Drafting is a technique seen in NASCAR all the time. You may have heard an announcer talk about a car being in or out of the draft or refer to a technique like a bump draft or a side draft. Have you ever wondered what drafting is in NASCAR and how does the draft work? Keep reading to find out!
What Is Drafting in NASCAR Racing?
Drafting in racing is an aerodynamic technique in which two cars align closely together, reducing the overall drag by making use of the lead car’s slipstream. Drafting allows the two cars to travel faster together than they would separately. It also permits the rear car to transfer energy forward by bumping the lead car or to build momentum for a pass.
How Does Drafting Work?
In order to begin drafting, two drivers that are close to each other on the track need to cooperate. As the cars are racing at high speeds, they line up with the nose of one car to the rear of the car in front of them. Entering into a draft formation allows for the trailing car to enter the lead car’s slipstream. As a result, the lead car is hit with the most air resistance and the drag on the trailing car is significantly reduced.
NASCAR Drafting Rules
Most types of drafting are allowed in NASCAR. However, tandem drafting was banned by NASCAR in 2014 after a 2013 Daytona race in which the tactic was used led to a massive crash in which driver Kyler Larson’s car went airborne, and its debris caused dozens of injuries to spectators. Normal drafting, bump drafting, and side drafting are all permitted.
Normal drafting is the most basic form of drafting and involves one car closely tailing the leading car in order to get inside its slipstream and reduce overall drag. Normal drafting benefits both cars: it benefits the following car by reducing the drag of airflow in front of it, and it helps the leading car by reducing turbulence behind it, improving its own drag. However, as with all forms of drafting, normal drafting can be dangerous, as if any one car veers out of the formation, a wreck could occur.
This technique is very similar to standard drafting. In this scenario, the trailing car bumps into the lead car rather than keeping its nose pressed into the back of the car. This technique can be dangerous, as the car that gets bumped into may lose control and crash or cause other crashes. The results of bump drafting offer the same speed advantage that normal drafting has.
The side drafting technique is only beneficial for one car as it negatively affects the other car. The rear car pulls up to the side of the front car while keeping the nose of the car close to the front car’s back wheel. This pushes the oncoming air onto the front car’s spoiler, causing it to lose speed and slow down. The technique is used to attempt a pass.
A form of bump drafting, tandem drafting is a type of drafting that is illegal in NASCAR. Unlike bump drafting, which simply involves the following car bumping the lead car, tandem drafting consists of the following car hooking itself onto the leading car via its bumper, meaning that it is basically being dragged while simultaneously pushing the lead car.
Why is drafting important?
Both cars involved in the drafting process mutually benefit from it. While the lead car blocks the resistance to the trailing car, the trailing car limits the turbulence that comes off the back of the lead car. The two cars that are drafting are then acting as one car in terms of airflow. Due to this reduced air resistance, the two cars then race at higher speeds than they would be able to achieve if they were not drafting. Drafting also reduces fuel consumption throughout the race.
When should a driver draft?
A driver should draft when they need to pass or save fuel in a speedway race featuring long straightaways. NASCAR races are extremely long, with some lasting more than three hours to complete. As a result, drafting cannot be achieved throughout the entire race due to the engines’ overheating. Drivers must make calculations to determine when the best time is to perform this technique so that they can get the best results. Because of the sharp turns and lack of long straightaways, drafting is not possible on short tracks or road courses.