Have you ever wondered what NASCAR drivers do in their cars to make their time on the track more interesting or enjoyable? A race with 500 or more laps can take between 3 or 4 hours to finish. If you’re driving 4 hours on the road, you’re likely going to fill that time with road trip games, music, snacks, bathroom breaks and more.
It is imperative that NASCAR drivers maintain their concentration while racing. The cars are able to reach 200 miles an hour for sustained periods and music is a distraction that could lead to massive consequences. It is also in NASCAR rules for drivers not to be distracted by outside influences during the race.
In This article, we’re taking a particular look at this question of what NASCAR drivers get up to in the car, asking first if they use any of their track time to listen to music. So, do NASCAR drivers don their earphones during a race and have their favorite playlist blasting through their ears as they fly around the track?
The short answer to our core question is no, they do not. NASCAR drivers do have voices in their ears throughout the race, but they are not the voices of rock, pop, R&B or soul, but rather the urgent, professional and advisory tones of their crew and teammates.
When USA Today asked Martin Truex Jr. about this back in 2015, he gave a very clear and stark response. They asked, “If NASCAR allowed you to listen to music while you were racing, would you want to?” Truex replied:
But why is this the case? If drivers are just driving around an oval track what’s wrong with listening to music in the car? Could it really be as distracting for all drivers as Truex describes? Let’s dive a little deeper and explore the main reasons not just why NASCAR drivers don’t listen to music, but why it’s critically important that they don’t.
First and foremost, a NASCAR vehicle is hardly something you’d find on the showroom floor of your local Chevrolet, Ford, or Toyota dealership. While these companies love to talk up the optional multi-speaker premium audio systems that they offer in their street car models, NASCAR vehicles are a different breed altogether.
These are cars that don’t have side-view mirrors, air conditioning, or even horns…is it a good idea to start thinking about getting in touch with Bose or Harman/Kardon about installing a rich stereo system in there with a trunk-mounted subwoofer?
But this is the age of personal electronics, no? Why couldn’t a driver simply keep their iPhone tucked away in a pocket somewhere, pop in their wireless Bluetooth earphones and listen to their favorite playlist? Well, in this sense there’s nothing technical getting in the way, but there are other factors at play, which we will discuss in more detail below.
NASCAR has rules about drivers not being distracted, which covers listening to personal music devices while driving, but perhaps more important is the “unwritten” rule book of NASCAR.
It’s an unwritten rule in any NASCAR race that you maintain your full concentration so that you don’t cause any incident that could potentially harm yourself or other drivers on the road. Therefore, not listening to music isn’t just about keeping your focus in place for your own safety, but for that of the 39+ other racers who are on the track with you.
Every part of the NASCAR vehicle is built with a critical function either for mobility or safety. The driver’s key senses also have their function, and their ears and sense of hearing is strictly for use in communicating with their team. NASCAR drivers and their teams use two-way radios to maintain lines of communication while the race is happening. Having total clarity in that communication is beyond important.
For instance, what if the spotters on your team have noticed a significant risk in the track ahead that you won’t have seen yet, but you’re now speeding towards at 200-mph? They need to communicate that to the driver and the driver needs to receive and understand it immediately so they can modify their course or other behavior accordingly.
There might be debris on the track after a crash, or another driver might be creeping up on them…whatever it is, hearing without any distraction is essential.
Finally, racing in NASCAR requires the driver to be aware of everything happening in their car at all times. They need to feel every vibration, sense every pound-foot of torque, detect every change in speed, and also keep their ears open for audio signals that the car might have something wrong with it.
All of this requires Jedi-like concentration, which means that the distraction of song lyrics, no matter how inspirational, is not acceptable.
When you’re guiding a NASCAR vehicle at around 200-mph around a track with 39 other people clamoring to get ahead of you, there’s no room for even a second or two of error. The driver is thus fully and totally connected to their car. That bond can’t be interrupted by something like music. The only outside sounds that are welcome are those of the voices of the pit crew and fellow teammates.
NASCAR Racing, like other forms of high speed motor racing, requires lightning reflexes and great concentration. There are rules in place to prevent drivers from being distracted while they race around the track at speeds approaching 200 miles an hour.
One of these distractions would certainly be Music, and as we quoted Martin Truex Junior above, music creates a disconnect between the driver and the car, the sounds of the car are often a great indicator of current or potential problems. So while you may have music blasting out while you drive down the highway, it really is inadvisable to do the same if you drive a NASCAR!