When you look at a NASCAR car, you may notice something strange. They don’t appear to have doors. Although there are plenty of differences between NASCAR cars and their production line counterparts, you may want an explanation for the supposed lack of doors on NASCAR cars.
NASCAR cars do not have doors. The reason behind this is that, during a wreck, a door could fly open and expose the driver, even if they are bolted or welded shut. Cars do have open windows, which serves as a safety feature to provide both air circulation and a fast exit in the event of a crash.
Below, we will reveal why NASCAR cars don’t have doors and if doors ever appeared on cars throughout the sport’s history. We will also discuss the reasoning behind their open windows on the driver’s side, plus their installed safety netting, and other safety features they serve.
NASCAR cars do not have doors. The drivers are safer in the event of a crash without them as they can fly open, exposing the driver. The first generation of NASCAR cars were strictly stock and had doors, thought they had to be shut at all times. There haven’t been doors on NASCAR cars since 1967.
When NASCAR started out as Strictly Stock in 1949, drivers were not allowed to modify the body of the cars in any way, shape or form unless NASCAR mandated otherwise. Therefore, the early cars had doors, many even have the door handles intact. The drivers were to keep them shut at all times. The Generation 1 Cars lasted until 1966.
When NASCAR upgraded to their Generation 2 design (1967 to 1980), they favored a one-body design. This further augmented safety in the sport since, although the Generation 1 drivers fused their doors shut, one small malfunction could result in the doors flying open.
This move further augmented the sport’s safety since it allowed builders to install better roll cages, which further protects the driver during a crash. But doors are not the only production line features missing from cars in NASCAR from Generation 2-onward. Below are two more missing features.
Doors aren’t the only production line vehicle feature missing from NASCAR cars. They also don’t have side view mirrors. While you may think on the surface that it is safer to install these mirrors, it is actually counterproductive.
Not only do side view mirrors hang outside of a car, which would make them prone to shattering if they run into another car or into the SAFER Barrier, but they could also distract the driver.
When driving at high speeds, drivers must constantly pay attention to what is in front of them. While they have a rearview camera, drivers use spotters to tell them if a car is approaching from the sides and even behind, which negates the need for side view mirrors.
Lights are another production car feature that we use for safety on the road that would be a hindrance in NASCAR. The problem with headlights and brake lights is the fact they too would shatter upon impact and cause unnecessary debris to accumulate on the track.
You may argue that the addition of brake lights would at least let drivers know when opponents are braking into a turn. But the truth is that drivers have such a good feel for the track they and their 35-plus opponents don’t need to know when other cars are braking.
Even if a wreck occurs in front of them, drivers only need to listen to their spotters to tell them when to brake, when to accelerate, and where to go. With a spotter directing and telling them what cars ahead may be doing, it further negates the need for brake lights.
As for the lack of headlights, tracks are lit well enough that drivers don’t need them. The headlights and brake lights you see on the cars are stickers that lets them further resemble their production line counterparts.
NASCAR car doors don’t open to increase the safety of the driver in the event of a crash. Even when the cars had doors they were welded shut. It is much safer to allow the driver climb out the window than risk a door flying open. It also allows better roll cages to be installed in the cars.
You may believe the lack of doors could be a massive safety concern. However, it is just the opposite. NASCAR has become a champion of safety in the 21st century. But you may not realize that the organization has constantly updated safety mandates since they started as Strictly Stock in 1949.
Early in the sport’s history, NASCAR required drivers to bolt or weld doors shut in the name of safety. So, since their early days, drivers traditionally climbed in and out of their cars. Another early safety procedure called for drivers to install weighted axles to help prevent rollovers. They also required drivers to wear seat belts.
There is something about NASCAR cars you may find ironic. They have open windows on the driver’s side, which to the new fan, may look like a massive safety concern. If you saw tape from the 1970 Darlington Race, you probably saw Richard Petty’s horrifying crash in which his head smacked the asphalt multiple times.
In 1964, Joe Weatherly died at Riverside International Raceway because of head injuries he suffered during a wreck as a result of the open window. This, along with Petty’s wreck, caused NASCAR to mandate window netting for the 1971 season.
With the clear dangers associated with open windows, you may ask whether the netting is enough. The truth is, there are more advantages than disadvantages of having open windows, although the netting has held up well since NASCAR mandated it.
NASCAR cars can reach temperatures up to 40 degrees higher than the ambient temperature during the event. If it is 80 degrees outside, it will be 120 degrees Fahrenheit inside the car. For a 3-5 hour event, that can be a blistering experience for a driver.
The open window helps circulate air. So, while in Petty’s case above, it was unfortunate to see him sustain a head injury during his Darlington crash, NASCAR knew early that drivers would routinely overheat because the car temperature would grow even more extreme.
You probably heard of athletes of all sports suffering heat-related illnesses that even included heat stroke, whose symptoms can be fatal. While drivers will still overheat, suffer heat cramps, and in rare cases, heat exhaustion, the open window helps lessen the risk for heat-related illness.
Drivers further prevent themselves from suffering heat-related illnesses by drinking plenty of fluids. This helps them regain water weight lost through sweat, which keeps them focused on the race. Fluids also help reduce the onset of heat cramps, overall helping NASCAR drivers stay cool.
The incidents involving Weatherly and Petty in 1964 and 1970 are outliers compared to the safety benefits that open windows provide. Almost every race involves multiple wrecks, and some appear to be more serious than others.
Open windows let drivers make quick exits if they need to. If you follow NASCAR, you probably noted several instances where crashes set cars ablaze. And while NASCAR drivers wear fire retardant suits, it only gives them another minute at best to escape a burning car.
Suppose NASCAR had doors on their cars. This could make it far more challenging for drivers to escape a burning vehicle. If a crash busted their driver’s side fender, those doors are not opening. And if there was no way to open the window, safety crews would have to race to rescue the driver.
Finally, open windows also let safety crews know a driver is okay to walk away from a crash. When a wreck occurs, the driver often takes down the netting before anything else. If the netting does not come down, the driver may be seriously injured.
The Next Gen Car further keeps the driver safe by placing them closer to the center of the vehicle than the far left. As of 2022, it would be virtually impossible for a driver to suffer a severe head injury because of the open window, even if the netting were to malfunction.
The Next Gen design also placed the cockpit closer to the center because it further allowed drivers to remain safe in the event of another car T-boning the driver’s side. Complete with a HANS device mandated since 2002, plus an advanced restraint system, open windows already posed little threat to injure a driver long before NASCAR unveiled the Next Gen car.
NASCAR cars do not have doors because it negates the threat of doors flying open and drivers being exposed during a wreck. They have open windows on the driver’s side, which may look dangerous. However, this is a safety feature that helps drivers escape a mangled or burning car faster.
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