Why Does NASCAR Use Rolling Starts And Not Standing Starts?

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While standing starts may be preferred in other racing series like Formula 1, NASCAR and other North American racing organizations have moved away from them throughout the decades. NASCAR uses rolling starts and not standing starts for several reasons.

NASCAR uses rolling starts instead of standing starts mainly in the name of safety. Standing starts are notorious for causing first-lap crashes, and such crashes are rare in NASCAR. While some say standing starts are fun to watch, rolling starts can often be just as exciting.

Below, we will discuss the differences between rolling starts and standing starts. We will also talk about the advantages and disadvantages of each, and we will touch on why NASCAR uses rolling starts instead of standing starts in full detail.

Rolling Start vs Standing Start

You may not know this, but there are two types of starts in auto racing: The rolling start and the standing start. Each type of start comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. And it is left up to the racing organization to determine which type of start is best for them.

In simplest terms, rolling starts occur immediately following parade laps before a race, with drivers approaching the start-finish line at a predetermined speed. Once the green flag waves, drivers will accelerate their cars to a competitive racing speed.

Rolling Start

In a rolling start, the pace car leads the cars at a specific speed, often a few miles per hour above the pit road speed limit, for multiple parade laps. The cars do not stop once the drivers fully warm up the tires and brakes.

Once the race is ready to begin, the pace car pulls into the pits. When the pace car drives a safe distance from the competing cars, the grand marshal or a NASCAR official will wave the green flag, which lets cars reach a competitive speed as they cross the start-finish line.

You will see rolling starts occur in many levels of racing, from NASCAR to sports cars, and even touring cars. However, formula cars prefer standing starts for technical reasons.

Standing Start

Standing starts require cars to remain stationary until they are given the go-ahead. After the cars start their engines, a set of lights will signal the drivers to accelerate and begin the race.

Next to the standing start being the preferred method in Formula 1, British and world touring cars also use the standing start. Other organizations known for the standing start include kart racing, drag racing, supercars, and off-road racing.

Standing starts do still have a parade lap, but it’s often called the formation lap. This lets the cars warm up their tires and brakes, just as you see in NASCAR. Once the formation lap ends, the cars line up in the order they qualified and stop.

A marshal waves the green flag, which only signifies that the cars are lined up correctly. Once the green flag waves, the series of lights will systematically go out. Once the final light goes out, the race begins.

Advantages Of Standing Starts

While rolling starts provide adrenaline-pumping anticipation, they are nothing compared to that of standing starts, when the cars line up and the lights count down to commence the race.

Many Formula 1 drivers and fans prefer the standing start over the rolling start. This is because they believe standing starts give cars starting in the middle or in the back of the field an advantage to gain track position faster than with rolling starts, especially into the first corner.

When rolling starts occur, you can almost always expect the leaders to maintain early track position unless in the rare case that someone suffers a blown tire, engine failure, or mechanical failure. With standing starts, anything can happen.

Disadvantages Of The Standing Start

One massive concern regarding the standing start is that it is susceptible to causing crashes on the first lap. With a rolling start, cars are already in motion and collectively working their way to an appropriate speed once the pace car pulls off the track.

Crashes may occur during a rolling start, but they often come if a car experiences mechanical issues, which is rare. Because of the standing start’s affinity for causing early crashes, some organizations like IndyCar do not bother with them.

IndyCar experimented with standing starts in 2013 and 2014. But because of several on-track incidents at the 2014 Grand Prix of Indianapolis, they discontinued them.

Standing starts are also not feasible in inclement weather. Formula 1 often uses a rolling start instead of a standing start if track conditions are not deemed safe enough for a standing start.

Pace Laps May Count

When organizations like Formula 1 are forced to abandon the standing start, their rolling starts are not the same as those you see in NASCAR. Instead, Formula 1 cars will cross the start-finish line and begin the race behind the safety car.

This means the laps start counting even with the pace car on the track, sort of like when NASCAR is running under caution. The cars will also run in single-file when the race starts, unlike in NASCAR, where you primarily see the cars start in rows of two.

Does NASCAR Always Use A Rolling Start?

NASCAR does always use a rolling start, regardless of where the race is taking place. This means NASCAR uses rolling starts both on ovals and on road courses, as standing starts are deemed too dangerous. This is likely to remain the case in the future.

Every time you watch a NASCAR race’s parade laps, you will notice that the cars will never stop and line up as they do in a standing start. You may also notice that they use the same procedure during caution laps, including the lap before they go back to green.

NASCAR also races on a plethora of different tracks, including ovals, tri-ovals, road courses, and even dirt tracks. However, NASCAR has always used rolling starts regardless of the venue.

Will NASCAR Always Use Rolling Starts?

In the 2020s, NASCAR has diversified. You are seeing them add more road courses to the schedule while they completely revamped their cars for 2022 and beyond. NASCAR is talking about going hybrid in the mid-2020s with the possibility of going all-out electric at a later date.

They are also contemplating the idea of a street race in the future. NASCAR will probably try a few more things as the 2020s continue to progress. However, you probably won’t see them use anything other than rolling starts.

Why Does NASCAR Use Rolling Starts?

NASCAR uses rolling starts primarily for safety reasons. Because rolling starts involve cars starting the race from a predetermined speed, there is less chance of big crashes as cars get up to speed, and lower likelihood of cars with mechanical issues getting in the way of faster cars behind.

When you watch the parade laps take place in NASCAR, look carefully at the inside and outside cars. You will notice that they are traveling at the same speeds, and the inside cars, or the odd-numbered cars on the starting grid, cannot pull out in front of the outside cars until the race begins.

The pace car is the primary reason inside cars cannot gain a competitive advantage over those on the outside, as it keeps everyone driving at a predetermined speed limit. This also keeps the pole sitter from gaining too much of an advantage over the driver who qualified second.

NASCAR Wants Excitement, Right?

With the advent of the Next Gen car, NASCAR sought two things: They wanted to make the cars both safer and more competitive with one another.A standing start would definitely add to the competitive nature that NASCAR seeks.

With the Next Gen car, reductions in horsepower plus improved downforce and aerodynamic packages have further helped NASCAR reach its goal of competitive racing throughout the event.

And since standing starts bring a level of unpredictability, you would think NASCAR would at least experiment with them. The truth is, however, NASCAR will never sacrifice safety in favor of more competitive events. However, rolling starts do not need to be boring.

Early Race Strategy

Rolling starts can be as exciting as standing starts if NASCAR teams come into a race with a good strategy. And you can probably recall times when those strategies have immediately catapulted a car toward the front. Or if the strategy backfired, the car lost substantial track position.

With the Next Gen cars designed to be more competitive with one another, driving skills and strategy will make for some interesting starts and restarts moving forward in NASCAR. This is yet another reason NASCAR has not contemplated standing starts.

Are Rolling Starts Safer Than Standing Starts?

Rolling starts are often safer than standing starts, at least in NASCAR oval racing. While rolling starts have caused issues in other sports like Formula 1, rolling starts in NASCAR limit the chances of large crashes as a result of cars traveling at different speeds when the green flag is waved.

In the modern era, NASCAR prides itself on safety above all else. They have been making safety improvements since the old Generation One cars graced the Daytona Beach and Road Course, and the same holds true to this day.

NASCAR loves trying new things, but if the safety aspect of its innovations are not there, they won’t force anything. Since we know standing starts can cause serious crashes on the first lap, it only makes sense that NASCAR utilizes rolling starts in favor of standing starts.

Not that first-lap crashes don’t usually occur in NASCAR. You will see them occur on occasion, but the probability of first-lap crashes, since cars are already in motion and not struggling to get up to speed, is rare.

Other Safety Reasons

Another major reason that rolling starts are safer than standing starts is that standing starts run the risk of stalled cars. Since cars are already in motion with rolling starts, they have a much smaller risk of stalling or suffering from mechanical failure.

Because rolling starts often require more parade laps, if a car stalls or experiences mechanical failure, it is likely to occur before the green flag drops. This allows NASCAR safety crews to remove the car from the track during parade laps and before the cars go racing.

Furthermore, since drivers are already traveling at a reasonable speed during the parade laps, their tires and brakes will remain warm. In a standing start, the tires run the risk of cooling when the cars stop and line up.

When going from zero to 150 mph within seconds and diving into the turns, it can be much harder to control a car whose brakes and tires have cooled, especially on tracks with narrower turns with lesser banking.

Not Always Safe

However, with rolling starts, the first row of cars will set the initial pace for the rest of the field. It only takes one driver to miscalculate the pace for an early wreck to occur on the first lap.

Because NASCAR drivers are so skilled, this is a rare occurrence. But it can happen at any race. This is also rare because the faster cars on each track often qualify in front of other cars unless NASCAR forces them to the back to serve a penalty or to move into a backup car.

Final Thoughts

NASCAR uses rolling starts and not standing starts for safety. Rolling starts keep the brakes and tires warm since the cars travel at a predetermined speed for the duration of their parade laps. Rolling restarts also let the faster cars set the pace for the slower cars that qualified behind them.