What Is The Difference Between NASCAR Oval And Road Track Racing

NASCAR is the most-watched car racing in the US, and the speed, sound, and look of the race cars will excite every petrol head.  The race series has recently introduced more road tracks onto the race calendar, and even more road events are to take place this year.  So, what is all the anticipation about, and what is the difference between NASCAR oval and road tracks.

The Difference between NASCAR oval and road track racing is the type of track used.  Oval tracks have long, fast, and banked turns, and road tracks have left and right turns in a more technical layout.  The race cars have different suspension and aerodynamic settings for each race type.

There are a few unique differences between NASCAR oval and road tracks, including car setups, driving style, and qualifying formats.  Read on to find out these dissimilarities in this fast-paced sport.

Oval Racing VS Road Racing

The main difference between oval racing and road racing is the type of track the cars will be using.  Oval tracks are oval in shape and have four definitive curves.  The track’s surface will differ in nature, and some tracks will have rough asphalt while other track surfaces will be smooth.

Most drivers prefer a smooth track surface as this improves the car’s maneuverability by providing more grip.  A rougher track surface will offer less grip than a smoother surface; this will cause the driver to make more complex turns and change gears more often.

Oval tracks will most likely have banked turns allowing the cars to enter the corner at a much higher speed.  The banked corners will push the car into the track rather than have its inertia push it to the outside of the corner.

Road tracks have more corners than oval tracks, and these corners will be shorter and sharper.  The sharper corner will require the driver to slow down to turn without going off track.  Road tracks can have many different track surfaces, such as rough or smooth asphalt, concrete, or a mix of all three.

Road race tracks do not have as many banked corners as an oval track, but some races have a combination of oval track and road track, or a Roval.

The Car Setup For The Different Tracks

For oval track racing, the cars only race in one direction; for this reason, the race teams will set up the car with a stiffer suspension setting on the right-hand side.  The reason for this is that in a left-banked turn, the weight of the car shifts to the right side (outside) and, therefore, must be stiffer to take up the forces.

The cars will also have a lower downforce setting to allow less drag and a higher top speed.  The car will receive a higher gear ratio to aid in the top speed required to stay in the lead.

On a road track, the car will have a much more balanced suspension set up as the car will turn left and right during a lap.  A higher downforce setting will assist the car to corner faster without spinning out.  The cars will have shorter gear ratios to improve acceleration between turns.

NASCAR has implemented a rule that the cars can only use a 2.75” rear wing diffuser compared to the   8” of oval racing.  The front splitter is reduced to ½ “with 2” wings (10” for oval racing), and the radiator may not have any vertical fencing on it as this will increase the frontal downforce of the car.

The Oval And Road Track Racing Format

There are only a few differences between Oval and Road racing formats, they are:


The drivers will do a single-timed lap qualify stint on oval tracks to determine their starting position.  On road tracks, the drivers are split into groups and given fifteen-minute to set their fastest lap times.  The top 5 will advance to a final ten-minute qualify stint with all the top five drivers from each group.

NASCAR will adopt the road qualifying format (knockout format) for all oval track-type qualifying for the 2022 race season.

Racing And Stages

The rules and format for oval or road track are the same.  The race is divided into three stages (mini races), 25% of the laps (stage 1), 25% of the laps (stage 2), and 50% of the laps (stage 3), with the winners of each stage receiving points.  All flag, pit road, and track limits rules for both track types remain the same.

What Is The Difference Between NASCAR Oval Racing And Road Track Racing

The Difference In Driving Style For Oval And Road Tracks

The driving style for Oval and Road tracks are very similar.  Oval tracks have long sweeping banked turns that the race cars can take at high speed.  Road tracks with shorter and tighter turns are more focused on hitting the apex of the turn to get a good lap time.

Controlling a Stock Car through a high-speed turn can have the car react and respond differently through the turn’s entry, center, and exit.  The car might understeer at the entry, then oversteer in the center, and understeer again at the exit of the turn; the driver will have to control all these forces.

On a road track, the car is taking a turn at a much slower speed.  While braking for the turn, the car might oversteer as the rear of the car becomes lighter due to the heavy braking.  The car might understeer if you take the apex of the turn too fast, resulting in the car sliding.

Each track type will test the driver’s skills, with some drivers favoring the fast oval track and certain drivers preferring the technicality of the road tracks.  On tracks that combine an oval and road track element, force the drivers to adapt their driving style on a turn-by-turn basis and add excitement to the race.

it is hard to say which is tougher as that depends on the driver, the car and even the day of the race. However we do have an article that lists the toughest tracks in NASCAR here.


The difference between oval and road NASCAR tracks is the type of track used for races.  Oval tracks have long sweeping banked turns, and road tracks have tighter and shorter turns that are more technical.  The race car is set up in different ways for each track type, including aerodynamic changes and suspension settings.

The rules for oval and road track are very similar, and only the qualifying format differs from a one-lap shootout for oval tracks and a knockout qualifying for road tracks.  The driver will have to adapt his driving style during each race as the car will handle it differently.

NASCAR is exciting, and it is highly entertaining to watch the cars speed, crash, and guess the teams’ strategies!  The road courses add that extra flair to this fast-paced racing sport and is a welcome addition for many, though never all, NASCAR fans.






Al lifelong Motor Racing Fan, with a particular love of NASCAR and IndyCar racing. Been in and out of cars of varying speeds since i was a child and sharing what i have learnt here.

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