An American Formula 1 Fan's View Of NASCAR
This American is slightly confused, to say the least.
All Americans know what NASCAR is. It's like knowing who the first President of the United States was. Do all Americans know how NASCAR works, though? No. I'd never watched a NASCAR race in my entire life (though I did watch all 3 of the Cars movies, so that has to account for something.. right?)
I'm a female motorsports content creator, specifically for content related to Formula 1. You can find me as ChevyTalksF1 on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also take a look at my new website here. I understood to some extent how Formula racing worked in the European world, yet had absolutely no idea as to how NASCAR worked. I finally watched the GEICO 500 (Talladega Superspeedway), and ended up with a few thoughts worth discussing. Read on to know my take (upsides and downsides). Let's dive right in.
5. Sports Commentators Can Talk Directly To Drivers
You're probably confused- and trust me, I was too. NASCAR drivers not only talk to their Crew Chiefs, but also sports commentators from time to time! Reporters can speak to drivers in their cars in real time via radio. I couldn't imagine that ever playing out in Formula 1. In fact, I tweeted my concerns about it.
4. The Questionable Sponsors
I don't know about you, but I most certainly wouldn't drive my car into town with the words "DENT WIZARD" plastered on the side. I am also not joking- that really is a sponsor on one of the cars. Kim Kardashian was a sponsor for NASCAR in the past for a fragrance as well. That might honestly be the weirdest crossover of all time.
3. How Hard It Is Keeping Track Of Drivers
NASCAR cars can sometimes look like what would happen if 43 schoolchildren were given a sticker-book and a silhouette of a car. It definitely isn't easy on the eyes (and that says a lot, considering how many people feel about the BWT Racing Points). There are two issues with this. One, it's really hard to distinguish which driver is where unless you have a good grasp of what their car looks like. Since NASCAR consists of very close wheel-to-wheel racing, the constant overtakes can make it hard to keep up with the position changes. The second issue is the livery itself- there is no standard livery for a team. In Formula 1, it's easy to distinguish which driver is where without taking a glance at the name. There are only 10 teams, each with two drivers, and each with a certain livery. A pink car in front of an orange car can only mean a few things- either Stroll/Perez is leading Sainz/Norris. This brings me to my next point, which is how NASCAR teams work.
(AP Photo/Will Lester) https://www.reviewjournal.com/sports/motor-sports/nascar/nascar-indycar-to-race-without-fans-this-weekend-1978483/ (The Associated Press).
2. NASCAR "Teams"
There are 43 drivers participating in one given race. There are 17 teams, and each team can have a maximum of 4 drivers. Only 3 teams have 4 drivers (one of them being the Stewart-HAAS team- yes, the same HAAS as F1). This makes things confusing for beginners- there's no way of telling who is driving for what team because all the cars have different liveries and have different numbers of drivers. Some NASCAR teams only run one driver. This also affects how NASCAR keeps track of points (which I do not want to get into). Compare this to Formula 1- it's obvious why Formula 1 caters to people of all levels.
1. Race Lengths
I thought Formula 1 Races were long- 2 hours can be a little demanding for some people. NASCAR is an entirely different story. The race I watched was closer to 4 hours. It's even tougher to watch NASCAR (in my opinion) because NASCAR consists of driving in actual circles for hours. Formula 1 has a bit of versatility given the different tracks in different countries. The scenery is also a nice addition, whereas NASCAR has little to no scenery. It took me a few days just to watch the GEICO 500 race in its entirety.
SOME POSITIVES TO NASCAR
I will, however, note that I found a few things interesting about NASCAR. These were some of the reasons why I didn't just close the window and move on to another form of motorsport.
1. NASCAR Cars Themselves
The way NASCAR cars are built is extremely cool. Check out this article by Karim Nice. All the frames are engineered from sheet metal, and the inside is made from steel tubing. It looks pretty cool from the inside as well. Keep in mind that there are also no headlights, just stickers. In the 2006 Cars movie, protagonist Lightning McQueen famously remarks "Well, you know, race cars don't need headlights, because the track is always lit."
2. THAT V8!
NASCAR cars use the V8's that every Formula 1 fan yearns to hear again. The sound is absolutely beautiful. When all 43 cars are on the track, there's this powerful sound that just can't be replicated; the Formula 1 V6 engines don't do the same level of justice.
3. Bump Drafting
Bump Drafting is this cute technique used by NASCAR drivers to increase speed- essentially, the cars get really close to each other to reduce the pocket of air between them. I'm not an aerodynamicist, but there are numerous resources that explain this phenomenon in detail. Compare this to Formula 1- cars typically like to avoid trailing right behind another car to escape "dirty air." "Clean air" is what is preferred by all F1 drivers. It might have to do with the fact that NASCAR cars are closed, while Formula 1 cars are open.
I'll come out and say it- NASCAR races are definitely packed with more overtakes in the first few minutes than an entire Formula 1 race (especially modern-day races). Bump drafting makes it extremely easy for a driver to take the lead of a lap within seconds. It also makes it easy for someone to lose the lead of a lap quickly. The best part about NASCAR, is that drivers from the back of the pack can make it to the front in a few laps with the right moves. I will admit that this is probably because most NASCAR cars are similar (there are only about 3 manufacturers that cars use). This is near impossible in Formula 1. That's like Nicholas Latifi climbing to P4 within the first few laps.
5. Intensity Of Crashes
This isn't really a "cool" fact, but still worth mentioning. Crashes in F1 have come a long way since 1994, and drivers typically make it out safely. The downside to close racing in NASCAR makes it extremely easy for someone to make a mistake and wipe out 12 other cars within a matter of seconds. In F1, cars typically split up after a few laps. If there are any multi-car crashes, it's at the start of a race (or restart, in the case of Mugello). In NASCAR, multi-car crashes can happen at any time- they can be extremely fatal as well.
https://www.sbnation.com/2019/2/17/18209688/daytona-500-crash (article by Eric Stephen)
6. The Track
I know I mentioned how it can get a little dull watching cars race around in literal circles for hours, but I will say that the tracks themselves are engineered in a unique way. Though they are circles, the corners are tilted. Cars drive at a tilted angle on these corners, making onboard views extremely awesome. Take a look at this. Tell me that isn't cool. The closest we got to awesome elevation changes in F1 recently was at Portimao (which, unfortunately, isn't on the 2021 calendar).
https://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com/About-Us/Track-Facts.aspx (Credit: Duce Smith)
Final Thoughts: Will I Watch NASCAR Again?
Maybe. I don’t want to knock it out of the park entirely, but I also wasn’t as captivated by it as I was for F1. Maybe it has to do with the fact that NASCAR is a little too American for my liking, and having a bit of an escape feels nice. Or it might have to do with the reasons I mentioned earlier in this article. I might try again in the future with actual NASCAR fans who can walk me through it, but for now, this gal is probably sticking to Formula 1 (and 2, 3, etc). If you'd like more content, you can look up my channel on YouTube where I make YouTube videos. I'm also on Instagram and Twitter @ChevyTalksF1. Thanks for reading, and stay safe!