Ever race has two things in common and that’s about it. A start and a finish.In Motor Sports most choose to do wither a standing start or a rolling start. Formula 1 chooses a standing start, where as IndyCar and NASCAR use rolling starts. We take a look at the differences and why NASCAR has chosen to use roiling starts to start its races.
NASCAR uses rolling starts for several reasons. NASCAR is designed for speed over distance not acceleration, NASCAR races have 40 cars increasing risk of starting contact, Short oval tracks mean starting problems would affect the race lead immediately. Parade laps allow the fans to see the drivers prior to the start.
There was at least one more way of starting a race, which thankfully, they have stopped. Up until 1971 the 24 race at le mans started with drivers running to their cars before setting off.
Safety concerns are also the reason NASCAR use rolling starts and we explore that in more detail below.
What is a Rolling Start?
There are two methods that can be used to start or restart a motor race. Races either use a standing start or a rolling start. A rolling start involves the cars moving at a slow, capped speed behind a safety car. The cars are ordered in a queue that is determined based on the qualifying session results.
The safety car leads the cars on a set number of slow laps, known as parade laps, until the safety car eventually peels into the pit lane. The safety car often leaves the track far before the finish line, to leave the cars more space for the restart. The race marshal then waves a green flag to indicate that the drivers are allowed to accelerate to full speed and enter normal racing conditions.
In the past, this was normally done using physical flags, but nowadays race directors may use radio technology or a marked acceleration zone. There are also rules that have to be set to stop drivers from overtaking before they reach the finishing line, which is often where the racing is allowed to resume.
When the safety car leaves the track, the cars must also initially stay in their set positions and maintain a consistent speed.
Which is More Dangerous Rolling or Standing Starts?
Rolling starts also tend to be more prone to accidents than standing starts, which are when the drivers start from a stopped position, due to the fact that the cars tend to bunch up just before the green flag to try and gain positions and accelerate more efficiently.
Why Does NASCAR Use Rolling Starts?
One of the reasons that NASCAR races use a standing start is that they feature lots of vehicles. Currently, most NASCAR races feature at least 40 cars, at least at the start of the race, which is double the amount that feature in Formula One races, which use a standing start.
Some past NASCAR races have even had up to 60 cars, such as the first-ever Daytona 500. This means that the cars have to be closer together than in races with less cars. The NASCAR cars also have less sophisticated steering and braking systems than in Formula One.
The cars in NASCAR are also twice as heavy as F1 cars and have fewer technological systems. This means that it would be hard for the NASCAR drivers to avoid each other going into and through the first corner from a standing start.
NASCAR also tends to try everything in its power to cater to its fans. This is part of the reason why they race on oval circuits. The parade laps before the safety car comes into the pit lane are also exciting for the fans, who get to see the cars up close and slowly, as they prepare for the race.
The parade laps can act as a salute to the fans in the grandstands, and particularly at dirt tracks they are very traditional and spectacular. It is also very hard to do a standing start at a banked oval, which is slanted.
NASCAR has stuck to the rolling start format due to the safety, tradition and fan enjoyment.
Does NASCAR use a Standing Start?
NASCAR does not implement a standing start strategy for a number of reasons. The majority of these are related to safety concerns .
- NASCSAR has 40 cars in each race. This is double the number of formula 1 on often shorter tracks. This offers more chance of crashes or stalls at the start.
- Some of the tracks, Martinsville for example, especially the ovals courses, are short. if cars stall at the start then it would be less than 20 seconds till the rest come up on them again.
- Gearing in Nascar Race cars is, mostly, designed to keep the cars as as high a speed as possible. even on road tracks they are very few first gear corners. to NASCAR cars start from standing would be both risky and not particular exciting to see. F1 has gearing to accelerate from standing, NASCAR really doesn’t. It could be implemented of course, especially in the NEXT gen cars, however it doesn’t take away the risks from the other reasons above.
- Currently in NASCAR rolling starts Pole position has to cross the start line first. With a standing start this isn’t the case. this NASCAR rule would have to change.
Although i couldn’t find examples of a standing start in Live NASCAR, someone did try them in
Why Does NASCAR Start With Cars in Rows of 2?
NASCAR drivers line up in rows of two, in double file. They are allocated their starting position based on the qualifying session. The pole position winner gets to start on the inside of the first row, giving them the best racing line during the start.
NASCAR drivers tend to be less fierce over fighting for positions at the start, as the races are long, and they want to keep their car running and free from damage. The famous IndyCar race, the Indy 500, uses rows of three, but NASCAR has always deployed rows of two in their races.
However, the restarts are slightly different and have been changed in recent history. Restarts using the rolling start format often tend to be single file. This is seen in Formula One safety car restarts. Under the previous NASCAR race restart rules, the drivers on the lead lap would line up in single file, whilst the cars that had been lapped would start in a separate single file line next to them.
However, under the rule change that occurred in 2009, the race leader at the time of the stoppage gets to decide if they want to start from the inside or the outside. The second-place driver then is forced to start next to the driver. Excluding the top two, the drivers in odd-numbered positions restart on the inside, whilst the drivers in even-numbered positions start on the outside.
Which Other Racing Series Use Rolling Starts?
IndyCar, which is the premier single-seater open wheel racing series in the USA, also use rolling starts in their races. Some of their road and streets tracks are too small for the large cars to make standing starts, but in the past, they have trialled standing starts.
They chose to use a standing start for the first-ever race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course, but polesitter Sebastian Saavedra stalled as the lights went out, which resulted in a violent crash. Ryan Hunter-Reay managed to make his way around the idle car, but he was then clipped by Carlos Munoz and hit hard by Mikhail Aleshin.
IndyCar did use standing starts at selected events during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, but the idea was abandoned after this huge crash. IndyCar now only uses rolling starts for their starts and restarts. This stalling issue was also seen in the final race of the 2021 Formula E season, where Mitch Evans failed to get his car going, which cause him to bit hit heavily by Edoardo Mortara.
The vast majority of Formula One races use standing starts, but weather conditions can trigger the race director to use a rolling start for safety reasons. This was last seen in the 2016 season, where both the iconic Monaco and British Grand Prix’s were started using parade laps behind the safety car. F1 also uses rolling starts for its safety car restarts. Red flag restarts in F1 can use either a standing start or a rolling start
No type of racing is the same, and what works for one may not work for another. In NASCAR the cars are so often travelling so fast that fans see them only as a blur of color as they race past. The parade laps and the rolling starts allow them to get a closer look.
Also from a safety perspective so many large heavy cars starting from zero is not going to work as well when with the exception of carefully controlled pit stops it will be the only time on some tracks that they are actually going under 150 miles an hour!
Add to this small tracks and NASCAR has, wisely, chosen to take the lottery and risk of a standing starts out of the equation for races that are supposed to last 500 miles, not 100 metres.
Even though rolling starts are considered more dangerous in open wheel racing, due to acceleration of the cars and the cars not being able to deal with being so close for any length of time, for stocks cars they work just fine and its one aspect of NASCAR that is unlikely to change.