The most popular motorsport in America? No question – it’s NASCAR. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing is not so much a sport as a way of life for some of it’s fans, with 75 million making up the crowds for the many NASCAR race series. Starting from humble beginnings on the sands of Daytona beach in the early 1920s, the original stock car races involved drives battling down a lane of tarmac before turning, charging down the sands of the beach itself and completing the circuit. Drivers would turn up to the events in their own cars, race them and then drive them home again. Nearly 100 years later and although NASCAR might be a multi-billion dollar organisation, the principles are still the same – powerful cars that are designed to look like something you could buy from the showroom charging around giant ovals driven by local heroes.
The very top level of NASCAR racing is the Sprint Cup Series where drivers compete over 36 races, run mainly on oval tracks across America. After the first 26 races, the top twelve drivers are put into a separate group to race for the overall championship – this is known as The Chase For The Championship. Sprint Cup series cars have incredibly powerful engines and are capable of reaching speeds of 200mph, but are heavy and bulky so don’t handle particularly well. It requires a great deal of skill to drive these cars flat out over tight banked courses, especially as the large grids of cars run very closely together. Modern NASCARs are designed to be almost identical so that the results come from the skill of the driver and the team rather than a mechanical advantage. Combine all of these factors and the races can be very exciting, with lots of different drivers having their chance to lead the race and cars being overtaken by ‘trains’ of cars (packs of high speed cars running bumper to bumper in a long line, meaning a driver can go from 2nd place to 14th place in a matter of seconds). When crashes happen, they can be huge as there is often very little room for the drivers to avoid spinning cars
2012′s Sprint Cup Champion was Brad Keselowski in the blue and yellow number 2 car, but you can paint your NASCAR any bright colours you want. Have fun!