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Sprint Cup Series drivers race at Talladega Superspeedway in 2008
|Highest governing body||NASCAR|
Stock car racing is a form of automobile racing found mainly in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain and Brazil. Traditionally, races are run on oval tracks measuring approximately 0.25 to 2.66 miles (0.4 to 4.3 kilometers) in length, where the entire race effectively involves making a continuous left hand turn. NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) is the world's largest known governing body for stock car racing, and its Sprint Cup Series (named for its sponsor, Sprint Nextel Corporation) is the de facto premier series of stock car racing. Top level races are 200 to 600 miles (322 to 966 km) in length. Average speeds in the top classes are usually 70–80% of comparable levels of open wheel racing at the same tracks. Some stock cars may reach speeds in excess of 200 mph (322 km/h) at tracks such as Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. For safety, devices such as restrictor plates may be used at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway that limit top speeds to approximately 192 mph (309 km/h).
A stock car, in the original sense of the term, described an automobile that has not been modified from its original factory configuration. Later the term stock car came to mean any production-based automobile used in racing. This term is used to differentiate such a car from a race car, a special, custom-built car designed only for racing purposes.
The actual degree to which the cars conform to standard model specs has changed over the years and varies from country to country. Today most American stock cars may superficially resemble standard American family sedans, but are in fact purpose-built racing machines built to a strict set of regulations governing the car design ensuring that the chassis, suspension, engine, etc. are architecturally identical on all vehicles. Ironically, these regulations ensure that stock cars are in many ways technologically less sophisticated than standard cars on the road. For example, NASCAR (the largest stock car organization in the U.S.) requires carbureted engines in all of its racing series, while fuel injection is now universal in standard passenger cars. The closest European equivalent to stock car racing is probably touring car racing. In the UK and New Zealand there is a racing formula called stock cars but the cars are markedly different from any road car you might see. In Australia there was a formula that was quite similar to NASCAR, but it has now closed down, and a form of touring cars has taken its place.
There are several classes of stock car racing, each with slightly different rules, but the key intention of cars that look like production cars, but with near-identical specifications underneath, remains true.
'True' stock car racing, which consists of only street vehicles that can be bought by general public, is sometimes now called Street Stock, Pure Stock, Showroom Stock, or U-Car racing. In 1972, SCCA started its first showroom stock racing series, with a price ceiling on the cars of $3,000. Some modern showroom stock racing allows safety modifications done on showroom stock cars.
Super Stock classes are similar to street stock, but allow for more modifications to the engine. Power output is usually in the range of 500–550 horsepower (373–410 kilowatts). Tire width is usually limited to 8 in (200 mm).
Some entry level classes are called Street Stock, and are similar to what is often called Banger Racing in England.
Late Models are usually the highest class of stock cars in local racing. There may be subcategories of Late Models such as Super Late Models and Limited Late Models. A Late Model may be a custom built machine, or a heavily modified street car. The national touring series, the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Division, originated from local late model races in the east coast of the U.S. This division became the Busch Series and then the Nationwide Series.
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In the 1920s, moonshine runners during the prohibition era would often have to outrun the authorities. To do so, they had to upgrade their vehicles and eventually started getting together with fellow runners and making runs together. They would challenge one another and eventually progressed to organized events in the early 1930s. The main problem racing faced was the lack of a unified set of rules among the different tracks. The racers could not race at different tracks because it was not legal for them to race there. When Bill France saw this problem he set up a meeting at the Streamline Hotel in order to form an organization that would unify the rules.
When NASCAR was first formed by Bill France, Sr. in 1948 to regulate stock car racing in the U.S., there was a requirement that any car entered be made entirely of parts available to the general public through automobile dealers. Additionally, the cars had to be models that had sold more than 500 units to the public. This is referred to as "homologation". In NASCAR's early years, the cars were so "stock" that it was commonplace for the drivers to drive themselves to the competitions in the car that they were going to run in the race. While automobile engine technology had remained fairly stagnant in World War II, advanced aircraft piston engine development had provided a great deal of available data, and NASCAR was formed just as some the improved technology was about to become available in production cars. Until the advent of the Trans-Am series in 1967, NASCAR homologation cars were the closest thing that the public could buy that was actually very similar to the cars that were winning the national races.
The 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket V-8 with a displacement of 303 cu.in. is widely recognized as the first postwar modern overhead valve (OHV) engine to become available to the public. The Oldsmobile was an immediate success in 1949 and 1950, and all the automobile manufacturers could not help noticing its higher sales of the Oldsmobile 88 to the buying public. The motto of the day became "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday". However, in spite of the fact that several competing engines were more advanced, the aerodynamic and low-slung Hudson Hornet managed to win in 1951, 1952, and 1953 with a 308 cu.in. (5.0 L) inline 6-cylinder that used an old-style flathead engine, proving there was more to winning than just a more powerful engine.
At the time, it typically took three years for a new design of car body or engine to end up in production and be available for NASCAR racing. Most cars sold to the public did not have a wide variety of engine choices, and the majority of the buying public at the time were not interested in the large displacement special edition engine options that would soon become popular. However, the end of the Korean War in 1953 started an economic boom, and then car buyers immediately began demanding more powerful engines.
Also in 1953, NASCAR recommended that the drivers add roll bars, but did not require them.
In 1955 Chrysler produced the C-300 with its 300 HP 331 cu in (5.4 L) OHV engine, which easily won in 1955 and 1956.
In 1957 several notable events happened. The Automobile Manufacturers Association (AMA) banned manufacturers from using race wins in their advertising and giving direct support to race teams, as they felt it led to reckless street racing. This forced manufacturers to become creative in producing race parts to help racers win. Race teams were often caught trying to use factory produced racing parts that were not really available to the public, though many parts passed muster by being labeled as heavy-duty "Police" parts. Car manufacturers wanted to appear compliant with the ban, but they also wanted to win.
NASCAR tracks at the time were mainly dirt tracks with modest barriers, and during the 1957 season a Mercury Monterey crashed into the crowd. This killed many spectators, and resulted in a serious overhaul of the safety rules which in turn prompted the building of larger more modern tracks. Also in 1957, Chevrolet sold enough of their new fuel injected engines to the public in order to make them available for racing (and Ford began selling superchargers as an option), but Bill France immediately banned fuel injection and superchargers from NASCAR before they could race. However, even without official factory support or the use of fuel injection, Buck Baker won in 1957 driving a small-block V-8 Chevrolet Bel-Air.
In 1961 Ford introduced the FE 390 in a low drag Galaxie "Starliner", but 1960 and '61 championships were won by drivers in 409-powered Chevrolet Impalas.
Pontiac introduced their "Super Duty" 421 in Catalinas that made use of many aluminum body parts to save weight, and the Pontiacs easily won in 1962.
The desire from fans and manufacturers alike for higher performance cars within the restrictions of homologation meant that carmakers began producing limited production "special edition" cars based on high production base models. It also became apparent that manufacturers were willing to produce increasingly larger engines to remain competitive (Ford had developed a 483 they hoped to race). For the 1963 season NASCAR engines were restricted to using a maximum displacement of 7.0 Liters (427 cu.in.) and using only two valves per cylinder.
Also, even with heavy duty special editions sold to the public for homologation purposes, the race car rules were further modified, primarily in the interest of safety. This is because race drivers and their cars during this era were subjected to forces unheard of in street use, and require a far higher level of protection than is normally afforded by truly "stock" automobile bodies.
In 1963 Ford sold enough of their aerodynamic “sport-roof” edition Galaxies to the public so it would qualify as stock, and with the heavy-duty FE block bored and stroked to the new limit of 427, the top 5 finishers were all Ford. Chrysler had bored their 413 to create the “Max Wedge” 426, but it still could not compete with the Fords. GM's headquarters had genuinely tried to adhere to the 1957 ban, but their Chevrolet division had also constantly tried to work around it, because the other manufacturers had openly circumvented the ban. In 1963 GM gave in and openly abandoned compliance, and Chevy was allowed to produce the ZO6 427, but it did not immediately enjoy success.
Then, in 1964 the new Chrysler 426 Hemi engine so dominated the series in a Plymouth Belvedere "Sport Fury", the homologation rules were changed so that 1,000 of any engine and car had to be sold to the public to qualify as a stock part, instead of just 500. This made the 426 Hemi unavailable for the 1965 season.
In 1965 Ford adapted two single-overhead-cams to their FE 427 V8 to allow it to run at a higher RPM (called the Ford 427 Cammer). Ford started to sell "cammers" to the public to homologate it (mostly to dealer-sponsored privateer drag racers), but NASCAR changed the rules to specify that all NASCAR engines must use a single cam-in-block. But even without the Cammer, the Ford FE 427 won in 1965.
In 1966 Chrysler sold enough of the 426 Hemi's to make it available again, and they put it in their new Dodge Charger which had a low-drag rear window that was radically sloped. It was called a "fast-back", and because of this David Pearson was the series champion that year with Richard Petty dominating 1967, winning 27 of 48 races (including 10 in a row) in the boxier Plymouth Belvedere.
The 1969 season featured the Dodge Daytona with a radical body shape change. This car exceeded 200 mph (321 km/h) which was a significant improvement over their competitors, 180 mph (289 km/h) was common at the time. Richard Petty could not come to contractual terms with Dodge before the 1969 season, but when he saw the Daytona, he demanded that Plymouth make something similar, but they declined (for the time being). He signed a lucrative deal with Ford, and they made the Torino "Talladega" which had enough aerodynamic body improvements that it gave the Torino a higher top speed with no other changes. NASCAR feared that these increasing speeds significantly surpassed the abilities of the tire technology of the day, and it would undoubtedly increase the number of gruesome wrecks that were occurring. As a result, the 1970 Homologation rules were changed so that one car for every two U.S. dealers had to be built for sale to the public to qualify, hoping to delay the use of aero-bodies until tires could improve.
For the 1970 season Dodge raced the 1969 model Daytona, but Plymouth managed to build over 1,920 Plymouth Superbirds, which were almost identical to the Daytona. Petty came back to Plymouth in the 200+ mph Superbird, and Bobby Isaac won the season championship in a Daytona. NASCAR restricted "aero-cars" to maximum engine displacement of 305 cu.in. (approx. 5.0L) for 1971. Almost all teams switched to non-aero bodystyles. NASCAR eventually adopted a restrictor plate to limit top speeds for the 7.0L engine as teams switched to small-block 358 cu.in. (5.7L) engines.
Fans, drivers, and manufacturers alike demanded a complete revamping of the rules. NASCAR responded in a way that they hoped would make the cars safer and more equal, so the race series would be more a test of the drivers, rather than a test of car technology.
The era drew to a conclusion in the 1970s. 1972 brought so many rule changes, it has prompted many to consider this year as the start of the modern era of NASCAR racing. In addition, R.J. Reynolds (the tobacco conglomerate) took over as the major sponsor of NASCAR racing (changing the name to the "Winston Cup") and they made a significantly larger financial contribution than previous sponsors. Richard Petty's personal sponsorship with STP also set new, higher standards for financial rewards to driving teams. The sudden infusion of noticeably larger amounts of money changed the entire nature of the sport.
The 1973 oil crisis meant that large displacement special edition homologation cars of all makes were suddenly sitting unsold. From this point forward, stock cars were quickly allowed to differ greatly from anything available to the public. Modern racing "stock" cars are stock in name only, using a body template that is vaguely modeled after currently-available automobiles. The chassis, running gear, and other equipment have almost nothing to do with anything in ordinary automobiles.
The most prominent championship in stock car racing is the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, named after its sponsor Sprint Nextel. It is the most popular racing series in the United States, drawing over 6 million spectators in 1997, an average live audience of over 190,000 people for each race.
The most famous event in the series is the Daytona 500, an annual 500-mile (800 km) race at Daytona Beach, Florida. The series' second-biggest event is arguably The Brickyard 400, an annual 400-mile (640 km) race held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the legendary home of the Indianapolis 500, an open-wheeled race. NASCAR also operates the Nationwide Series, a stock car junior league, and the Camping World Truck Series, a junior league where pickup trucks are raced. Together the two car-based series (Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series) drew 8 million spectators in 1997, compared to 4 million for both American open-wheel series (CART and IRL), which merged in 2008 under the IRL banner. In 2002, 17 of the 20 US top sporting events in terms of attendance were stock car races. Only football drew more television viewers that year.
Besides NASCAR, there are a number of other national or regional stock-car sanctioning bodies in the United States. There are a few organizations that cater to these local short tracks. The Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA), American Speed Association (ASA), Champion Racing Association (CRA), International Motor Contest Association (IMCA), United Auto Racing Association UARA and, United Speed Alliance Racing (USAR) all sanction their own forms of stock-car racing, on varying types of track, and with various levels of media coverage. The International Race of Champions (IROC) series used stock cars, but is usually perceived as being outside of the usual stock car racing scene because of its 'All-Star' design.
Internationally, stock car racing has not enjoyed the same success as within the United States. The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series enjoys generally strong car-counts using the base of the sport in Canada (the short-oval region of Southern Ontario). Brazil also has a successful stock car racing series, with starting grids of 40 or more cars, and four brands competing: Chevrolet, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen and Peugeot. Brazilian Stock Car also has two developing series. Argentina also have a popular stock series, called Turismo Carretera. Unsuccessful efforts have been made in Australia, South Africa, and Japan as well.
Stockcar racing began in New Zealand during the 1950s, first race was at Aranui Speedway on November 27, 1954. It was brought to New Zealand after New Zealand Speedway riders witnessed the huge crowds that watched the races in Britain earlier that year. Stockcar racing is a full contact sport in New Zealand: as the rule book states, "contact is not only permitted, it is encouraged". The class is divided into four groups: superstocks, stockcars, streetstocks and ministocks. The governing body is SNZ.
Stock car racing in the NASCAR mould (AUSCAR) had a following in Australia but that has now passed.
Stock, in the sense of cars appearing to be similar to conventional road vehicles, is represented in the UK (and Europe) by touring cars.
The actual term 'stock cars' in the UK refers to a specialised form of racing that bears little resemblance to any road car.
Stock car racing was brought to Britain in 1954. Taking place on existing greyhound or speedway tracks, the cars were mostly 'stock' cars from the 1930s with locked rear axle differentials and added armour. After the first couple of years 'specials' began to appear eventually making the 'stock' car name something of a misnomer. Since the early days of stock car racing in Britain the sport has developed into many different classes, from the destructive 'Banger' categories to the very sophisticated National Hot Rods. However, the name 'stock car' is usually reserved for that racing class which traces its roots back to these early days in the 1950s, BriSCA F1 Stock Cars, which were previously known as "The Seniors" or "Senior Stock Cars". Despite the physical demands of this full-contact sport, many competitors have been racing for 20 and even 30 years. For the first 10 years of the sport, stock cars were either adapted from road cars, or bore the recognizable bodywork of road cars. By the 1970s, chassis and bodywork had evolved into very specialized forms.
The modern British Formula One Stock Car is a highly sophisticated purpose built race car with race-tuned V-8 engines developing 650 bhp, quick change axles and gearboxes and biased and staggered chassis and braking set up for constant left turning. However large bumpers were mandatory with contact very much encouraged to remove opponents. The sport can be seen at venues throughout Britain and Mainland Europe. The smaller Formula Two Stock Car Racing, previously known as "The Juniors" or "Junior Stock Cars", is also very popular. A downsized version of the Formula One Stock Car Racing, these cars are powered by the 2 litre Ford 'Pinto' engine. There are also many other formulas running on the oval tracks throughout a season that starts around March/Easter and continues to October/November.
In the 2008 World Final, held at Ipswich, Andy Smith raced to victory becoming the 2008 BriSCA F1 Stock Car World Champion for the second time in his career, taking the crown from brother Stuart Smith Jnr. 2009 also saw Andy Smith win again this time at Kings Lynns Norfolk Arena. 2010 saw Andy Smith win for a 3rd consecutive time at Coventry, the same venue as his 1st win in 2006. The 2011 World Championship takes place at Northampton on September 10th. The last time Northampton hosted the World Final was in 2005 when Frankie Wainman Jr. was the winner of the gold roof.
In 2008, Ian Thompson Jr. became the first driver from Northern Ireland to win the F2 Stock Car World title since 1972 when he took the honours at Bristol in 2008. However, it was in controversial circumstances after first across the line Gordon Moodie (Thomson Jr's brother-in-law) was disqualified from the race after being found with carburetor irregularities at post race scrutineering. This irregularity has since been proven to be a manufacturing fault with the control of the driver but the governing body have refused to reinstate Gordon Moodie as the winner in the record books. In 2009 the World Championship winner was Micky Brennan and in 2010 the World Championship winner was John Fortune. The 2011 World Championship Final takes places at Kings Lynns Norfolk Arena on Saturday 17th September.
Another open wheeled stock car formula that races in the UK are Spedeworth V8 Stock Cars. Licensed by Spedeworth, as opposed to BriSCA, the V8 Stock Cars use small block 5 litre Chevrolet engines and race at tracks operated by Spedeworth. Previously known as Formula 80 and Spedeworth F1 Stock Cars.
Another open wheeled stock car formula that races in the UK are Spedeworth Superstox. Licensed by Spedeworth, as opposed to BriSCA, Superstox are a downsized version of the Spedeworth V8 Stock Cars and are similar to Formula Two Stock Cars with the main difference being a smaller wing on the roof. These cars are also powered by the 2 litre Ford 'Pinto' engine. The 2010 World Championship Final held at Ipswich was won by Colin Aylward. The 2011 World Championship Final will be held at Londons Wimbledon Stadium on Sunday 23rd October.
Another form of UK stock car racing is Saloon Stock Cars, regulated by the Saloon Stock Car Association. This formula is based on heavily armoured Ford Sierra, Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Vectra cars purposely reconstructed for this full contact class. The 2011 World Championship was held at Skegness in August with Eddie Darby the winner of the Gold Roof for the next 12 months. The 2012 World Championship Final will be held at Smeatharpe Raceway near Honiton in Devon in August 2012. Other similar Stock Car classes are the 2 Litre Stock Cars licensed by Spedeworth and the 1300 Stock Cars licensed by several different promotors each to slightly differing rules although steps are currently being taken to standardise the specifications in order to make it a national class.
The Stock Car Speed Association ASCAR or Days of Thunder was a "Nascar" style racing series based at Rockingham, United Kingdom, though the series did also race at the Lausitzring in Germany as well.
NASCAR stars take various paths to the highest stock car divisions. Some start racing on dirt surfaces but all end up racing on asphalt surfaces as they progress in their career. They frequently start in karting or in cars that are completely stock except for safety modifications. They generally advance through intermediate or advanced local-level divisions. The highest local division, asphalt late model racing, is generally considered a requirement to advance to the next step, regional and national touring series.
Dirt track drivers follow the same general path. Their highest divisions are less well-known national touring late model series such as the World of Outlaws Late Model Series and regional touring series.
Some drivers have entered stock car racing after starting on a very different career path. The most famous might well be Mario Andretti, who is the only driver ever to win the Indianapolis 500 (1969), NASCAR's Daytona 500 (1967), and the Formula One World Championship (1978). Juan Pablo Montoya is the only other driver with wins in all 3 series, with an Indy 500 win (2000), 7 Formula One wins and 2 Sprint Cup win (2007 and 2010).
Montoya initially surprised the auto racing community by leaving F1, but he was quickly followed by other drivers. Open wheel stars like Sam Hornish Jr., Patrick Carpentier, Dario Franchitti, Jacques Villenueve and A.J. Allmendinger all made the move to the Sprint Cup series, with varying degrees of success. Two-time Australian V8 Supercar Champion Marcos Ambrose has competed the Sprint Cup Series events since 2007.
Other drivers compete often in stock car racing but are well known for their success elsewhere. Ron Fellows and Boris Said are champion road racers and are often brought in by teams solely to compete in NASCAR's road course events. Robby Gordon is one of NASCAR's few remaining owner-drivers, but he is most famous for his numerous off-road championships and his 3 Baja 1000 wins.
Stock car races take place predominantly on oval tracks of 3 or 4 turns, with all turns to the left. Oval tracks are classified as short track (less than 1 mile), intermediate or speedway (1 to 2 miles) or superspeedway (over 2 miles). Road courses are any tracks having both left and right turns. Depending on the track, typical race speeds can vary from 90 miles per hour (140 km/h) at Martinsville to over 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) at Talladega. In 1987 Bill Elliot's asphalt blistering 212.809 mph (342.483 km/h) qualifying time at Talladega brought about a change at superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega).Such high speeds forced NASCAR to implement power-reducing measures, one of which was the mandated implement of below carburetor restrictor plates. This later became known as restrictor plate racing.
Oval circuits differ from the rough terrain and sharp turns of Rally, and the complicated twists and turns of Formula One tracks that put up to 5 or 6 g of horizontal stress on the driver's body. Stock cars are much heavier than Formula One cars, and as a result they are generally slower. Additionally, they cannot produce the g-forces of an open wheel car. A stock car's weak handling with high power output places more emphasis on car control.
In contrast with most forms of racing, minor car-to-car contact is generally accepted in stock car racing. This may happen in the form of forcing another vehicle out of the way, or pushing a competing vehicle forward for mutual benefit. Stock cars are generally built to be tolerant of superficial damage to bodywork, where open wheel designs can experience severe issues with even slight spoiler damage.
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