How Loud are IndyCar Races?

IndyCar enthusiasts frequently cite the rush of adrenaline, close battles, high speeds, and inherent risks as major draws to the sport. However, for many, the powerful roar of the engines as they zoom around the track in pursuit of the checkered flag is just as important

Noise levels at IndyCar races can reach up to 130 Decibels if you’re close to the track or in the pit lane. This is comparable to the roar of a NASCAR race and louder than some other motorsports, similar in volume to a chainsaw in full throttle.

While the powerful sounds can be thrilling, they also raise concerns. Just how loud are IndyCar races? What do the pit crews and spectators experience in terms of noise levels? These are questions we aim to address in this article.

how loud are Indycar races
Editorial credit: Grindstone Media Group /

Noise Levels at IndyCar Races

Research indicates that noise levels at IndyCar events can exceed what is typically deemed safe in occupational environments. Prolonged exposure to such noise levels can lead to hearing loss, tinnitus, and other related auditory issues, not just for the staff and teams but for fans as well.

When an IndyCar is revved to its maximum in the pit lane, it can produce up to 130 dB. In comparison, fans seated around the track might experience levels up to 100 dB. For perspective, 130 dB is akin to a chainsaw, while 100 dB matches the volume of a lawnmower.

Despite being surrounded by various noises daily, it’s crucial to realize the potential harm of these sound levels and take precautions if necessary.

According to OSHA, the average individual can tolerate about 90 dB for a continuous 8 hours. That’s the typical noise level of a bustling city street. As the volume increases, the safe exposure duration reduces dramatically. For instance, at 115 dB (a midpoint for IndyCar on the track and in the pit), potential harm can occur after just 15 minutes of exposure.

Just before we continue we have a whole page to some of the Ear protection options open to you from expensive to cost effective and for adults to kids here on the site. These will cover both NASCAR and IndyCar as the noise levels are similar.

Noise Exposure Standards: NIOSH vs. OSHA

NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)

The NIOSH standards are more conservative and are based on the idea that individuals should not be exposed to average noise levels above 85 dB over an 8-hour period without hearing protection. The key principle guiding these recommendations is the 3-dB exchange rate, meaning for every 3 dB increase in noise, the allowable exposure time is halved.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)

OSHA standards, on the other hand, permit exposures to 90 dB for up to 8 hours. They utilize a 5-dB exchange rate, so for every 5 dB increase in noise, the permissible exposure duration is cut in half.

Comparison Table: Noise Levels and Comparable Sounds

Decibel Level (dB)NIOSH Maximum ExposureOSHA Maximum ExposureComparable Sound
858 hoursN/ABusy city traffic
884 hoursN/ASubway
902 hours8 hoursLawnmower
931 hourN/AMotorcycle at 25 ft
9530 minutes4 hoursLoud musical concert
10015 minutes2 hoursSubway train passing by at close distance
1055 minutes1 hourJackhammer at 3 ft
110Less than 2 minutes30 minutesLive rock concert close up
115Less than 1 minute15 minutesThreshold of pain

Note: IndyCar races can produce sound levels that exceed 130 dB, especially close to the track. This level can cause immediate harm to the ears, and it’s imperative to use hearing protection.

how loud are indycar races

Why Are IndyCar Races So Loud?

One primary reason for the intense noise levels in IndyCar racing is the design and power of the engines. These vehicles are crafted for performance, with every component optimized for speed and agility. Unlike some regular cars, the emphasis isn’t on minimizing noise but maximizing power and efficiency, and with great power comes great responsibility noise

We go into more detail in the list below.

Factors that make IndyCar Races Really Loud!

The sheer volume of an IndyCar race is primarily due to the design and mechanics of the cars themselves. Here’s a breakdown:

  1. Engine Design: IndyCars are powered by 2.2-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engines. These engines are specifically designed for performance and speed, not for quiet operation. As they rev up to their maximum RPM, they produce a tremendous amount of noise.
  2. No Mufflers: Similar to NASCAR, IndyCars do not use mufflers. Mufflers in most road cars are designed to reduce the noise of the exhaust. Without them, the sound from the exhaust is direct and loud.
  3. Aerodynamics and Airflow: The design of an IndyCar, with its open-wheel configuration, allows for significant airflow around the car. This airflow, combined with the speed of the car, creates additional noise. Air rushing over wings, through air intakes, and around tires can contribute significantly to the overall sound profile.
  4. Track Acoustics: The venues where IndyCar races take place, whether they’re street circuits, road courses, or ovals, can amplify the sound. Buildings, grandstands, and other structures can reflect and concentrate the noise, making it even louder for spectators.
  5. Pack Racing: IndyCar races often feature close pack racing, especially on ovals. When multiple cars are running close together, the combined noise of several engines and the aerodynamic interactions can elevate the sound levels considerably.
  6. High Speeds: IndyCars reach speeds of over 230 mph on some tracks. At these high speeds, every part of the car, from the engine to the tires, contributes to the noise. The sheer velocity of the car can lead to a higher pitch and volume of sound.

So while the loudness of an IndyCar race is a product of many contributing factors, it’s primarily the result of performance-oriented design choices and the nature of the sport itself.

The combination of powerful engines, lack of noise-reducing components, aerodynamic designs, and the environment in which these cars race all culminate in the thrilling, and loud, spectacle that is IndyCar racing.

ear protection for nascar

Is IndyCar Louder Than Other Motorsports?

IndyCar races can indeed be loud, with pit lane noise levels reaching up to 130 dB. Here’s how some other motorsports compare: We also include this table in our how loud is NASCAR article.

  • IndyCar: 130 Decibels (dB)
  • NASCAR: 130 Decibels (dB)
  • Drag Racing: 150 Decibels (dB)
  • Formula 1: 130-145 Decibels (dB)
  • Rally: 99-109 Decibels (close to the track) 96 to 104 150 ft away
  • MotoGP: 115 Decibels (dB)

Will IndyCar Look to Reduce the Noise Levels?

Over time, there have been discussions about potentially decreasing the noise levels in IndyCar and other motorsports. Arguments for the reduction revolve around the health benefits, such as reducing the risk of hearing damage for both drivers and enhancing the spectator experience.

A 10-dB decrease would make the environment around the drivers roughly 104-dB, akin to most sirens or loud shouting.

In spectator areas, it might lower the noise to around 86-dB, similar to a crowded restaurant. A 10-dB reduction signifies a tenfold decrease in sound intensity.

What Do People Do for Protection?

For those attending IndyCar races or working around them, ear protection is vital. In the past, industry professionals, like safety coordinators, have recommended using foam earplugs and sometimes over-the-ear headphones for maximum protection.

Given the extended duration of some IndyCar races, ensuring adequate ear protection is crucial and we have articles on this ear protection for IndyCar races here on the site.

Future of Motorsports Sound:

The roar of combustion engines might soon be a nostalgic memory. As electric racing series like Formula E gain traction, the landscape of motorsports is changing. These races hum rather than roar, introducing a novel auditory experience for fans.

While some purists yearn for the familiar engine growls, many welcome this quieter evolution, appreciating the technological prowess behind it.

As the world shifts towards sustainable energy, it’s plausible that motorsports’ future might be more about the whir of electric engines than the deafening blast of petrol ones.


IndyCar races, with their intense noise levels comparable to chainsaws, undeniably necessitate protective measures for everyone involved, from drivers and pit crews to journalists and safety personnel.

The sounds of the race, alongside the sights and scents of the track, create an immersive experience. though there might be some chance these are short lived, so Enjoy it while it lasts!

For more details on ear protection during IndyCar races, please refer to our dedicated article.


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