A Nascar event overwhelms the senses, from the entertainment, the crowds of people, the noise of the commentators, the sound of the powerful engines as the cars achieve average speeds of more than 320 km/h (200 mph) around the oval circuit is something that lives with you forever.The raw power a NASCAR engine produces has been attracting fans, young and old, for decades.
NASCAR Engines can produce upwards of 900 horsepower. However, in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series at all but two road and oval tracks, Daytona, and Talladega, the engine is restricted to producing 670 Horsepower. These two tracks are limited to 510 horsepower. Prior to 2022 this was 750 and 550 horsepower respectively.
In this article we take a long look at whats under the hood of a NASCAR, and how powerful these cars really are, especially as we move into generation 7 of NASCAR and into the future.
How Much Horsepower Does a NASCAR Engine Have?
NASCAR Engines do change, but much less frequently than other motorsports, The current model was introduced in 2012. Formula 1 teams, the successful ones anyway, change their engine almost yearly. NASCAR has strict requirements surrounding its engines and has had since the 1960s. (see below for requirements)
The best way to judge how powerful an engine is is to look at its horsepower. However, although important, it is not the only factor to look at when determining how well an engine will perform.
The 2022 NASCAR engines will generate 725 horsepower however, the NASCAR Cup Series runs two separate horsepower packages, 550hp, and 670hp. Which engine package is allowed depends on which circuit the race is held as for some tracks there are modifications made to the engine to reduce horsepower in the name of safety.
With the engines being so similar in NASCAR racing, even though made by 3 different engne manufacturers manufacturers, Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota, Driver skill plays even more of a vital role in NASCAR, than other racing sports where engines and other modifications can be used to give the teams an edge.
Thats why its called stock car racing.
To compare with other forms of racing ( and some street cars out there) you can take a look at the table below.
|Chevrolet Silverado (truck)||385hp||114 Miles per hour|
|Toyota camry 2021||202 hp||135 Miles per hour|
|2021 Tesla Model S Plaid||1020 hp||200 Miles per hour (claimed)|
|2020 SSC Tuatara (record holder)||1750 hp||316 Miles per hour|
|NASCAR 2022||670||195 Miles per hour (so far)|
|NASCAR 2004||750 hp||228 Miles per hour|
|2021 F1 car||Upwards of 1000 hp||246 Miles Per Hour|
|Indycar||550-700 hp||236 Miles per hour|
As you can see there the raw horsepower of a NASCAR, big as it is, is surpassed by some road cars ( albit the very top end ones) and Formal one, Even Tesla’s top model has more power.
However, racing is a sport of many factors and that raw power is just one. the fasted road car, the SSC Tuatara, may beat a NASCAR in a straight line, but only drag races have straight lines and just to be clear how different factors can be more important that just a horsepower number: A tractor has more horsepower than your family sedan, but even if your car is 20 years old will will take a guess that you will outrace it ( though maybe not across a field… see torque later on)
Real racing, sorry to the drag racers, has corners and is longer than the 7 miles stretch some of these are tested on. Which brings us to our next point.
Does Top Speed Matter in NASCAR?
Being able to go as fast as possible is important in every form of racing, from foot to wheel. However different type of racing will have different requirements. In Formula 1 it is acceleration, cornering and downforce, In NASCAR it is endurance, performance at speed, and cornering, for yourToyota Camry it is getting to and from work and the shops!
People are far too caught up by the top speeds in most forms of racing, when really lets just leave that aspect to the Drag racers shall we!
How Do NASCAR Engines Produce So Much Power?
To keep this fairly simple, for me and not for you!, There are a few factors that allow a NASCAR engine to produce upto 750 Horsepower. One of these is the RPM (revolutions per Minute) limits these engines can run at. Your run of the mill family sedan can run up to 6-7000 revs ( if you have sports mode) However, the scream it will make at this is as uncomfortable for you as it will be for the engine.
Your cars engine can rev this high and even go higher, but if you do this over time you will be making more visits to the garage than you will want.
We take a look at the other factors that give a NASCAR so much power below.
- NASCAR engines are operating at 7-10000 Rpms for 3-4 hours non stop and comfortably. Rpms affect the horsepower and torque.
- The Engine size is very large V8 (5.87 liters). A large engine has the capacity to produce more power.
- NASCAR Engines can keep their intake valves open longer, which pushed and draws more air into the cylinders.
- No mufflers or catalytic converters to reduce power ( now you know why it’s so loud :P)
- The temperature inside the engine can hit 2000 degrees fahrenheit. To withstand these temperatures almost every aspect of the engine in reinforced. Which, for reference, is just under the temperature of molten lava….
it is possible that even with what maybe considered lower tech Engines (tradition dontcha know) that NASCAR engines can produce up to 900 horsepower which puts them into New Indycar and F1 power territories. However Nascar Engine Power has been restricted since a pretty significant event in 1987. Which we take a look at below.
Why is Horse power limited in NASCAR?
On 23rd May 1987, NASCAR driver Bobby Allison, racing in the Winston 500 competition, crashed on the 22nd lap at the Talladega Superspeedway. His car went airborne near the track’s start/finish line, ripping down almost 100 feet of protective catch fence and seriously injuring five spectators.
If it hadn’t been for two steel cables that held the back of the fence, his car would have shot straight into the grandstand, causing untold injury and death. Amazingly the driver, Bobby Allison, was uninjured, and interestingly his son Dave Allison went on the win the race
This was an accident that changed NASCAR forever.
Since that year, NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) has legislated that the engines would be governed to never exceed 410 horsepower on two specific banked tracks; this was enforced by fitting a restrictor plate to the carburetor. The restrictor plate had four holes, and as the name suggests, it restricted the fuel/air mixture to the cylinders. Although this was revised upwards later.
The restrictor plates had an unintended effect that negatively impacted the safety of the race. Due to the reduced horsepower of the cars, they form large packs. It is common to see more than thirty lead changes during a race. When a driver crashes, they usually take the whole racing pack with them. In the 2010 Coke Zero 400, 21 of the 43 cars collided.
Which NASCAR Tracks Limit The Engine Power?
The tracks that limited the engine power are the Talladega Superspeedway and the Daytona International Speedway. These are the two superspeedways on the Cup Series schedule.
A 670-horsepower engine is mandated for the following tracks
- Bristol Motor Speedway (both oval and dirt)
- Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval
- Circuit of The Americas
- Darlington Raceway
- Daytona Road Course
- Dover International Speedway
- Indianapolis Road Course
- Martinsville Speedway
- Nashville Superspeedway
- New Hampshire Motor Speedway
- Phoenix Raceway
- Richmond Raceway
- Road America
- Sonoma Raceway
- South Carolina
- Watkins Glen International
The other two tracks, Talladega and Daytona Superspeedways are likely to use the 510 Horsepower versions. As the 2022 season sees a new Next Gen car these power restrictions may be subject to change and we will update as the information becomes available.
What are the Requirements of a NASCAR Engine?
There are three engine manufacturers in NASCAR, these are:
NASCAR faced a quandary when appointing the engine manufacturers. We have a full article on these engines here, and the chances of more OEM Manufacturers entering NASCAR as well.
They wanted more than one manufacturer, but they wanted all the engines to be similarly powered so that none were more dominant than the others.
Unlike F1, which fell into this trap, NASCAR did not want the event to be a race of engines, but instead of driver skill and cunning.
For their part, each of the engine suppliers is a massive manufacturer of road-going vehicles. They entered NASCAR to showcase their technologies and promote their products.
To satisfy each party’s requirements, NASCAR does allow certain variations in engine design between each of the suppliers; however, all manufacturers must follow the basic engine specifications and rules.
This results in the basic design of NASCAR engines, which has been around since the 1960s, to be:
- The engines have eight cylinders
- The displacement is large – 358 cubic inches (5.87 liters)
- There are no overhead cams on NASCAR engines. Traditional pushrods operate the two valves per cylinder.
- Intake and exhausts are tuned to when the engines hit a certain speed. There are no mufflers or catalytic converters, so the exhaust speeds are not interfered with.
- Current engines use McLaren fuel injectors.
- They have high-intensity programmable ignition systems, so the spark timing can be customized to provide the most power possible.
- All the subsystems like coolant pumps, oil pumps, steering pumps, and alternators are designed to run at sustained high speeds and temperatures.
- All engines are naturally aspirated, and there are no turbo or superchargers.
- The engines run on a specially formulated green-colored petrol called Sunoco Green E15.
Each NASCAR team is permitted to build 13 engines for each season. Each team must use each of their engines at least twice in a season. They must use the same engine, unchanged during a weekend, and not swap to a new engine.
At the Daytona 500, the engine must last for an unbroken distance of 500 miles, running at an average speed of 180mph (300 km/h) in the race in about 3 hours and 30 minutes. During the whole race, the engines spin at 9,000 RPMs for the entire race.
In engineering terms, that is a huge ask and is a testament to the design of these reliable legacy power units and the engineers who design, manufacture, and run them.
What Of Future Changes To NASCAR Engines?
In line with initiatives to protect the environment, NASCAR has committed that by 2024 it will start to reduce its reliance on pure fossil-fuel-powered engines.
NASCAR will probably adopt some form of hybrid power, like the journey which Formula 1 started down in 2013.
As the thundering roar of V8’s is one of the features of NASCAR, the final technology may not be as radical as F1. However, as an avid fan, expect some changes.
Although not anytime soon there maybe a move to create an Electric Series, like Formula E, for NASCAR, where maybe Tesla would like to whet its racing appetite. We look at the possibility of an Electric NAscar here.
What Is The Fastest NASCAR Engine?
As we mentioned, hopefully emphatically enough, top speed although interesting, is really only a small part of any racing set up. However for reference the current top speed record (official) is still held by Bill Elliott at 212.809 during a flying lap at Talladega in 1987. Due to restrictions after the events of this race it is unlikely to be beaten until rules change.
So we can say that the the fastest official NASCAR Engine is the one found in a 1987 Ford Thunderbird, and that the fastest non Official NASCAR Engine is a 2004 Dodge Engine!
Rusty Wallace in 2004 took a NASCAR around the same track and hit 228 miles an hour, and suggested that 240 miles an hour is reachable. That was 16 years ago.
We will have to wait till someone tests the next gen cars top speed, i would imagine they will be doing that this year!
Which Engine Has the Most NASCAR Wins?
It is probably more accurate to describe this as which manufacturer has had the most race wins in NASCAR, and then as they dont always run every series ( although is recent history they have)
|Car Manufacturer||Race Wins||NASCAR Cup Championship Wins|
These dates are accurate up to 2022 season, but of course will change during the course. However as Plymouth and Dodge are not in NASCAR racing at the moment we can safely say that their numbers will remain the same!! We have mor edetails on the 16 winning manufacturers here.
Whether they produce 750HP or 450HP, NASCAR engines are outstanding examples of technology refined over many years and today represent the peak of performance, power, and reliability.
With the New Next Gen car being rolled out in 2022 and NASCAR Engine horsepower limitations starting to relax a little we will see if these produce a different type of racing than the pack racing we have become accomested too. I hope so, we feel NASCAR tradition is important, but making new traditions means the older ones have to be shaken up a little too.
Whatever the future holds, the engine technology employed by this exciting sport will always be one of the principles on which it is built.