NASCAR cars are designed to drive at extremely high speeds for very long amounts of time. Typically, there are forty three different cars racing in a NASCAR race, and although there may be some differences between how the cars are made or what parts they have, one thing remains the same with all NASCAR race cars; their headlights. NASCAR cars use stickers for headlights on every car in every race, even if the race is at night. If you are not looking closely, the stickers will certainly appear to be real headlights, but in reality the headlights are simply one of many deceiving stickers on NASCAR cars.
The stickers are used instead of real headlights for a number of reasons. One key reason for this is to protect other drivers on the track. If a car got into a crash during a race with real headlights, the glass would likely break causing debris to cover the track and could lead to even more damage by puncturing other car's tires. Sweeping the glass off of the track would also be a hassle for NASCAR crews and would very likely delay the race every time a crash happened. NASCAR can be a very dangerous sport as it is when cars begin to crash, so eliminating glass headlights is just one of many ways that NASCAR makes the racetrack safer for their drivers.
Eliminating glass falling onto the track is very important to NASCAR for many more reasons other than the obvious. Anything that can be done to protect further damage in an accident will be done, but it also saves the drivers and their teams money. If their tires do not get punctured by glass in a crash, that is one less thing for the team to replace. On top of this, they could also get paid by a sponsor to put their logo on the car's "headlights."
Real headlights would also be unnecessary weight to add onto the car. NASCAR requires all cars that are racing to weigh no less than 3,400 pounds, including everything inside the car (including fluids too) except the driver. Drivers ideally want their car to be as close to the minimum weight as possible because it will maximize their speed. Using stickers instead of headlights is just one of many ways to keep the weight of the car down as drivers try to get every advantage over their opponents they possibly can.
Night races in NASCAR have become increasingly popular over the years, and they successfully run despite none of the cars having real headlights. Races are on at night even though the cars have no real headlights because when it needs to be, the racetrack is extremely well lit and drivers have no problem seeing what is in front of them. Some NASCAR race tracks have stadium lighting and make for a great venue. However, some very well known race tracks do not have lights, such as Talladega Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At tracks like these, although they are extremely popular, racing during the day is the only option due to the lack of lights. Night races are only scheduled at racetracks with the proper lighting.
NASCAR cars utilize stickers for many different reasons in almost every area on the outside of the race car. Stickers are used to display sponsor names on the car to get advertising done during the race. These stickers take up most of the car, but that is what they are made for and lead to a large percent of many driver's earnings.
Also, just like the headlights on NASCAR cars, every brake light on the cars are stickers as well. Stickers are used for brake lights for the same reasons they are used for headlights; NASCAR does not want glass on the track if they break and they are really not needed in the sport. Although there is no true need for the stickers, they are also utilized to make the car look close to a stock car. NASCAR cars are largely custom made to meet requirements and driver fit, but there are a few stock parts in the cars. However, headlights are not and it appears they will not ever be one of those stock parts that remain in the car.
NASCAR cars are designed for extreme speeds and racing, but they are still designed to look close to a regular car. Having nothing in the spot of the headlight would not only look unnatural, but there has to be something there. Some drivers choose to put tape over their lights, while some utilize stickers. With the way that their stickers are designed, it is hard to tell at first that the lights are stickers, so they are not a big deal to have on the car at all.
Crashes in NASCAR can get very ugly very fast. It is possible only two cars crash, or just one crashes into the wall, or it is possible that there could be a pileup that involves multiple cars. No matter what the crash looks like, debris from the cars will go on the track. The only difference with headlights is they are made of glass. Putting stickers on headlights eliminates the risk of glass going on the track. Much of the debris that would be on the track is rubber, metal, and other things that may come off of the car, but glass is not one of them.
Yes! The stickers are made to be as realistic as possible. Multiple car manufactures such as Ford, Toyota, and Chevy made cars designed for NASCAR, so they work to make their cars as distinct as possible as a form of marketing. One subtle way they do this is by making headlight and brake light stickers look good and real.
Even if NASCAR drivers had the option to put real headlights in their car, it would be a bad idea. The stickers are not there just for fun and should be used by every driver. This is because they weigh significantly less than real headlights and the difference in the weight can be utilized elsewhere or not at all if it is not needed. Drivers want their car to be as light as possible because just like in every other sport, getting any advantage you can over your opponent is a key to winning.