Motorsports like NASCAR, Formula 1, IndyCar, Rally and others are all considered the “pinnacle” of driving skill and ability of different sorts. Each is different enough to warrant its own unique area of skill, but they all have one axiomatic thing in common — you have to be a damned good driver in order to excel in any of these events.
NASCAR Licensing requirements do not require drivers to hold a state driving license. NASCAR has a set structure to meet before drivers will be considered across all series. These requirements include, being over 16 (18 for Cup drivers), medical tests, car handling tests, demonstrable racing experience and more.
Now, how does one prove themself to be a competent driver if they want to compete in something like NASCAR? If you were to imagine what the most basic requirement would be of any prospective NASCAR driver, what would it be? If you said, “the driver should at least hold a valid state driver’s license” then you answered the same way as countless others would. It may shock you to learn, therefore, that NASCAR drivers do NOT require a valid state driver’s license in order to race. Of course, if they are going to drive on public roads, they need one.
We’ll be taking a deeper dive into the reasons for this in this article, looking at why it is that even this basic driving credential is not required.
Are NASCAR Drivers Licensed?
Yes, they are. Since NASCAR drivers have to be 18 years of age to race full-time (see below for more), we can assume that many of them have also acquired a state driving license, but of course that isn’t a prerequisite for NASCAR driving. Instead, they have to apply for a special dispensation to drive in NASCAR races.
These licenses are issued only by NASCAR headquarters or one of their licensed tracks. It’s not just the drivers who are licensed, either. Everyone on a NASCAR team carries a special license to match the work they do. The idea is to ensure that everyone is adhering to the highest-possible standards at all times.
We’ll cover the details of how NASCAR driver acquire these licenses in another article, but here are some of the important things to know about these NASCAR Licenses:
- They cost more than $2400 each year and must be renewed every year regardless of experience
- They are issued at the end of an application process which sees applicants submit extensive paperwork about their racing experience
- They are not doled out like candy, nor is it a done-deal that you get yours renewed every year, no matter how famous or bedazzled with trophies you are
- For the K&N, ARCA and others the price is less than the nationwide series.
Holding a NASCAR license is as much about fitting a certain profile as it is about driving skill and experience. There are values and traits that they look for nowadays, such as young drivers who still pursue or prioritize educational pursuits alongside their driving. Such things will also dictate the kinds of endorsements and sponsorships you can get.
Who Are the Youngest NASCAR Drivers of All Time?
The lack of a need for a state license would seem to open the sport up to people of all ages? As it happens, there is an age limit of 18 years old for the NASCAR Cup Series, but there are allowances for drivers as young as 16 to take part in NASCAR Trucks, but not full-time and with a slew of other restrictions on track length.
Still, here are some of the youngest NASCAR high achievers:
- Joey Logano (born 1990) – Winner of 2009 Spring Cup Series Rookie of the Year; winner of Meijer 300 nationwide series race at 18 years old; winner of Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at 19 years old.
- Erik Jones (born 1996) – 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year
- Chase Elliott (born 1995) – 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year; 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship at age 19
Another big NASCAR story was that of then 17-year-old Harrison Burton who made a big splash on the NASCAR Trucks scene in 2017, a full year or more before he was qualified to race full-time for NASCAR. After turning 18 in October 2018, however, he joined the NASCAR Cup Series full time where he now drives the No. 21 Ford Mustang for Wood Brothers Racing and just came third in the Daytona Duels is his first time out since the Los Angeles Coliseum Clash. (where he finished 12th) (February 2022)
Do Other Motorsports Require a Driving License?
Yes. It may come as no surprise that all of the pinnacle motorsports require their drivers to hold some kind of related license in order to participate in that sport.
Formula 1 Driving License
Formula 1 drivers get the rather specially named “FIA Super Licence.” That’s not a typo, “licence” is the British/European spelling of license and since the FIA operates primarily in French, that explains that. To get the Super Licence you have to be 18 or over, pass an FIA theory test, hold an existing and valid International Grade A competition license, and finally, perhaps most interestingly, hold a valid driver’s license.
Rally Championship Driving License
Rally drivers get their license either from the American Rally Association (ARA) or the National Auto Sport Association (NASA). The NASA one, for example, costs $49 for the annual membership, and then $85 for the license. There is some paperwork and a medical required. Rally drivers are licensed regionally in the US, either the Western Region or the Eastern Region.
IndyCar Driving License
IndyCar drivers do get licenses, too, but their licensing system is newer than the other sports. The sport previously drew all its candidates from Indy Lights, and also transfers from F1 and NASCAR. Top Indy Lights drivers, as well as F1 and NASCAR drivers can qualify automatically, but other drivers may have to undergo additional training and learning before being allowed to compete in IndyCar.
Read On: How Do NASCAR Drivers Get Licensed?
If you’re wondering how drivers get a NASCAR license, we’ll cover that in more detail in a separate article here. In short, it involves proof of experience, cash fees, and even possibly attendance at NASCAR driving schools. We’ll cover more in our next piece.
So you do not need to hold a valid driving license to drive in NASCAR, at least not one acquired by state registration. However, as with all top end motorsports ( and most other ones as well) there is heavy emphasis on making sure that whoever is put in the car in capable of handling it.
It would not be safe to just have whoever has the biggest cheque book be able to buy a team and race, both for them and for all the other drivers racing against them. So each sport does have its own requirements on who can race in their motorsport. It’s just that the ability or the license to drive to the shops is not usually one of them!