How Fast Can An Unrestricted NASCAR Go?

Not much comes significantly close to the excitement of watching NASCARs speeding their way around a banked oval. The speeds that the race cars achieve still amaze me to this day. But how fast can an unrestricted NASCAR go?

The fastest speed in a NASCAR was accomplished in 2018 at the Bonneville Salt Flats. A lightly modified, unrestricted Dodge Cup car reached an average of 271.845 mph. The fastest speed during a NASCAR event was done in 1987 when Bill Elliot reached 212.808 mph during his qualifying run.

Read on to discover which NASCAR holds the fastest speed record, how fast the new GEN-7 race car is, and the future development of this fantastic sport.

Why Are NASCARs Restricted?

The objective of NASCAR is to complete the selected distance in laps in the shortest amount of time. This sounds like a very easy feat to accomplish, but there are a few variables. Some examples of these are the amount of downforce, engine power, driver ability, and the most significant factor is the tires.

The biggest restriction in NASCAR is the race tire and how much force it can handle before disintegrating and causing a crash. The Goodyear tires are rated for speeds in excess of 200mph, but this is when the tire is brand new with no wear and tear on it.

NASCAR applied most of the restrictions, such as restrictor plates, to prevent the race cars from exceeding the 200mph mark purely for the safety of the drivers and the spectators. Many high-speed accidents were caused by a tire blowing out at high speed and sending the car hurtling into the catch fence.

 An example of one such crash was in 1987 and the Winston 500 involving Bobby Allison.

nascar crashes how often
How fast will a unrestricted NASCAR go

The Fastest NASCAR In History

The fasted ever recorded speed in a NASCAR is held by legendary driver Bill Elliot. In 1987, Elliot pushed his number 9 race car to a very impressive 212.808 mph during a qualifying run at the Talladega Superspeedway.

To achieve the high speeds at Talladega, the teams were all adjusting the aerodynamics of their cars. Some teams would bend the spoilers or even remove them to gain a mile or two of extra speed. Many drivers would have their cars set so loose that they were on the brink of being un-drivable.

Back in the 80s, it was all about trial and error, and Bill Elliot got the car’s setting right and did not lift his right foot off the go-fast pedal.  

We have an infographic that has NASCAR speeds in a bite size format. Clicking on the image will make it bigger.

How fast is NASCAR infographic

The Fastest NASCAR At Bonneville

The fastest speed recorded by a NASCAR at the Bonneville Salt Flats was accomplished in 2018 by a retired Dodge Cup car. The Race car was driven by former ARCA champion Bob Keselowski, who averaged a speed of 271.845 mph over both runs. The race car did not require many upgrades to reach these speeds.

The car received a new rear axil with a slightly higher ratio, a more prominent rear spoiler, and Goodyear land speed tires. The engine was an unrestricted 358 cubic inch V8 with around 800 horsepower. The brakes on the car remained unchanged, but a parachute was installed and used to slow the car down after each 5-mile run.

how fast is an unrestricted nascar
Bonneville Salt flats

How Fast Does The New Gen NASCAR go?

The new Gen-7 NASCAR may have some new features and technology. However, the power is still similar to the previous season’s cars, with around 670 and 550 horsepower. A top speed of 175.718 was achieved by Aric Almirola in the new Gen-7 NASCAR.

The new Gen-7 NASCAR has larger wheels than the older generation, a newly designed aerodynamic package, and independent suspension. All of this assists in making the car more drivable at speed and allows for closer racing. But the restrictor plate that reduces the engine’s power will not allow the new cars to match the speed of previous years.

Will NASCAR Become Faster In The Future?

NASCAR is in the same downwards spiral as the rest of the motor racing world regarding fossil fuels. Formula 1 made the change to enter the Hybrid era back in 2014 in a bid to lower its carbon footprint.

The fans did not see this as a positive point as the engine capacity was reduced, and the sound was similar to a hatchback. But over the last eight years, the F1 cars are almost on par with the old V8 power units.

Unfortunately, there have been talks in NASCAR about manufacturers that may bring a Hybrid engine to the sport. And if this is to be the future of NASCAR, then the current speeds will only be in the history books. But this will only be the situation if the engine capacity is reduced.

Suppose NASCAR was to introduce a hybrid system and keep the powerful V8 or charged V6. In that case, we might see some race cars exceeding 1000 horsepower with even higher torque numbers. In this case, yes, the speed records around the Superspeedways will fall like dominos!

Even though it will be great to see track records change hands on a race-by-race basis, the safety factor will always be the priority. This is with good reason, as cars reach high speeds, so does the danger and risk of fatal injuries.

So the future of NASCAR (for the moment at least) may have lower speeds than before, but the new Gen-7 race cars will be around for a few more years.

Nashville superspeedway
how fast is an unrestricted nascar

We have an article that argues the commonly heard statement about NASCAR speeds here on the site, which states that NASCARs are not all the same speed and we also look at how NASCAR tracks impact the Speed of NASCAR race cars.


The fastest speed recorded by a NASCAR was in 1987 when Bill Elliot reached 212.808 mph while qualifying at the Talladega Superspeedway. At the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2018, Bob Keselowski pushed his slightly modified Dodge Cup car to a staggering 271.845 mph to claim the record.

The New Gen-7 NASCAR has only reached slightly over 170 mph speeds, but this may change in the future. There are still many restrictions placed on the race cars to keep them from exceeding the 200 mph mark. This is purely for the safety of the drivers and spectators alike. But even with all the restrictions, NASCAR is still a thrill a minute motorsport for the brave. 


Recent Posts