In a NASCAR race, everything needs to be carefully calculated and monitored, from the driver’s surroundings when another driver is closing in, to the car’s total weight. Drivers and their teams must meticulously calculate various factors for the best possible outcome, including the weight of their vehicle.
While there are several things each team can do to minimize the car’s weight, NASCAR has specific weight limits to create a standard. This article outlines average car weight based on these standards and how drivers work to minimize their car’s weight, so continue reading to learn more!
What Does A NASCAR Car Weigh?
In the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Xfinity Series, cars must meet specific weight requirements. Each NASCAR vehicle must meet two weight requirements: the first weight without the driver or fuel and the racing weight with the driver and fuel. Before adding the driver and fuel, the car must weigh a minimum of 3,300 pounds. If they don’t meet this number, they can fail their inspection.
After adding the driver and a full fuel tank, the vehicle must weigh at least 3,400 pounds. The weight requirements vary based on the series, as the NASCAR rule book has different rules for each series. For example, consider NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series. In this series, each race truck has a minimum weight of 3,400 pounds without its driver and fuel.
The tires and wheels on the vehicle contribute to the car’s overall weight. Given the importance of weight in races such as these, every pound counts. On average, an 18-inch NASCAR tire weighs about 24 pounds, while the wheel weighs approximately 27 pounds. This comes out to a combined weight of 51 pounds.
All four tires add an extra 204 pounds to the vehicle’s weight.
The post-inspection weight is based on an average driver weighing 180 and 189 pounds. Of course, this weight isn’t consistent across the board, as every driver differs from the previous driver.
So, to make up for this difference, NASCAR developed a sliding scale that takes the car’s weight into account. Since implementing this sliding scale, NASCAR has deviated from the 3,300-pound weight standard for drivers.
If the driver weighs less than 180 pounds, they must add 10 pounds to the car to increase their weight. For instance, if the driver weighs 135 pounds, they’d have to add 50 pounds to their vehicle to meet the weight requirement.
Prior to 2013, NASCAR’s weight rules offered exemptions for drivers weighing less than 140. Since this gave drivers weighing less an advantage over their competitors, NASCAR started using its sliding scale in 2015.
Obviously, fuel is an essential piece of the weight puzzle, as these cars can’t go anywhere without it. A typical NASCAR fuel tank holds approximately 20 gallons of fuel, which is an upgrade from the previous generation of 18-gallon tanks.
A typical gallon of racing fuel weighs approximately six pounds, so with a full tank, fuel adds about 120 pounds to the car’s weight. That said, the exact weight varies based on the fuel’s temperature, so it can be higher or lower depending on the temperature.
As the race progresses, drivers may push their car to its limits as they attempt to race on low fuel. When they stop for fuel, the pit crew may not add a full tank, as this weighs the car down as the driver whizzes through the final laps.
Why Is Weight Important For NASCAR?
Weight and speed are mortal enemies in a NASCAR weight. The more weight the car carries, the harder it’ll need to work to achieve top speeds. So, for the best performance, NASCAR drivers and their teams do their best to manage the weight of the vehicle.
The lighter the car is, the faster it can go, so teams try to lighten it as much as possible. Fuel management is one way they do this. In the early stages of the race, there’s not much emphasis on this.
However, as the race progresses and it comes down to the wire, drivers begin pushing their luck. They begin fighting for first place while running low on fuel, making it dicey for the drivers as the race closes. It isn’t entirely uncommon for cars to run out of fuel during their last lap due to a slight fuel miscalculation.
You’ll usually see fuel-only pit stops at the end of the race. When the driver stops for these, they skip the four-tire change (even the two-tire change) in exchange for a rapid pit stop.
They stop for enough fuel to power through the race but nothing else, as their tires have enough tread to see them through. Since pit crews use specialized gas cans that can dump a whopping 12 gallons of fuel in eight seconds, these pit stops don’t take long.
The Importance Of Weight Distribution
When designing NASCAR race cars, weight distribution was an integral consideration. Without the right weight balance, the car won’t handle well during corners. So, to aid in the races, NASCAR vehicles feature a specific weight distribution.
With an oval NASCAR track, cars may have up to a 58% weight bias on the left side. This works because the cars only turn left on these tracks, so the more heavily weighted left side enables more speed through the corners.
On the other hand, vehicles for a road course are usually weighted 50/50. Since these tracks feature left and right turns, having a noticeable weight bias could affect the vehicle’s handling and performance. However, vehicles may feature a slight weight bias based on the quantity of left or right turns throughout the race.
Aside from weight distribution from left to right, it’s also important from front to back. Generally, cars in NASCAR races on oval tracks have a slight front bias of approximately 52%. The slight imbalance from the front to the rear offers a bit more traction and grip on the car’s front tires.
Conversely, cars racing on road courses usually feature a weight bias on the rear of the car. This enables better braking power and superior acceleration, giving drivers an edge.
How Do NASCAR Drivers Adjust Weight Distribution?
Generally, the pit crews of each driver handle the weight distribution adjustments. They use a metal bar with multiple bends, known as a track bar, to adjust the car’s weight distribution as needed.
In some cases, drivers adjust their car’s weight distribution themselves. Since they can’t easily access the adjustment point from inside their vehicle, they’re able to adjust the track using a motorized device. This adjustment came about in 2015 and allowed drivers to compensate for the disadvantage of dirty air.