Illinois. However, NASCAR predominantly races on high-banked oval tracks with usually only slightly varying turning degrees.
NASCAR Cars Could Theoretically Get Faster
There are a few reasons F1 cars beat their NASCAR car counterparts in speed, something we will touch on later. One common question motorsports fans ask is if there is any way a NASCAR car can drive faster than an F1 car. The answer is that it could, though it would take several modifications.
One such modification would come with giving the car more downforce. This added downforce would allow them to zip through the turns faster. Crews would also need to modify the engine to make it more powerful. NASCAR has strict specs on how much horsepower their engines can put out, but if you remove those specs, the added power will add speed to the car.
NASCAR cars would also need to be lighter than their current 3,200 lb (1,452 kg) specification. This would allow them to achieve a higher power-to-weight ratio to match or even exceed that of an F1 car.
KEY FACT: NASCAR cars have a power to weight ratio of about 0.209 hp/lb (0.461 hp/kg). An F1 car’s power to weight ratio is more than double that, at about 0.500 hp/lb (1.100 hp/kg).
Why Not Make The Car Faster?
In the 1980s, NASCAR cars regularly ran over 200 mph (322 kph). While this allowed drivers to set new records on the oval tracks, it also created unnecessary hazards for fans attending these races. This led to serious crashes, but none more severe than when Bobby Allison went airborne and nearly flew through the catch fence at the 1987 Winston 500.
While Allison walked away from the crash, it injured several fans and video from the wreck shows you just how close Allison came to entering the grandstand. This incident forced NASCAR to slow the cars down, specifically at superspeedways with high bankings, like Daytona and Talladega.
NASCAR has since opted not necessarily for faster cars, but more competitive cars to create closer racing. This is why the Next Gen car is not as fast as its predecessors. However, during its debut season in 2022, the racing product lived up to standard, producing 16 different winners.
Since the racing is more competitive, NASCAR doesn’t need faster cars. They only need a product for fans to tune in and attend in an attempt to regenerate interest in a sport that lost a chunk of its fan base over the 2010s and early 2020s.
Circuit Of The Americas: 2021
In 2021, NASCAR and F1 finally raced at a common track: Circuit of the Americas. While the two sanctioning bodies significantly changed their specifications one year later, we at least got to see a comparison in time trials featuring the Generation 6 car and the older, non-ground effect F1 cars. This gave us a firsthand account of just how much faster F1 cars are than their NASCAR counterparts.
2021 numbers for NASCAR showed that the race’s pole sitter, Tyler Reddick, had an average speed of 92 mph (148 kph) on his qualifying run. The race’s average speed clocked in at 59 mph (95 kph). William Byron snagged the highest average speed during practice, running at an average of 78 mph (126 kph).
Contrast this with F1, where the pole sitter, Max Verstappen, had an average pole lap speed of 133 mph (214 kph). The race, which Verstappen won, averaged 122 mph (196 kph), over double the speed of the NASCAR event.
While just one track serves a minute sample size, it gives us a solid idea of what we could expect. With F1 looking to increase its number of events in the US, along with NASCAR’s larger number of road course races (plus a street race from 2023), chances are greater in the 2020s that we may see more tracks hosting both Cup Series and F1 events.
KEY POINTS• F1 cars are much faster than NASCAR cars
• F1 cars may reach top speeds of 220+ mph, while Next Gen NASCAR cars rarely top 200 mph
• NASCAR cars have lower power to weight ratios than their Formula 1 counterparts
Would An F1 Car Beat A NASCAR Car On An Oval?
An F1 car would beat a NASCAR car on an oval, as Formula 1 cars have a much higher power to weight ratio than NASCAR cars. This allows them to reach higher top speeds, and their downforce capabilities allow them to carry much more speed into the corners as well.
NASCAR’s One Advantage On Ovals
There is one catch when pitting a NASCAR car against an F1 car on an oval. Suppose an F1 car met a NASCAR car on an oval track with each car matching their respective sanctioning body’s specifications and they drove for the duration of a full-length NASCAR race. In this case, the NASCAR car would most likely win.
NASCAR cars are designed to run an entire race at essentially full power on most ovals, with minimum braking at higher-banked tracks. Nothing is truer than when they travel to places like Daytona, Atlanta, Talladega, and other fast tracks.
NASCAR drivers rarely change gears, and they also don’t need to speed up and slow down as often as F1 drivers do on normal tracks. Therefore, NASCAR engines are purposefully made to run at or near their fullest for several hours, while F1 cars are not designed to do this. Further, F1 races are substantially shorter than NASCAR races.
While the 2021 COTA events were outliers, most NASCAR races go for at least 300 miles (483 km). F1 races typically run for 190 miles (305 km). And such a long race would make it tough for an F1 car to run the full distance of a NASCAR-sanctioned length at an oval. So, while an F1 car would beat a NASCAR car at an oval in terms of speed, they would likely not win in a distance race.
F1 cars are simply not built for long distance racing. We often see engine failures during F1 races, and this is because they are so sensitive. Pushing the engines hard for hours on an oval would require a complete redesign to allow them to make it to the checkered flag with no issues.
Why Is An F1 Car So Much Faster Than A NASCAR Car?
F1 cars are faster than NASCAR cars because of their high power to weight ratio, powerful engines, and sleek aerodynamic design. They can reach higher top speeds of over 220 mph, and they can carry much more speed into corners with lots of aerodynamic grip from downforce producing components.
Power To Weight Ratio
In the world of auto racing, weight matters a lot. F1 cars must weigh a minimum of 1,759 lbs (798 kg) without fuel, but with the driver and dry-weather tires. NASCAR cars must weigh 3,200 lb (1,452 kg) without the driver, though the actual required minimum weight of the car varies depending on a driver’s actual weight.
So, the first reason an F1 car is faster than a NASCAR car is because it weighs just over half as much as a NASCAR car. Power-to-weight ratio is another difference. Even after the 2022 weight increase, an F1 car’s power-to-weight ratio is about 0.500 hp/lb (1.1 hp/kg) while NASCAR’s Next Gen car’s is about 0.209 hp/lb (0.461 hp/kg) with its highest horsepower package.
The other main reason F1 cars are so fast is because they have incredible amounts of grip. This is especially true in the corners, where their high downforce setups, made up primarily of large front and rear wings along with complex floors to make use of the ground effect, generate immense amounts of downforce.
This pushes the car into the track, giving the drivers incredible amounts of grip in the corners and onto the straights. This allows them to maintain high speeds in the corners (with some being taken at up to 190 mph), and it lets them accelerate rapidly out of the corners too. NASCAR cars simply cannot keep up in this aspect.
KEY POINTS• F1 cars would beat NASCAR cars around a lap of an oval
• However, NASCAR cars would likely win in an endurance race
• F1 cars are so much faster thanks to their high power to weight ratio and downforce components
NASCAR Next Gen Car vs F1 Car: The Main Differences
An incredible number of differences exist between a NASCAR Next Gen car and the latest F1 car. We discussed a few of them, like power-to-weight ratios, the overall weight of each respective car, the types of tracks they race on, and the differences in engine specs.
The Car Bodies
Instantly noticeable differences are that F1 cars have an open cockpit while they are closed in NASCAR. F1 cars are also open-wheel while NASCAR cars are close-wheeled. F1 cars are also designed to produce massive amounts of downforce through over body components, like wings, and through complex floors that make use of the ground effect.
NASCAR cars are much bigger and bulkier than their F1 counterparts, and while they do have spoilers and some other downforce producing components, they are nothing like those on an F1 car.
There are other differences too, with a major difference regarding the engines. NASCAR’s engines require 358 cubic inches (5.9 liters) of output. They are naturally aspirated V8 pushrod engines. F1 engines are 98 cubic inches (1.6 liters). They are V6, turbo hybrid engines featuring overhead camshafts. F1 cars use E10 fuel while NASCAR cars require Green E15 Sunoco Racing Fuel.
The hybrid components of an F1 engine contribute to their massive overall power output. With a big battery, energy harvesting components, and a turbocharger, F1 engines are capable of outputting more than 300 horsepower above what NASCAR engines are able to put out in their most powerful package.
F1 cars are faster than NASCAR cars because they have a higher power-to-weight ratio and they produce much more downforce. NASCAR cars can reach top speeds of about 200 mph, but F1 cars can top 220 mph on long straights. F1 cars can also corner much faster than NASCAR cars.