NASCAR has had its fair share of critics over the years. The most damning verdict is that it’s stock cars on steroids turning left 300 times per race. Now, any NASCAR fan will argue that NASCAR is a sport much more intricate than what the internet tries to make it out to be and we can price that NASCAR cars can turn right!
NASCAR cars, like any other racing car, can turn right. Watch a race on road course tracks like Watkins Glen and Sonoma Raceway to see for yourself. NASCAR cars turn right when countering oversteering, exiting the pits, and avoiding accidents, even if most races only feature left-hand turns.
In 1905, August Belmont Jr opened Belmont Park to host races. Belmont was an anglophile at heart and ran races clockwise like the British. Americans, rebellious by nature, were having none of it and protested until he changed it to the “American” counterclockwise way of racing. Many years later, we see more right-handed turns in NASCAR, especially on road course tracks.
Can NASCAR Cars Turn Right?
NASCAR cars can turn right, right? You bet they can. We all know that NASCAR cars are excellent at turning left, but we hardly see them make right-hand turns due to the anti-clockwise nature of oval track racing in the United States.
Like any other racing car, NASCAR cars can turn both ways. The upcoming Bank of America Roval 400, held at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 9, 2022, features right-hand turns in the infield road course that connects with the 1.5-mile oval.
Pay close attention to your favorite driver the next time you watch an oval track NASCAR race. You will see him turn right when exiting the pit box, avoiding a crash, or responding to some good old oversteer.
Most Oval Race Tracks Are Left Turns
The other reason that some NASCAR “fans” go on about the sport being “boring,” races consisting of guys “turning left” until it puts you to sleep, and such noise is that the racing tracks NASCAR races take place on are mostly oval in design.
In days gone by, NASCAR races were held on various surfaces, including dirt tracks, asphalt, and get this, sandy beaches. Today, NASCAR races take place on state-of-the-art asphalt or concrete tracks. Most tracks suitable for hosting a NASCAR race are short-track ovals, superspeedways, and a few road races.
According to NASCAR, 26 tracks will be used to cover the 38-race season. The Charlotte Motor Speedway and Charlotte Roval count as two tracks. Out of the 26 tracks, only 4 are classified as road course tracks, with 2 being a combination of oval and road.
As you can see, most racing will take place on oval race tracks, which, if you think about it, stock cars driving around ovals is what NASCAR is all about.
Why Are Ovals Tracks Left Turns Instead Of Right?
There are a few theories about why NASCAR races on oval tracks feature left instead of right turns. Let’s take a sharp right and discuss these quick:
Blame The British
According to NASCAR historian Buz Mckim, “It’s because horses ran clockwise in England.” In what can only be described as Americans rebelling against the British way of doing things, horse racing back in the day was run counterclockwise as opposed to the clockwise races that the British enjoyed so much.
When America broke away from British rule, they kept the anti-clockwise way of racing as their own, and when the first auto car races took place in the early 19th century, the tradition stuck, seeing that these pioneering races were held on horse race tracks.
It’s Safer To Turn Left Than Right
Another reason for left-turn dominant races relates to a NASCAR driver’s safety. Drivers are seated on the left-hand side of the racing car, and turning left ensures that the driver is the farthest from the wall should a crash occur.
How Many Road Courses In NASCAR?
According to NASCAR, 26 tracks are currently used for the NASCAR Cup Series. The Charlotte Roval and Charlotte Motor Speedway count as two separate tracks. Out of these 26 tracks, the following tracks are considered Road course tracks:
- Circuit of The Americas
- Road America
- Watkins Glen
- Sonoma Raceway
- Charlotte Roval
- Indianapolis Road Course
Want to see a NASCAR car make a right-hand turn? Road courses feature right turns and scenery, and in the case of the Charlotte Roval and Indianapolis Road Course, a combination of the traditional oval track combined with a road course. Make sure to attend a race on one of these tracks to witness the infamous right turn.
Is The Car Set Up Changed When Racing Oval Vs. Road Races?
The right side of a NASCAR car is set up with a negative camber for both road and oval courses. The left side has multiple racing options, and when the car is set up to turn left and right, most changes will be on the left front corner of the car.
The most noticeable and visible distinction between road course racing and oval racing is the wheels’ camber. When inspecting the car from the front, the camber is the wheel’s angle in relation to the vehicle. When the wheels lean inward, it’s referred to as negative camber.
When wheels are leaning outward, the camber is positive. On oval tracks, you will find positive camber on the left and negative camber on the right side of the car. On road courses, you will find that the configuration will be negative camber on both sides.
The suspension is modified for each track by using the unique Ackermann bracket, which bolts up to the top of it, and by way of a unique control arm shear plate that gets bolted up to the bottom. By fitting these components on the upright, teams can use different toe links and control arm combos depending on the track.
The control arms and toe links will differ from left to right when setting up for an oval race. The same parts will be used on both sides when setting up the car for a road course track.
On road course tracks, you can expect the setup to change concerning expected wet weather conditions. Teams are allowed to add the following wet weather equipment:
- Rain Lights
- Windshield Wipers
- Rain Flaps
The driver’s cooling duct on the windscreen must be removed or blocked when a wet weather declaration is issued to ensure no water gets into the driver’s cabin. Teams are also required to install a windshield wiper motor for road course races; teams are allowed to pick any wiper blade, limited to:
- 2.5” (Height)
- 1.5” (Width)
The transmission’s gear ratios will vary between a road and oval course, suspension settings will differ, and teams will modify steering and shock settings. On ovals, the cars are set up with stagger (asymmetrical) to be faster on left turns, whereas the setup for a road course will be more balanced.
A NASCAR race car is set up differently for each race as no race track is identical. A setup on Daytona International Speedway will not work on Watkins Glen. The setup of a race car, according to track conditions, is a crucial element of motor racing.
A great driver can compensate for a poor car setup on a road course race, but for a left-turning oval track, the car will have to be set up perfectly to be competitive. And this intricate balancing act of fine margins makes NASCAR worth watching, even when it’s 300 left-hand turns.
Is Steering Right More Difficult?
With most of the American population being right-handed, including NASCAR drivers, making left-hand turns are more “comfortable” as the right side is dominant regarding steering to the left. When a right-hander turns right, the slower and weaker left side dominates the movement, which to a degree makes right turns “more difficult” and vice versa for lefties.
NASCAR cars can be set up to turn both ways, for instance, when they race on a road course. The rest of the time, when racing on ovals, they are set up for left turns predominantly. The racing car can still turn right when set up for left turns. Right!