NASCAR races showcase the speed, power, and durability of its vehicles, as well as the skill of drivers and their team. Most top level NASCAR vehicles are capable of reaching speeds of over 200 miles per hour with a power output of around 750-800 horsepower in NASCAR sanctioned races. Variables including the track, driver, weather conditions, and vehicle maintenance can all affect how fast NASCAR cars travel. The vehicles are actually capable of producing even higher speeds than seen in races, but this is regulated by NASCAR for safety reasons. The fastest official qualifying mark in NASCAR history was recorded at a speed of 212.809 miles per hour.
NASCAR is the world's largest governing body for stock car racing, sanctioning over 1,500 races each year. At its highest level, the NASCAR Cup Series, the sport features seventeen full-time teams and 36 races throughout the season. NASCAR stands for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing and has been operating since 1948. Fans tune in for the races worldwide for the thrill of watching their favorite driver or team compete.
NASCAR vehicles reach drastically different top speeds depending on the track they are racing on. NASCAR races travel to different tracks throughout the season, testing each driver's ability under different conditions. Each NASCAR track varies in size, length, composition, and safety features. This means that each track will allow for differing top speeds that drivers can reach safely.
The fastest NASCAR tracks as of 2019 are the Daytona Superspeedway in Daytona Beach, Florida and the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. On these tracks, NASCAR vehicles can reach speeds upwards of 200 miles per hour! On the contrary, tracks like the Sonoma raceway only allow drivers to reach speeds of around 100 miles per hour. The record for the fastest qualifying mark is held by Bill Elliot who clocked a speed of 212.809 at the Talladega Superspeedway in 1987.
The horsepower and top speed of NASCAR vehicles are actually limited by NASCAR. For safety reasons, NASCAR limits the maximum horsepower and speed of its vehicles based on the track they are racing at. Large tracks like the Daytona Superspeedway allow cars to consistently reach speeds upwards of 200 miles per hour. However, it would be extremely dangerous for drivers to attempt such high speeds on smaller tracks, so NASCAR applies a limit to control speed. NASCAR limits the overall speed of each car by using restrictor plates or limited tapers to lower the maximum horsepower each car can produce.
Without limitations, NASCAR vehicles can top speeds much higher than their official records allow for. NASCAR engines are built to produce maximum power outputs of around 800-900 horsepower and reach speeds of around 240 miles per hour. In 2007, the speed record for stock cars was broken by Russ Wicks who drove a Dodge Charger built to NASCAR specifications. He reached a maximum speed of 247 miles per hour at the Bonneville Speedway in Utah.
Despite its advantage in popularity, NASCAR vehicles are actually slower than their Formula 1 and Indycar counterparts. This is mostly due to differences in engine composition, weight, and acceleration. NASCAR vehicles are significantly heavier than both Formula 1 and Indycar vehicles, and also accelerate much slower. NASCAR race cars can weigh upwards of 3,000lbs, while Indycar or Formula 1 cars tend to weigh about half as much. The large weight difference of NASCAR vehicles makes them significantly slower in comparison to other auto racing leagues.
In NASCAR, the top speed that cars can reach greatly depends on the composition of the track they're racing on. Certain NASCAR tracks allow for cars to reach upwards of 200 miles per hour, while others only allow drivers to top speeds of around 100 miles per hour. The current fastest NASCAR Cup Series track is the Daytona Superspeedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. In 2019, William Byron had a lap average of 194.3 miles per hour in Daytona. The record for the highest speed recorded at the track was set by Bill Elliot in 1987 with an impressive speed of 210.3 miles per hour.
Today, the average NASCAR race car can produce upwards of 750 horsepower. While each car is different, the fastest of NASCAR vehicles in the Cup Series are capable of producing over 900 horsepower. However, for safety reasons NASCAR limits the horsepower of its cars depending on the racetrack. It does so by using restrictor plates or limited tapers to lower the maximum horsepower of each race car. NASCAR engines are very unique and can produce such high horsepower without the use of turbochargers.
The fastest speed ever reached in NASCAR's history was recorded at 212.809 miles per hour at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. The record was set in 1987 by Bill Elliot, making him NASCAR's fastest driver! His lap is the fastest official qualifying mark in NASCAR's history and still stands today. Elliot also holds the fastest qualifying record at the Daytona Superspeedway with a speed of 210.364 miles per hour.