By on August 5, 2010

I’ve heard a lot of derisive comments about NASCAR lately on this site, many of them from people — my fellow racers and fast-road drivers — who should know better. While it’s true that the common template is a disgrace, the idea that NASCAR is a low-tech ghetto compared to the oh-so-modern sports-car series like the ALMS is, to put it mildly, false. There’s a reason that the abortive USF1 team wanted to locate near the NASCAR guys. It’s where the tech is. Click the jump to find out why racing NASCAR takes more brainpower than any Touring Car or prototype series out there…

Let’s start with engines. NASCAR just runs old small-block Chevys with carbs, right? Not so simple. Let’s compare F1 engines to NASCAR engines using Brake Mean Effective Pressure (BMEP) and Mean Piston Speed (MPS). These are measurements of how hard and fast an engine runs. Surely the F1 engine runs at pressures and piston speeds that are FAR beyond those of NASCAR, right?

According to Race Engine Technology, The BMEP of the Formula One engine at peak torque (table line 13) is 15.17 bar while the Cup engine produces a peak torque BMEP of 15.12 bar (0.3 % less). At peak power, the Formula One BMEP value (table line 22) is 14.6 bar while the Cup figure is 14.0 bar (4.1% less). As far as piston speed,

Even more revealing, at peak power RPM (table line 19) the Formula One engine MPS is 25.5 m/s (5025 ft/min), while that of the Cup engine is less than 3% lower at 24.8 m/s (4875 ft/min). At redline, the Formula One MPS is 26.5 m/sec, while the Cup MPS is a stunning 27.5 m/sec. To put those numbers in perspective, Professor Gordon Blair wrote (Race Engine Technology, issue 27) that 26.5 m/sec was the highest he had seen.

How’d those stupid hicks get their pistons to move faster than the mighty engine builders of Formula One? Note that some street cars reach into the same piston-speed zone, but they are incapable of operating under those BMEPs for very long. F1 engines run with much greater friction to create those piston speeds because their crankshafts run faster… but NASCAR engines have a much longer stroke, thus imposing a much greater acceleration load on the parts.

Now let’s talk aero. With millions of dollars at stake, aerodynamic improvements are critical. ALMS designers can draw almost anything they want, because the rules are loose. F1 presents a much stronger challenge, which is why Nick Wirth’s CFD approach was so dominating with the LC75-based Acura ARX but has struggled to keep Virgin Racing from the bottom of the field. The limits to what you can “draw” in F1 are considerable, and any bright ideas don’t last too long, as was shown with the F-duct and flexible front wing that arrived this year and were promptly written out of next year’s rulebook.

NASCAR teams have an even tougher job. They are limited to a common template, so they can’t change the aero at all. Right? If that’s the case, then why is the Holy Grail of aerodynamic testing — the “coastdown tunnel” — rumored to exist right now, in the hands of Chip Ganassi? The answer is that NASCAR teams work at a level of aerodynamics unknown outside the world of military aviation: surface composition aero. A NASCAR Car of Tomorrow is a matrix of multiple surfaces, some smooth, some rough, all designed to manage the airflow at the near-molecular level. Jimmie Johnson’s remarkable pace last year? All the product of rough-surface aero development.

We could go on and talk about the massive effort put into the “little things” of racing — from the kind of brake compounds required to slow a NASCAR-sized sedan from 195+mph to the astoundingly complex calculations of shock absorber valving required to keep a car that big from becoming murderously loose on a bumpy superspeedway — but I hope I’ve encouraged at least some of you to go take a look at what actually happens in NASCAR. It may not be Formula One, but it’s not ALMS P2 either.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

66 Comments on “NASCAR Tech: It’s A Lot More Than You Think...”

  • avatar

    It’s nothing new, but you forgot to mention one thing: brakes. When Monty drove Jeff Gordon’s car in 2003, he said very plainly to him: “This thing would go much faster if you put real brakes on it”, and Gordon replied: “This is what I tell them every weekend”.

    • 0 avatar

      Pete, probably the biggest thing holding the brakes back is the size. Those wheels are tiny by today’s standards. Word is the wheel and tire size is going up soon as well. That may add some weight, but the brake size will be better. Everything on the cars now is so over engineered for safety and longevity. They wanted to use alloy wheels some time ago, but the rate at which those wheels sheer and break into pieces was too high so they have stuck with a steel wheel. If it works, it works. I’m very interested to see the cars morph back into their 1990’s glory with even more distinct bodies. I also hear fuel injection is currently being tested. Though, they wont approve it until they think they can keep the playing field somewhat level.

      P.S. Thank you Mr. Baruth for a great article. I have been a NASCAR fan for quite some time and am growing weary of listening to haters.

  • avatar

    I don’t get it, at least the sport side of it. It makes watching the Tour de France look like an action movie. Throw a couple of right hand turns in there.

  • avatar

    It’s been awhile since reading Donahue’s book “The Unfair Advantage” but I believe he said that when they (Penske) decided to go race NASCAR they thought it would be simple compared to Indy and Trans Am. Turned out to be the hardest racing he ever did.

  • avatar

    True, but F1 has been completely defanged over the last few years, so the new age video game style style drivers can win and survive at the limit.
    Not so long ago they turned 21K rpm and before that they had 1200HP in qualifying trim.

    I used to be a F1 fan that went to 3 or 4 races a year, after the english started with their rule tailoring and winning in court despite massive rule infringements I refuse to spend a single penny to subsidize them.

    To that extent you are correct, the ruining of F1 by Ron Dennis and his drivers probably has been a huge windfall for Nascar as race fans are going to watch something.

    PS. don’t forget the blown diffusors that are the latest toy.

    • 0 avatar

      @vlad, the point with blown diffusers, F-ducts, barge boards, double-decker diffusers and other goodies is that you still CAN innovate in F1 (though not as much as in the 80s and 90s, for example) — and it will win you races.

    • 0 avatar

      the ruining of F1 by Ron Dennis and his drivers

      Uhh… what? Try Max Mosley and his ripping any innovation out of the sport and turning it into a glorified GP2 with spec engine power and madly restricted aero.

      Try Bernie Ecclestone for selling F1’s classic venues down the river and replacing them with empty concrete arenas in the Middle East and Asia.

      Try Herman Tilke* for designing tracks that make parking lot cone courses seem downright spiritual, for thinking that more corners is always better, and for presumably having “Wide, Flat, and Constant Radius” written above his bathroom mirror.

      And most of all, try the wretches who came up with the idea of allowing drivers within a second of another car to flatten out their rear wings, giving them a Mario Kart style speed boost, thus sucking out the last remnants of honor out of a hundred year old sport.

      All that, and the best you can do is blame Ron Dennis, and apparently David Coulthard, Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen, and Juan Pablo Montoya? Yeah, the Ferrarigate scandal was pretty bad for the sport’s reputation, but responsible for the *real* destruction of F1 that had started years and years before?

      And even if you only count dishonor, McLaren’s purloining of documents hardly compares with Flavio Briatore’s subsequent ordering a driver to crash to fix a race, an act which not only stole a victory but endangered the lives of drivers, marshals, and spectators.


      *Turkey is an exception for Turn 8.

    • 0 avatar


      Point is that the innovation is allowed selectively depending on who it benefits.

      Compare allowing the F-duct that was at least against the spirit of the rules vs. the manufactured controversy re the alleged flex wings that have passed both the original rule tests and new politically imposed revised tests.

      The chance for a much less corrupt rule enforcement in F1 was missed when Mosley retired and control was not given to Vatanen and Tomczyk.

    • 0 avatar

      Dennis and his CURRENT driver (not Button) should have been banned for life just like Briatore and Piquet, in fact their crimes were much worse. The ONLY reason they were not banned is because they were from UK.
      And yes, Mosley was just as big of a POS, but he is gone for good. See previous post that crossed with yours.

    • 0 avatar

      So, document thievery leading to a temporary and (apparently) marginal on-track advantage is worse than deliberately endangering lives and unequivocally fixing a race via those means?

      How can you possibly compare *ORDERING A DRIVER TO CRASH* with spending a bit too much quality time with a copying machine?

      Not only that, suggesting that Ron Dennis and Hamilton were only spared because they’re from the UK is absurd; Dennis and Mosley – and McLaren and Mosley – had been bitter enemies for years. I can guarantee that Mad Max didn’t give a hot god damn whether Dennis was British.

      Add to that the fact that Dennis essentially *has* been banned from the sport as a result, and that Alonso appears to have been more culpable than Hamilton, and I don’t think you have a leg to stand on.

      Nevertheless, I’m sure my arguments will fall on deaf ears. There seems to be a contingent among F1 ‘fans’ who stop at nothing to attack Lewis Hamilton, so please – by all means – carry on.

    • 0 avatar

      VLAD, Sorry to hear you left because of that. although in think the Spy-gate Saga was hardly a sport issue, it was a team issue caused by dumbass individuals.

      however what should set you off is that how one person, codenamed Mr.x could get away with ratting out his team knowing that he was involved in the actual act of acquiring rival information from a mole. then the year after he is the one left without a comment after crash-gate blew up, knowing that he was the only one that benefited. and even worse, Ferrari, the team who Alonso…oops sorry Mr.x was spying against gets hired by Ferrari…

      F1 is getting Weird in its politics and antics, but whatever the changes, no one can deny that 2010 is serving an epic championship battle. the rest are just what keeps F1 in the news and making money. I have been following the sport since 94, and enjoy the off track semantics as much as the racing whenever it does actually happen. so for me that is F1, racing, rumors, scandals and all.

  • avatar

    Rough-surface aero is only being used because it’s the only thing NASCAR teams can do that’s actually allowed (for now). Otherwise the series consistently restricts the teams to 1960s technology.
    – Square tube steel roll cage chassis? Check.
    – Live rear axles? Check.
    – 22-gauge steel body? Check.
    – Single body template for all teams? Check.
    – Simple spec rear wing? Check.
    – Spec long-stroke pushrod engines? Check.
    – Carburetors with restrictor plates? Check.
    – Cast-iron brakes? Check.
    – Spec tires? Check.

    Not saying it’s easy, but NASCAR effectively attempts to ban all innovation and modern technology from the series.

    • 0 avatar

      Read Jack’s review of Mustang: live axle on the track. Goes much better than sportcar snobs want to admit.

    • 0 avatar

      @Pete, live axles may or may not be the cat’s pajamas on an oval track (though I don’t think Indycars have switched to them yet). However, the point is that NASCAR will not allow any other suspension, whether better or worse — this is the only thing you are allowed to run,

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think anyone is saying the oval boys aren’t working hard or pushing their technology to the limit… but compared to F1 its a joke. Its like the difference between the bike I ride around the block vs Lance’s carbon-fiber space-age machine.

      Your average car guy could look at a NASCAR setup and understand everything he sees. Getting the most of out it is a total different story… and that truly takes some serious professionals, but all the parts are easily recognized and understood.

    • 0 avatar

      August 5th, 2010 at 1:39 pm

      I don’t think anyone is saying the oval boys aren’t working hard or pushing their technology to the limit… but compared to F1 its a joke. Its like the difference between the bike I ride around the block vs Lance’s carbon-fiber space-age machine.

      I’m not sure that I agree with you. Most of the bikes (except for the time trial bikes) used in the Tour are not that far from those companies’ top level production bikes. High end Bianchis and Colnagos are built in the same custom shops as their race bikes and often share tubing, material and component technologies with the competition bikes.

      Of course at that level of sports, just because the bike is branded with a rider’s sponsor’s logo doesn’t meant that the sponsor did anything other than paint it. When Lance Armstrong was riding for Motorola, the team rode Treks if I’m not mistaken, but Lance’s main road bike was built on a titanium frame fabricated by Litespeed.

  • avatar

    The racing technology may be great but the fan sociology is unbearable: knuckle-draggers from “Idiocracy” waiting for crashes.

  • avatar

    Watch the Top Gear segment on Ayrton Senna. Compared to that, Nascar is a joke. But hey, they’ve got unleaded gas now!

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, because the Top Gear segment was a very in depth comparison between the technology in F1 and NASCAR. It changed my opinion that I had based on the same sort of in depth technology comparison provided in Talladega Nights.

  • avatar

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t NASCAR engines about 2-3 times heavier than F1? They should withstand considerably more load with the sturdier components that extra weight allows. Although the performance numbers may be similar, the F1 engine is inarguably more efficient per pound. It just goes to show that the law of diminishing returns kicks in pretty swiftly once you start moving away from 1960s pushrod tech. That’s why your bog-standard $75k Z06 Corvette beats your fancy-pants $200k eurosupercar 9 times out of 10.

    • 0 avatar

      MPS does not beget that one engine is technically as good as another. They both reach it in a far different manner. Spinning an engine at 20k rpms versus 10k rpms to reach MPS of 25+ is a whole different challenge altogether.

      For more information here some technical aspects of F1 – their engines are very limited in innovation at this time and also the have a total of 8 engines to last the year so they must be durable to a point (which is the antithesis of F1). I’ve included some Nascar comparisons in there in brackets).

      * All F1 engines are naturally aspirated V8’s of 2400cc (NASCAR runs 5.8 liter v8)
      * Engines are limited to 18,000rpm (no limit on RPM in Nascar but they can only reach 10k rpm reliably).
      * The weight is exactly 95kg (each manufacturer easily reaches this regulated minimum weight)
      * Engine blocks are constructed of forged aluminum alloy, because of the weight advantages it gives in comparison to steel. Other materials would maybe give some extra advantages, but to limit costs, the FIA has forbidden all non-ferro materials. (Nascar runs a cast iron block, 2 OHV per cylinder, and specified holley carbs)
      * Crankshaft and piston rods are Iron based for strength (not cast iron).

    • 0 avatar

      I find it interesting that the bog standard Z06 will also beat the Euro supercars in efficiency.

  • avatar

    I’m going to be the troll here, on purpose.

    But the engine uses pushrods, a carburator (holy shit), a live axle in the back and a 4speed gearbox… how can this relic from the Methuselah be cutting edge technology? meh… etc… blah blah blah more BS… Also it’s not a Toyota. And even worse, let’s talk about those HP/lt numbers. Horrid… yada yada yada.

    En fin.

    Very revealing article. I honestly didn’t thought it was THAT advanced and makes me sad I don’t follow racing much. Or haven’t even considered as a career choice.

    You should mention also that the small blocks used are state of the art. CFD and many other tools are employed to extract every HP from them.

  • avatar
    Facebook User

    The big difference is that F1 are innovators, and NASCAR is not much more than a bunch of spec racers. The only reason this post exists is because of the cost-cutting measures limiting what F1 cars are allowed to do. Anyone who can compare the two and come away with “They’re not that different” obviously has no basis or history in race car design. Normally Jack’s posts are not as shortsighted or uninformed as this one.

    • 0 avatar

      F1 does not innovate. The FIA won’t allow them to, and if any team does gain an advantage technologically, they are quick to step in and take away that advantage. There hasn’t been any true innovation in F1 in years.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      For the record, I have built three race cars with my own hands, and I’ve worked with Grand-Am teams. Innovation is innovation, and the form it takes is a function of the rulebook and the budget.

    • 0 avatar
      Facebook User

      Man all you have to do is look at the last six months of F1 to see what they are doing that nobody’s ever done before. Stalling the rear wings. Blown diffusers with electronic throttle management to keep exhaust flowing when off-throttle. The inerter, which dampens out vibrations caused by the underdamped tire sidewall.

      Nobody watching NASCAR wants to see innovation. They want to hear pushrod V8s with carburetors. Even though it has been heavily neutered by regulation (especially the motor), F1 fans still very much want to see innovation in their race cars, even if it’s mostly aerodynamic.

      The rulebook and the budget are exactly why we don’t see innovation in NASCAR (as well as the fanbase). The argument is not that there is no innovation, it’s that there is much less of it and what there is we hear less about.

  • avatar

    Push-rod V8
    Live axle rear-end
    Floor it and turn left

    Yup, nothing but the best [s]19th[/s] 21st. century technology here.


  • avatar

    These posts are stupid because it is impossible to define what is more high tech than something else. Is a quartz watch more high tech than a sand hour glass? What is the sand hour glass used the most advanced computational methods to accurately predict the flow of the sand, what if it contained the most advanced sensor to determine when the sand had stopped flowing and flip the glass around, what if it contained an active stabilization system that automatically corrected for small changes in the earth’s gravitational field, etc?

    I would say that F1 is arguably ahead of NASCAR, but by way less than you think. F1 wants to appear high tech, when in reality they heavily restrict the technology to keep the series alive. NASCAR wants to appear less high tech than it is to stay to true to its roots. In reality they are very close using many of the same suppliers. The technology in NASCAR is hidden and not advertised, but has been in front of F1 in some categories like coatings within the engine. In fact I believe the current Chevy R07 engine block, with its fancy compacted graphite casting, is made on some island north of France in the same factory that makes engine blocks for at least one other large manufacturer in F1. All of the NASCAR and F1 engine guys go to the same conferences on technology and use

    Read race car engineering and stories about F1 guys that go to NASCAR. 5-6 years ago most were surprised by the technology, but now interviews are different. Now you get the engineers saying there is more freedom in NASCAR engines than F1. Sure they are push rod engines with Carbs (next year I believe there will actually be fuel injection), but they are very very advanced motors. Take for example the cast iron engine block. This block weights basically the same as an advanced aluminum block. Would the engine be more high tech if it had a cheaper and heavier aluminum block? The cast iron just makes it seem low tech, but it is nothing like a road cars cast iron block (except for the Ferrari F50).

    Just look at the money. Other than F1, what other series comes even close to money that is spent in NASCAR.

    • 0 avatar

      IMO as far as the tech is concerned Baruth is right. One does what one can within rules and budget.

      The difference is in origin and tradition. F1 comes from sport and teams racing for their country (until in recent years the anglo culture degenerated and they destroyed F with fraud and politics), and nASCAR comes from entertainment at country fairs and small oval tracks.

      At this point the only series worth watching full time is MotoGP. Tech at the level of F1 with free development, except of course it doesn’t have much of an aero component.
      But this makes it much more a pure racing form as the rider has at least as much influence as the bike.

      Didn’t mention it before becuase it is outside the scope of F1 vs Nascar, but it is a valid measuring stick.

  • avatar

    While all that technology is certainly fascinating, what’s the point of all this racing? F1, NASCAR, Indy – it’s a waste of resources. Rally? Maybe. At least it’s on normal roads with
    relatively normal cars, with driving skills that can be used
    in normal driving.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      The point of racing is

      a) to compete
      b) to win

      Some people would reverse the order there.

      F1 doesn’t need to be any more “relevant” than the National Football League.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, Rally is much more interesting than either NASCAR or F1.

      My biggest complaint with NASCAR, F1, Indy, et al, is that all of the cars look the same, and due to the restrictions and the rules, are 99% the same. NASCAR used to be stock car racing as in more or less stock cars, the Chevy looked different from the Ford which looked different from the Dodge, now the cars bear no resemblance to what they supposedly are, and all look alike.

      My simple set of rules for a racing series that would take the world by storm are as follows:

      1. You must start with a production car and leave it mostly intact. Safety features such as roll cages and racing harnesses are fine, but if you start with a car that has five seats and transverse mounted V6, you race the car with all five seats and the transverse mounted V6. Basic suspension layout must remain the same (IRS stays IRS, live axle stays live axle) and aero tweaks are limited to body kits attached to the car, not removing and significantly changing body panels. The frame or unibody of the vehicle must remain intact, no taking the shell off and putting a tube frame underneath. The engine that the car comes with must stay in the bay, but may be upgraded with forced induction, different exhaust, reprogrammed ECU etc. Internals may be upgraded to a degree – new heads, pistons, and cranks may be acceptable, but recasting an iron black engine in aluminum would not be.

      2. Each team is given a finite amount of money to spend on the purchase of the new car (based on MSRP) as well as any handling, brake, and engine upgrades they see fit. Classes can be based on total budget. So, in the $100,000 and under class one team might spend $30,000 on a 2011 Mustang GT as the starting car, and have $70,000 left over to play with brakes, suspension, superchargers/turbochargers, etc. Another team in that same class might spend $84,000 on a Porsche Carrera4 and have only $16,000 left for upgrades. Safety equipment does not come out of the budget, nor do repairs caused due to accidents on the track. Wear items such as tires, belts, brake pads, etc, do come out of the budget, as do repairs due to mechanical failures. Fuel does not come out of the budget.

      3. Each team gets 1 car for the entire season. The budget must make that car last throughout the season through all races, including the wear items and repairs.

      4. There will be a variety of tracks, some may be road courses, others ovals, and others have some off pavement areas. The same car must be used on all tracks throughout the season, and may not be substantially changed between them (things like new tires for a different track are OK, as are software tweaks to the engine).

      5. There are no limits to hp, top speed, etc.

      These simple rules would put the focus of racing back on stock cars, and get the whole ‘win on Sunday sell on Monday’ thing going again, plus foster a ton of innovation as teams could go so many different ways in each class. Keeping the class costs reasonable and forcing the same car to be used through an entire season and on a variety of track types would encourage thoughtful and resilient engineering that could trickle down more easily into regular production models as well.

    • 0 avatar

      No aero restriction? Good.

      Used Lotus elise or other small car.

      1) Motorcycle engine runs a sucker fan. Essentially infinite grip, without any suspension upgrades, etc.

      2) You said the engine that came with the car has to stay in, but not that other engines couldn’t go in too. A second engine runs the front wheels (obviously via clever means which don’t alter suspension geometry per your requirements).

      3) No restrictions on computer control? Excellent. Differential braking and TC should ensure that the thing turns instantaneously; with the aforementioned sucker fan, obviously, grip is not an issue. Software control at the (very high) adhesion limit will be necessary.

      4) Safety equipment doesn’t come out of the budget? Excellent. An incredibly stiff carbon fiber safety shell will surround the driver. Naturally, it will need to be attached securely to the now-vestigial pre-extant frame…

      I’m sure that you can come up with various “But I didn’t mean…” responses to these things, but that’s my whole point: It’s a lot harder than you think to not leave huge holes.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, if one wants to look at it this way, then the best racing series ever was the old DTM (German touring car championship) before they changed the rules.

      Basically touring cars with mostly open rules using all the F1 tech including the things that were forbidden in F1 at the time like zero shift, electronic diffs and traction control.
      Those were the days, now it’s a bunch of PC wieners.

    • 0 avatar

      Rallying (at least WRC) isn’t that interesting anymore either. It’s Ford vs Citroen (because everybody else quit rallying a few years ago) with a dose of how far Sebastian Loeb will finish ahead of the second place driver.

    • 0 avatar

      WRC is amazing (as is Dakar). It’s really too bad we have neither a WRC-level rally nor WRC TV coverage in North America.

    • 0 avatar

      Nullo, check out GrandAm. Way less fake than WRC.

    • 0 avatar

      The Grand Am cars (effectively spec bodywork on top of a non-spec chassis) are so ugly that I cannot make myself watch them, as good as the racing may be. The Peugeot 908, Audi R15 and Acura ARX-01 are all beautiful compared to their GA brethren.

  • avatar

    There are some parallels though.

    The death of Ayrton Senna was the end of greatness for F1, just like the death of Dale Earnhardt was the end of an era for Nascar.
    Schumacher made F1 watchable before he first retired but now, wether F1 or Nascar, one watches the antics of these guys and so what?
    The only area of interest left is the tech and setup of the cars, but without someone to pull for it’s just academic interest. Hardly worth spending the cosiderable $$ it takes to attend the races.

  • avatar

    The author wrote:

    “These are measurements of how hard and fast an engine runs. ”

    No, they’re ONE measurement. The far more typical way of measuring these are HP per liter, and RPM

    A NASCAR engine is 5.87L producing 770HP

    An F1 engine is 2.4L producing 740 HP

    A NASCAR engine runs at 9,500 RPM

    An F1 engine runs at 19,500 RPM (before rules restrictions)

    Basically, an F1 engine has more than twice the efficiency of a NASCAR engine. And, as you know, from an engineering point of view “more than double” is light years ahead. Actually, the HP/L figure for the NASCAR engine is not all that impressive even compared to a Honda S2000.

    You know why? It’s frigg’n supposed to. NASCAR, is primarily about a fun show for the family. It’s a nice piece of marketing genius. It wisely to caters to that ‘ol ‘merican nostalgia for the good ‘ol days when things were all kinds of peachy keen in the USA. There’s good money in that.

    F1 uses technology that is current, and it’s as simple as that.

    There’s a case for technology in NASCAR, but this isn’t it. Why not just say they do an amazing job to make some lead sleds go at amazing speeds. No doubt the money has attracted some fine engineers, but to compare it to racing series that DON’T assure that the technology is kept in the 1950’s/1960’s is beyond journalistic sillyness.

    • 0 avatar

      HP/L is a more typical measure, but because most people are idiots and do not understand engineering. If people actually understood engineering, HP/l would not be used. BMEP is something that is actually used in engineering a engine.

      If I wanted to use an equally useless metric I would use hp/#valves. The NASCAR engine has 16 valves. The F1 engine has 32. The NASCAR engine is twice as effcient as the F1 engine. And, as you know, from an engineering point of view “more than double” is light years ahead.

    • 0 avatar

      But a NASCAR engine has infinitely more pushrods than F1 engine, so the HP/pushrod is infinitely higher for an F1 engine!

      Seriously, power correlates very well with the displacement of an engine. The correlation with the *number* of valves is actually very poor — it’s much better if you look at power vs total valve opening area (big valves have more area).

    • 0 avatar

      Power does not correspond very well to displacement. The Ferrari 360 CS produced over 400 hp from 3.6 l. The GM 3.8l produced 200hp. that does not correlate well. But the hp/#valves is close. HP/#valve is just a valid as hp/l, in that they are both worth very little.

      Just as an aside. In all of my thermodynamics classes, including a masters level class in internal combustion engines, never was hp/l mentioned, but frequently BMEP was. Maybe HP/l is such an advanced concept that it is only dealt with at the doctorate level. It is a very complicated topic, diving the power by the displacement. Or maybe it is of very little value in engineering terms.

    • 0 avatar

      Took too long to bring the HP/lt crap eh?

    • 0 avatar

      “Useless metric”?

      HP/L is more common because since the dawn of time, the entire world of racing is categorized by ENGINE CAPACITY. Being efficient within this constraint is somewhat important. Yes, you are right about the importance of the BMEP numbers in explaining engineering efficiency, my point was simply how NASCAR really diminishes this excellent engineering by holding on to antiquated requirements.

      Engineering innovation (as your sig tells me you already know) is the US’ pride and joy. As a race fan it’s more than a little frustrating to see it squandered building stock cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Hp/L is an equally flawed measurement…why does displacement matter?

      If a corvette can get 400hp from a 6L, while a 360 Modena gets the same with a much smaller engine, that doesn’t make the smaller engine necessarily better.

      The Vette has better fuel economy numbers and straightline performance is pretty close between the two as well. The differences can be attributed more to chassis config/suspension tech rather than engine performance.

      It’s not how big your engine is, it’s what you can do with it :-)

      PS> Argueably, that 6L slow revvin V8 will live long past the little screamer in the prancing horse.

  • avatar

    There some truth in what you’ve said Jack, but there shouldn’t be.

    If NACOTAR (National Association for Car Of Tomorrow Auto Racing) were true to it’s roots, we’d be seeing V6 Fusions squaring off against V6 Camrys.

    The problem with F1, Indy, Nascar, et. al. is that only 10 laps are really needed. The rest is organized boredom.

    • 0 avatar

      Bingo here Dynamic88.

      In F1 all I watch anymore is qualifying. They are really trying all out for those few minutes. And it means something. Pretty much, qualifying gives you the top positions in F1.

      In Nascar, you ride around 400 miles seeing who can out adjust the other guy. Then those that got it close to right really race for the victory for a few laps. The best Nascar style racing is the Truck Series. Shorter races, harder racing.

      The best racing overall for watching is MotoGP in my opinion. Rider makes lots of difference, though not all. Races are only an hour or less usually. The racing is hard, well fought. My only complaint in the top series is too few riders. If there were 30 riders it would be even better.

      The tech, and driver development has gotten so good in most modern racing it has become too predictable and therefore boring.

  • avatar

    Its been 25 years since I worked in the a special unit of the Cummins Engine Development & Test group, but I speak BMEP, BSFC, Opacity as well as the old stand-by “rpm*torque/5252″…

    I never really got into MPS (our Holset Turbos were whirling around 100k rpm, but our engines, even balls-out, were comparatively loafing at leasurely rpm numbers…

    Jack wrote: ” but NASCAR engines have a much longer stroke, thus imposing a much greater acceleration load on the parts.” THis seems backward to me.

    Now, maybe I’ve forgotten something, or never knew it, but I would be interested to hear others’ views on this….

    Since, the MPS concept as discussed above, would seem a bit of a misnomer to me … and I wonder what the value of the measurement is, because it should not be the average speed of the piston (MPS) that would measure the stresses in the system, but rather something like the average change in MPS (this would be acceleration)…

    A piston has a speed of 0 fps twice in each revolution (at TDC and BDC), and a long-stroke engine (all other things being equal, such an engine will deliver more torque than a short-stroke variant) has more travel over which to reach a max piston speed (this should occur in the middle of the up and down strokes) before the piston has to decelerate as it approches a momentary desd stop at TDC/BDC…

    So, to my mind, long stroke engines with MPS’s similar to short-stroke engines will not experience the same stresses due to acceleration/deceleration that short-stroke engines do and are, therefore, not quite as high-tech as they seem.

    I’d be interested to hear some feedback corroborating or refuting my statements.

    (I’m kinda tired tonite, so I’m not going to proof what I just wrote, nor expand on it … I hope the point comes across and am looking forward to good feedback here.)

    • 0 avatar

      This befits my statement that an engine that has MPS that revs to 20k RPM versus one that only goes up to 10k RPM is not the same. The longer the stroke the less overall stress there is b/c there are 1/2 the revolutions of the crank.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Well, the flip side of that is that you are working with rotating equipment that is much heavier. Somebody needs to break out their TI-64 and figure out whether a NASCAR or F1 piston experiences greater overall force.

      With that said, we are actually closer to “F1” tech on the street than we are to NASCAR tech. Superbikes rev to 15,000 with one-liter four-cylinders, which would be close to a 2.4L V8. Nobody’s selling a 5.8L engine that revs as high as a NASCAR engine .

  • avatar

    Do NASCAR and F1 use the same fuel? No. Therefore, any comparisons of engine BMEP, HP/L, etc. are suspect. (In fact, fuel formulation is a big deal in F1. Some aspects are controlled, others are not. Teams use different fuel formulations for different tracks.)

    The trouble with a near-spec series like NASCAR is that teams will not discuss their innovations because 1) it gives secret info to their competition, and 2) they are pushing the rule book to the limit. Loose lips may lead to an investigation. F1 is becoming closer to a spec series (spec engines have been discussed by the FIA) so expect less and less technical detail from teams in the coming years.

    Anytime there is big money to be won or lost people will innovate to the limit of the rules (and then just a little beyond). NASCAR and F1 are big money. Talk to an amateur racer if you want details.

  • avatar

    I still remember an an evening with Junior Johnson when someone asked him what he did when he wanted to to win: “Put the big motor in the car”.
    I would be happy to meet Baruth at the local quarter mile any time he likes.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth


      I’m very possibly the worst drag racer in history. I regularly underperform Car and Driver’s 1/4-mile times the same way they underperform my road course times.

      But if you insist, I’ll bring the Switzer R1K, that’s street-legal and should turn a 9.6 at 147 or so. :)

  • avatar

    1) Speed’s just a question of money. How fast doe you want to go?

    2) The best way to make a small fortune in racing is to start with a big fortune.

    3) The main difference between F1 and NASCAR: In F1, you can watch the first 5 laps and that’s the whole race. In NASCAR, you can watch the last 5 laps, and that’s the whole race.

  • avatar

    August 5th, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Dennis and his CURRENT driver (not Button) should have been banned for life just like Briatore and Piquet, in fact their crimes were much worse. The ONLY reason they were not banned is because they were from UK.


    Lying about a competitor is worse than crashing on purpose to win the race? I’d like to hear Michael Schumacher’s views on that… since he’s the grandmaster of on-track shenanigans.


    Piston speed only shows how much stress is being placed on the engine… NASCAR engines see such high speeds because their engines are such long-stroke designs… which most engine builders hate… while F1 engines see them because they’re forced to rev so high to make more power. I think the impressive thing is not the MPS that NASCAR engines achieve, but that they’ve built motors with such insane loads that actually stay in one piece over race distance.

    @Robert Walter:
    The original article is interesting reading:

    I think rather than MPS or HP/Liter, the real measure of an engine’s worth should be BMEP (where the F1 is superior) and HP/lb.

    Neither approach is ideal for a road car… and while NASCAR may be at the cutting edge of carbureted V8 development and techniques on how to make a Panhard-equipped car handle, that’s like saying modern tourbillion designers are at the cutting edge of clockwork engineering. Both are incredible feats, but have no real application in the real-world. Except for surface engineering… which other sports… *cough* golf *cough* have relegated away…

    Well… billionaires buy tourbillions… but they’re certainly not buying carbureted supercars built in the same shape as a 1990’s sedan.

    Personally, though… I would. The thought of the complex mess of mechanical pornography that a modern, carbureted V12 Ferrari would look and sound like gives me the shivers. Variable resonance induction stacks? Variable ignition timing via a continuously-adjusting mechanically actuated distributor advance? Multi-point injection using several sets of carb jets per piston? Mhmmm…


    F1 may be cutting edge, but nothing much in F1 is ever going to go into real-world cars. Ever. If they really want to keep up with the times, they’ll drop the engine type restrictions and settle on a specific weight and chassis dimension set-up and let the manufacturers figure out what kind of powerplant they want to use. No lifespan limits. Just a 10 place grid penalty every time you blow up or replace an engine.


    I see VLAD has mentioned MotoGP. It’s one of the last bastions of truly competitive racing, with an amazing display of talent on the cards and some ridiculous engineering and tuning going on to get over 250 hp per liter out of those tiny engines. And it’s not just raw horsepower… power delivery is also very important in a sport with a contact patch the size of a cockroach’s nose.

    • 0 avatar

      I love moto gp & ama even more. IMHO this is the closest “racetrack -> showroom” racing sport that you can get.

      ” The motorcycles are limited in the modifications that are permitted and they retain a large number of stock components including the original equipment wheels. Series wide spec tires are required from Dunlop, with a limit on how many tires are permitted each weekend. ”

      Even better:

      AMA Pro SuperSport is AMA Pro Road Racing’s showcase of America’s future motorcycle racing stars today. The proving ground series is reserved strictly for up-and-coming riders between the ages of 16 and 21 who compete on 600cc sport bikes that are only minimally modified from what you will find at your local Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda or other motorcycle dealership.”

      This is how car racing should be.

  • avatar

    I tell you why it’s worse.

    Piquet was trying to keep his ride and followed unethical team orders to make another driver win.
    Wrong, and he paid, but IMO most of the fault was with the team manager.
    If he had been from UK he would have walked.

    But the McLaren driver has a habit of bending rules and lying to stewards, it was not the first time. Further he lies repeatedly for his own benefit and on his own initiative.

    • 0 avatar

      Fibbing to gain a competitive advantage isn’t the same as crashing on purpose to fix a race. Or crashing into other drivers, repeatedly, to win championships, then lying about the fact that you did so on purpose. Your hero, Herr Schumacher, could tell you more.

      So he got off lightly? Hamilton was excluded from that race, and Ron Dennis and Dave Ryan voluntarily resigned to keep McLaren from being further penalized.

      And I don’t see how Ron Dennis and McLaren are being categorically favored by the FIA, when they were handed the mother of all fines for SpyGate, when other teams got off lightly (Renault) for doing the same thing… only because they admitted to possessing illegal documents at the end of the season.

      Not that McLaren is the cleanest team on the grid, but Renault and Ferrari have had their fair share of shenanigans… mass dampers, flexible aero, traction control, race-fixing (via “team orders”, both before and after it was banned)… etcetera.

  • avatar

    The cars and the crews are flat-out amazing.

    All they need to do is fix NASCAR.

    I was a big fan back in the 80’s and early 90’s but I stopped watching when the commercial breaks became almost as long as the racing action.

  • avatar
    M 1

    I’m wondering what Jack was trying to prove here.

    I have circle-track-racing friends, people who spend their own money to do this — and even THEY think it’s friggin caveman technology compared to “the sportscar snobs” or whatever you want to call the other stuff.

    And for simple on-track entertainment value (e.g. remove the pro-wrestling-slash-marketing antics), even the drifting dorks are more interesting.

  • avatar

    Nothing beats dual over head cam 4 valves per cylinder, and now 5 valve if both engine blocks are identical in cubic inch.
    The increase in power naturally aspirated is astounding.

    Honda didn’t reinvent the wheel here in 1979, being Alfa Romero was at in the 60’s.
    They simply perfected it like they always do anytime we think we developed something worth while.

    There is 1/2 the load bearing forces of the valve train to start with having to only open them 1/2 as deep into the head.
    No rocker arms with direct contact shim buckets off the cams.
    No mention of management being it’s always being upgraded to control what it eats and breaths.

    As for stroke piston speed, short stroke is 1/2 the piston speed, far less crank mass and bearing forces making them last and fast.
    Like 2L motors making 800Hp and stay together, incredible.

    I love long stroke torque as much as anyone, and was the deciding factor with Honda’s designed long stroke Hemi size piston’d 1800vtx over Harley’s long stroke 1450’s design.
    Simply High Tech from the ground up.

    Push rod motors are about as high tech as Stone Hedge.
    This is where the US Mfg’s poorly engineered designs are getting pushed out of the way. If not for the re-labeled Mazda’s at Ford, it would be far worse.

    I have to admit, as a F1 freak since the early 80’s, then met and talked to one the drivers at his camp site.
    My first question answered blew my mind.
    Simply asked what the max down force was at the rear wing.
    Instant lock jaw when he said 5000 lbs, or 2500 kg.
    Then it all made sense from there how the turning speeds look magic.
    If it were allowed, I’d add synced rudders to steering. Now see impossible physics.

    Recent venture into F1 as invited crew member is so much more tech than one can imagine at every inch. Simply a F15 with it’s wings ripped off.

    I attend some Nascar, and trick is not to be down wind, and the sardine seating is insane. This group and designers apparently don’t get it, or just don’t care.
    Just pack in as much cash per square inch is all that matters.

    No pit access with so much chaos & liability. F1, no problem.
    I lasted twenty minutes, then got out of $100 seats to wander with camera.

    It’s just not the same or exciting like it was seeing your Dad’s 440 going the limit when Chrysler ruled the 60’s-70’s.
    I would have to agree with others now on SuperBike, Motogp, Rally, Sprint-WoO’s.

    Seeing the image results of F1 in Japan at night last season looks like it will be successful even at $1200 entry fee.
    Hopefully the soap opera issues behind the scenes stay that way.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    If that’s the case, then why is the Holy Grail of aerodynamic testing — the “coastdown tunnel” — rumored to exist right now, in the hands of Chip Ganassi?

    Not just rumored, it actually does (or at least did) exist. Great use for an abandoned piece of the PA Tollpike if you ask me.
    Sorry for commenting on on an old post BTW.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • FreedMike: Call me when you REALLY can’t buy a gas powered car. Then we’ll talk. Until then, relax.
  • FreedMike: OK, let’s say you walk out to your EV in the morning, which has been charging all night and has a...
  • EBFlex: It’s not surprising the sound and reasonable arguments raised in this article went completely over your head....
  • golden2husky: If your converter was red-hot, the real issue was a way too rich fuel mixture, not the converter...
  • 285exp: Mike, the ability to charge at home does not make range a non issue, when you run out of range it doesn’t...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber