Sprint Cup Series

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Sprint Cup Series
Sprint Cup Series logo.svg
Category Stock cars
Country United States
Inaugural season 1949
Constructors Chevrolet · Ford · Toyota
Tire suppliers Goodyear
Drivers' champion Jimmie Johnson (6)
Teams' champion Hendrick Motorsports (11)
Makes' champion Chevrolet
Official website Sprint Cup Series
Motorsport current event.svg Current season

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (often shortened to Sprint Cup or the Cup Series) is the top racing series of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). The series is named for its current sponsor, the Sprint Corporation, and has been known by other names in the past. It was originally known as the Strictly Stock Series (1949) and shortly became the Grand National Series (1950–1970). While leasing its naming rights to R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, it was known as the Winston Cup Series (1971–2003). A similar deal was made with NEXTEL in 2003, becoming the NEXTEL Cup Series (2004–2007)[1] and it became the Sprint Cup after Sprint acquired NEXTEL in 2005. The name "Sprint" refers specifically to the subsidiary of Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank which is the entitlement sponsor; sprint car racing is a separate racing discipline.

The drivers' champion is determined by a point system where points are given according to finishing placement and laps led. The season is divided into two segments. After the first 26 races, 16 drivers, selected primarily on the basis of wins during the first 26 races, are seeded based on their total number of wins and compete in the last 10 races with the difference in points greatly minimized. This is called the Chase for the Championship.[2]

The series holds strong roots in the Southeastern United States with half of its 36-race season in that region. The current schedule includes tracks from around the United States. Regular season races were previously held in Canada, and exhibition races were held in Japan and Australia. The Daytona 500, its most prestigious race, had a television audience in the U.S. of about 16 million viewers in 2009.[3]

Sprint Cup Series cars are unique in automobile racing. The engines are powerful enough to reach speeds over 200 mph (320 km/h), but high weight – coupled with a (relatively) simple aerodynamic package – makes for poor handling. Their bodies and chassis are strictly regulated to ensure parity, and electronics are generally spartan in nature.

History[edit]

Strictly Stock and Grand National[edit]

In 1949, NASCAR introduced the Strictly Stock division, after sanctioning Modified and Roadster division races in 1948. Eight races were run, on seven different dirt ovals and the Daytona Beach beach/street course.[4]

The first NASCAR "Strictly Stock" race ever was held at Charlotte Speedway on June 19, 1949. The race was won by Jim Roper after Glenn Dunaway was disqualified after the discovery of his altered rear springs. The first series champion was Red Byron. The division was renamed to "Grand National" for the 1950 season, reflecting NASCAR's intent to make its part of the sport more professional and more prestigious. It would retain this name until 1971. The 1949 Strictly Stock season is treated in NASCAR's record books as the first season of GN/Cup history. Martinsville Speedway is the only track on the 1949 schedule that remains on the current schedule.

Seven-time Winston Cup champion Richard Petty.

Rather than a fixed schedule of one race per weekend with most entrants appearing at every event, the Grand National schedule included over sixty events in some years, often with two or three on the same weekend, and occasionally with two races on the same day in different states.

In the early years, most GN races were held on dirt-surfaced short oval tracks (from under a quarter-mile to over a half-mile lap length) or dirt fairgrounds ovals (usually a half-mile to a mile lap length). 198 of the first 221 Grand National races were on dirt tracks. Darlington Raceway opened in 1950 and became the first completely paved track on the circuit over one mile (1.6 km) long. In 1959, when Daytona International Speedway was opened, the schedule still had more races on dirt racetracks than paved ones. Through the 1960s, as superspeedways were built and old dirt tracks were paved, the number of dirt races was reduced.[5]

The last NASCAR race on a dirt track was held on September 30, 1970 at the half-mile State Fairgrounds Speedway in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was won by Richard Petty in a Plymouth that had been sold by Petty Enterprises to Don Robertson and rented back for the race.[5]

Winston Cup[edit]

NASCAR Winston Cup logo from 2000 to 2003

From 1972 through 2003, NASCAR's premier series was called the Winston Cup Series. It was sponsored by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company cigarette brand Winston. In 1971, the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act banned television advertising of cigarettes. Tobacco companies began to sponsor sporting events both as a way to spend their excess advertising dollars and as a way to circumvent the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act's ban on television advertising. In its later years, RJR's sponsorship became more controversial in the wake of U.S. legislation that sharply restricted avenues for tobacco advertising.

The changes that resulted from RJR's involvement, as well as the reduction of the schedule from 48 to 31 races a year, established 1972 as the beginning of NASCAR's "modern era". The season was made shorter, and the point system was modified several times in the next four years. Races on dirt tracks were removed from the schedule, as were oval track races shorter than 250 miles (402 kilometers). NASCAR's founder, Bill France, Sr., turned over control of NASCAR to his oldest son, Bill France Jr. In August 1974, France Jr. asked series publicist Bob Latford to design a point system with equal points awarded for all races regardless of length or prize money.[6] This system ensured that the top drivers had to run all the races to become series champion. It was used without change from 1975 until the Chase for the Championship was instituted for 2004.

Seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt

Since 1982, the Daytona 500 has been the first non-exhibition race of the year.

ABC Sports aired partial or full live telecasts of Grand National races from Talladega, North Wilkesboro, Darlington, Charlotte, and Nashville in 1970. These events were less exciting than many GN races, and ABC abandoned live coverage. Races were instead broadcast, delayed and edited, on the ABC sports variety show Wide World of Sports.[7]

In 1979, the Daytona 500 became the first stock car race that was nationally televised from flag to flag on CBS. The leaders going into the last lap, Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison, wrecked on the backstretch while dicing for the lead, allowing Richard Petty to pass them both and win the race. Immediately, Yarborough, Allison, and Allison's brother Bobby were engaged in a fistfight on national television. This underlined the drama and emotion of the sport and increased its broadcast marketability. Luckily for NASCAR, the race coincided with a major snowstorm along the United States' eastern seaboard, successfully introducing much of the captive audience to the sport.

Starting in 1981, an awards banquet has been held the first Friday evening in December, at New York City's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, initially in the Starlight Room. In 1985, the ceremony was moved to the much larger Grand Ballroom, where it would be held until 2001. In 2001, the banquet portion was dropped in favor of a simpler awards ceremony. In 2002, the awards ceremony was moved to the Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center. In 2003, the banquet format returned, as the ceremony moved back to the Waldorf's Grand Ballroom.

In 1985 Winston introduced a new award program called the Winston Million. From 1985 to 1997, any driver who won three of the four most prestigious races in the series was given $1 million. This prize was only won twice during its existence. Bill Elliott won in 1985 and Jeff Gordon won in 1997.[8] It was replaced with a similar program, the Winston No Bull 5, in 1998 which awarded $1 million to any driver that won a prestigious race after finishing in the top five of the most previous prestigious race.[9]

The series underwent a large boom in popularity in the 1990s.[10] In 1994, the NASCAR held the first Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Between 1997 and 1998, the winner's prize money for the Daytona 500 tripled. This coincided with a decline of popularity in American Championship Car Racing.

In 1999, NASCAR agreed to a new broadcasting agreement with Fox Broadcasting, Turner Broadcasting, and NBC. This particular television contract, signed for eight years for Fox and six years for NBC and Turner, was valued at $2.4 billion.[11]

In 2001, Pixar visited NASCAR tracks as research for 2006 animated film Cars, which included the voices of NASCAR drivers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.[12] To avoid advertising tobacco in a Disney film, "Piston Cup" served as Pixar's allusion to the Winston Cup.[13]

NEXTEL and Sprint[edit]

The NEXTEL Cup Series logo (2004–2007)

In 2003, RJR dropped its sponsorship of the top series, and NASCAR obtained a sponsorship from NEXTEL, a telecommunications company. In 2004, the series became known as the NEXTEL Cup Series.

The 2006 merger between Sprint and NEXTEL resulted in the cup series being renamed the Sprint Cup, beginning with the 2008 season.[1]

The Sprint Cup trophy is designed by Tiffany & Co., and is silver with a pair of checkered flags in flight.[14]

By 2009, the popularity boom of the 1990s had ended. Television ratings over the past ten years had been more or less stagnant. Some criticisms by long-time fans include a feeling that the series had lost its traditional appeal by abandoning venues in the southeastern United States in favor of new markets. They also voiced discontent over Toyota's presence in the series. Japanese telecommunications corporation SoftBank acquired Sprint in July 2013. While NASCAR was suspicious of diversity promotion and aware of the negative implications of the redneck image, they also recognized the opportunities to grow the sport.[15] NASCAR CEO Brian France has become a prime target for criticism among fans.[16]

Chase for the Championship[edit]

Six-time Sprint Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson.

Along with the change in title sponsorship for the series, the 2004 season also introduced a new system for determining the series champion influenced by the system used by the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series.[17]

Originally known as the Chase for the Nextel Cup (or simply "The Chase", and later changed to Sprint branding), the ten highest scoring drivers and teams (plus ties) in the first 26 races of the season became eligible to win the championship by competing in a playoff held within the final 10 races. This number was increased to 12 teams in 2007. The Chase participants had their points increased to a level mathematically unattainable by anyone outside this field (roughly 1800 points ahead of the first driver outside of the Chase). From the inaugural Chase in 2004 to the 2006 Chase, the drivers were seeded based on points position at the end of the regular season, with first place starting with 5,050 points and 10th starting with 5,005. From 2007 until the 2010 Chase, the point totals of each driver who made the Chase were reset to 5,000 points, plus 10 additional points for each race victory during the first 26 races. Points would still be awarded as usual during the affected races. Whoever leads in points after the 36th race would be declared the champion.

The Sprint Cup trophy, shown with the NEXTEL Cup logo used between 2004 and 2007.

As part of a major change in the points system that took effect in 2011, the qualifying criteria and the points reset were changed as well. From 2011 to 2013, the 10 drivers with the most drivers' points automatically qualified for the Chase. They were joined by two "wild card" qualifiers, specifically the two drivers with the most race wins who are ranked between 11th and 20th in drivers' points. Their base point totals were then reset to 2,000 points, a level more than 1,000 points higher than that of the first driver outside the Chase. (Under the new point system, a race winner can earn a maximum of 48 points, as opposed to 195 in the pre-2011 system.) The 10 automatic qualifiers received a bonus of 3 points for each race win during the regular season, while the two wild cards receive no such bonus. As in the past, the race layouts for the remaining 10 races were the same, with no changes to the scoring system.[18]

For 2014, NASCAR announced wide-ranging changes to the Chase format:[2]

  • The group of drivers in the Chase is now officially called the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase Grid.
  • The number of drivers qualifying for the Chase Grid expands from 12 to 16.
  • Fifteen of the 16 slots in the Chase Grid are reserved for the drivers with the most race wins over the first 26 races. The remaining spot is reserved for the points leader after 26 races, but only if that driver does not have a victory. If fewer than 16 drivers have wins in the first 26 races, the remaining Chase Grid spots are filled by winless drivers in order of season points. As in the recent past, all drivers on the Chase Grid have their driver points reset to 2,000 prior to the Chase, with a 3-point bonus for each win in the first 26 races.
  • The Chase is now divided into four rounds. After each of the first three rounds, the four Chase Grid drivers with the fewest season points are eliminated from the Grid and championship contention. Any driver on the Grid who wins a race in the first three rounds automatically advances to the next round. Also, all drivers eliminated from the Chase have their points readjusted to the regular-season points scheme.
    • Challenger Round (races 27–29)
      • Begins with 16 drivers, each with 2,000 points plus a 3-point bonus for each win in the first 26 races.
    • Contender Round (races 30–32)
      • Begins with 12 drivers, each with 3,000 points.
    • Eliminator Round (races 33–35)
      • Begins with eight drivers, each with 4,000 points.
    • NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship (final race)
      • The last four drivers in contention for the season title start the race at 5,000 points, with the highest finisher in the race winning the Cup Series title.

To encourage continued competition among all drivers, a number of awards are given to drivers finishing outside the Chase. The highest finishing non-Chase driver (13th place at the end of the season from 2007 to 2013; potentially anywhere from 5th to 17th place starting in 2014) is awarded a bonus (approximately $1 million) and was originally given a position on stage at the postseason awards banquet. The awards banquet now focuses solely on the Chase with all of the series' sponsored and contingency awards moved to a luncheon at Cipriani the day before the banquet.

This playoff system was implemented primarily to make the points race more competitive late in the season, and indirectly, to increase television ratings during the NFL season, which starts around the same time as the Chase begins. Furthermore, the Chase also forces teams to perform at their best during all three stages of the season—the first half of the regular season, the second half of the regular season, and the Chase.[19]

Previously, the champion may have been decided before the last race (or even several races before the end of the season) because it was mathematically impossible for any other driver to gain enough points to overtake the leader. Although this is still mathematically possible going into the last two events, it has yet to occur.

On November 20, 2011, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards ended the season in a first-ever points tie. Stewart's 5 season wins (over Edwards' 1) gave him the tie-breaker to claim the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship.

Chase For the Championship Winners[edit]
Year Driver Owner(s) Car
No.
Make Starts
(Total Races)
Wins Top
10s
Poles Points
(margin)
2004 Kurt Busch Jack Roush 97 Ford 36 (36) 3 21 1 6506 (8)
2005 Tony Stewart Joe Gibbs 20 Chevrolet 36 (36) 5 25 3 6533 (35)
2006 Jimmie Johnson Jeff Gordon, Rick Hendrick 48 Chevrolet 36 (36) 5 24 1 6475 (56)
2007 Jimmie Johnson Jeff Gordon, Rick Hendrick 48 Chevrolet 36 (36) 10 24 4 6723 (77)
2008 Jimmie Johnson Jeff Gordon, Rick Hendrick 48 Chevrolet 36 (36) 7 22 6 6684 (69)
2009 Jimmie Johnson Jeff Gordon, Rick Hendrick 48 Chevrolet 36 (36) 7 22 6 6492 (141)
2010 Jimmie Johnson Jeff Gordon, Rick Hendrick 48 Chevrolet 36 (36) 6 23 2 6622 (39)
2011 Tony Stewart Gene Haas, Tony Stewart 14 Chevrolet 36 (36) 5 19 1 2403 (0)
2012 Brad Keselowski Roger Penske 2 Dodge 36 (36) 5 23 0 2400 (39)
2013 Jimmie Johnson Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon 48 Chevrolet 36 (36) 6 24 3 2419 (19)

Sprint Cup Owner's Championship[edit]

1992 Owner's championship trophy

The Sprint Cup Owner's Championship operates in the same manner as the Driver's Championship, but awarding points to each individual car (even if an owner enters more than one car, they are viewed and scored as separate entities). The points awarded are identical to the drivers' list, with one minor exception—drivers who are not eligible to earn points toward the drivers' title can still earn points toward the owner's championship. An example of this occurred in the first race under the current point system, the 2011 Daytona 500. Under another rule newly implemented for the 2011 season, drivers are only allowed to earn drivers' points in one of NASCAR's three national series. Trevor Bayne, who won the race, did not earn any drivers' points because he chose to run for the Nationwide Series championship. However, he earned 47 owner's points for Wood Brothers Racing (43 base points and 3 bonus points for the win, and 1 bonus point for leading a lap).

Before a major change to the points system implemented in 2011, there was a slightly different addition to the system of allocating owner's points — in the event of more than 43 cars attempting to qualify for a race, owner's points were awarded to each car in the following manner: the fastest non-qualifier (in essence, 44th position) received 31 points, three less than the 43rd position car. If there was more than one non-qualifying car, owners' points continued to be assigned in the manner described, decreasing by three for each position. Under the post-2010 point system, only those cars that actually start in a given race will earn owner's points.

There is a separate "chase for the championship" for the owners' points.

A 2005 rule change in NASCAR's three national series, which will be revoked with the 2013 season, affects how the owner's points are used. Through the 2012 season, the top 35 (Sprint Cup), or top 30 (other series) full-time teams in owner points are awarded exemptions for the next race, guaranteeing them a position in the next race. These points can decide who is in and out the next race, and have become crucial since the exemption rule was changed to its current format. At the end of each season, the top 35 in owner's points are also locked into the first five races of the next season.

Beginning in 2013, this aspect of the rules will revert to a system more similar to the pre-2005 rules. In the Sprint Cup, the first 36 places in the field will be determined strictly by qualifying speed. The next six places will be awarded on owner points, with the final place reserved for a past series champion. If the final exemption is not used because all past champions are already in the field, it will pass to another car based on owner points.[20]

In some circumstances, a team's owners' points will differ from the corresponding driver's points. In 2005, after owner Jack Roush fired Kurt Busch during the next-to-last race weekend of the season, the No. 97 team finished in eighth place in owner's points, while Busch ended up tenth in driver's points. In 2002, when Sterling Marlin was injured, the No. 40 team finished eighth in owner's points, while Marlin was 18th in driver's points, because of substitute drivers Jamie McMurray and Mike Bliss, who kept earning owner points for the #40. Another example was in the aforementioned 2011 Daytona 500.

Manufacturer's Championship[edit]

A Manufacturer's Championship is awarded each year, although the Driver's Championship is considered more prestigious. In the past, manufacturer's championships were very prestigious because of the number of manufacturers involved, and the manufacturer's championship was a major marketing tool. In the Nationwide Series, the championship is known as the Bill France Performance Cup.[21]

Points are scored in a 1960–1990 Formula One system, with the winner's manufacturer scoring nine points, six for the next manufacturer, four for the manufacturer third among makes, three for the fourth, two for the fifth, and one point for the sixth positioned manufacturer. This means that if Chevrolets place first through tenth in a given race and a Ford is 11th and a Dodge 12th, Chevrolet earns 9 points, Ford 6 and Dodge 4.

Sprint Cup cars[edit]

Sprint Cup Series cars (often called "Cup cars") adhere to a front engine rear-wheel-drive design. A roll cage serves as a space frame chassis and is covered by a 24-gauge sheet metal body. They have a closed cockpit, fenders, a rear spoiler, and an aerodynamic splitter. Fielding a car for one season usually costs $10–20 million.[22] Each team may build their own cars and engines (per NASCAR's specifications) or purchase cars and engines from other teams.

The cars are powered by EFI V8 engines, with cast iron blocks, and a pushrod valvetrain actuating two-valves per cylinder, and limited to 358 cubic inches (about 5.8 liters) displacement. However, modern technology has allowed power outputs near 900 horsepower (670 kW) in unrestricted form while retaining the conventional basic engine design. In fact, before NASCAR instituted the gear rule, Cup engines were capable of operating in excess of 10,000 rpm.[23] A Sprint Cup Engine with the maximum bore of 4.185 inches (106.3 millimeters), and stroke of 3.25 inches (82.55 millimeters) at 9,000 rpm has a mean piston speed of 80.44 fps (24.75 m/s) (roughly that of a Formula One engine). Contemporary Cup engines run 9,800 rpm, 87.59 fps (26.95 m/s), at the road course events, on Pocono Pennsylvania's long front stretch, and at the .526 mile short-track Martinsville Speedway. At the backbone 1.5-2.0-mile tri-oval tracks of NASCAR, the engines produce over 850 hp running 92-9400 rpm for 500 miles, 600 mi for the World 600 Charlotte race.

The front suspension is a double wishbone design, while the rear suspension is a two-link live axle design utilizing trailing arms. Brake rotors must be made of magnetic cast iron or steel and may not exceed 12.72 inches (32.3 centimeters) in diameter.[24] The only aerodynamic components on the vehicles are the front splitter, spoiler, NACA ducts in the windows only, and side skirts. The use of rear diffusers, vortex generators, canards, wheel well vents, hood vents, and undertrays is strictly prohibited. While the cars may reach speeds of about 200 mph (321.8 km/h) on certain tracks, Russ Wicks drove a stock car built to NASCAR's specifications 244.9 mph (394.1 km/h) during a speed record attempt at the Bonneville Salt Flats in October 2007.[25]

Sprint Cup engines carry a Freescale-provided electronic control unit, but traction control and anti-lock brakes are prohibited. Live telemetry is used only for television broadcasts, but the data can be recorded from the ECU to the computer provided the car is in the garage, and not on track.

Evolution of Sprint Cup cars[edit]

1949–1980[edit]

When the series was formed under the name, strictly stock, the cars were just that, production vehicles with no modifications allowed. The term stock car implied that the vehicles racing were unmodified street cars. Drivers would race with factory installed bench seats and AM radios still in the cars. To prevent broken glass from getting on the race track, windows would be rolled down, external lights would be removed or taped over, and wing mirrors would be removed. The 1957 fuel injected 150 model Chevrolet (known as "the black widow") was the first car to be outlawed by NASCAR. The 1957 Chevrolet won the most races, with 59 wins, more than any car to ever race in the cup series.[citation needed] Before the mid-1960s, cars were typically based on full sized cars such as the Chevrolet Bel Air and Ford Galaxie. Beginning in 1966, mid-size cars including the Ford Fairlane and Plymouth Belvedere were adopted and soon became the norm.

NASCAR once enforced a homologation rule that at various times stated that at least 500 cars had to be produced, or as many as one car for every make's dealership in the nation had to be sold to the general public to allow it to be raced. Eventually, cars were made expressly for NASCAR competition, including the Ford Torino Talladega, which had a rounded nose, and the Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird which had a rear wing raised above roof level and a shark shaped nose-cap which enabled speeds of over 220 mph (350 km/h). Beginning in 1970, NASCAR rewrote the rules to effectively outlaw such outlandish aerodynamic devices.

In 1971, NASCAR phased in a rule to lower the maximum engine displacement from 429 cubic inches (7.0 liters) to its present 358 cubic inches (5.8 liters). NASCAR handicapped the larger engines with a restrictor plate. The transition was not complete until 1974 and coincided with American manufacturers ending factory support of racing and the 1973 oil crisis.

1981–2007[edit]

The pit road at Richmond International Raceway in 1985.

The downsizing of American cars in the late 1970s presented a challenge for NASCAR. Rules mandated a minimum wheelbase of 115 inches (2,900 mm), but after 1979, none of the models approved for competition met the standard, as mid-sized cars now typically had wheelbases between 105 and 112 inches. After retaining the older models (1977 for the GM makes, and 1979 for Ford and Dodge) through 1980, for the 1981 season the wheelbase requirement was reduced to 110 inches (2,800 mm), which the newer model cars could be stretched to meet without affecting their appearance. The Buick Regal with its swept-back "shovel" nose initially dominated competition, followed by the rounded, aerodynamic 1983 Ford Thunderbird. The Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix adopted bubble back windows to stay competitive. Amid its financial woes, and after dropping its poor performing (both on the race track and for consumer sales) Dodge Mirada and Chrysler Cordoba in 1983, Chrysler Corporation left NASCAR entirely at the end of the 1985 season.

1987 marked an incredible, but then unfortunate milestone for Sprint Cup cars. The incredible happened during Winston 500 qualifying when Bill Elliott established a world stock-car record when he posted a speed of 212.809 mph (342 km/h). Then the unfortunate happened during the 22nd lap of the race, driver Bobby Allison blew an engine, which caused a flat tire in the middle of Talladega Superspeedway’s tri-oval. Allison’s car hit the catch fence and tore a hole in the fence approximately 100 feet (30 m) long. Several spectators were injured in the accident, including one woman who lost an eye.[27] In the aftermath of the crash, NASCAR mandated the use of a restrictor plate at Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway to reduce speeds.

By 1989, GM had switched its mid-sized models to V6 engines and front-wheel-drive, but the NASCAR racers only kept the body shape, with the old V8 rear-wheel-drive running gear, rendering obsolete the "stock" nature of the cars. When the Ford Thunderbird was retired after 1997, without Ford having any two-door intermediate bodies, the four-door Ford Taurus body was used (although NASCAR racers actually have no opening doors).

Nascar Green Flag Start at Sonoma Raceway June of 2005

While the manufacturers and models of automobiles used in racing were named for production cars (Dodge Charger R/T, Chevrolet Impala SS, Toyota Camry, and the Ford Fusion), the similarities between Sprint Cup cars and actual production cars were limited to a small amount of shaping and painting of the nose, headlight and tail light decals, and grill areas. Until 2003, the hood, roof, and decklid were still required to be identical to their stock counterparts.

It was in this time that NASCAR engaged in the practice of mandating rule changes during the season if one particular car model became overly dominant. This often led to claims that some teams would attempt sandbagging in order to receive more favorable handicaps.

Because of the notorious manner of the Ford Taurus race car and how the manufacturer turned the car into an "offset" car (the car was notoriously asymmetrical in race trim because of its oval shape), NASCAR ended this practice to put more emphasis on parity and based new body rules in 2003, similar to short track racing, where offset cars had become a burden for race officials, resulting in the "Approved Body Configuration" design.[clarification needed]

Car of Tomorrow (2007–2012)[edit]

Jimmie Johnson's 2009 COT in the Garage at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

In 2007, NASCAR introduced a radically new vehicle specification known as the "Car of Tomorrow" (CoT). Its debut was at Bristol Motor Speedway in March. Initially, the CoT was only used at 16 selected events.[28] While NASCAR originally planned to wait until the start of the 2009 season to use the CoT in every race, they changed that date to the start of the 2008 season. Many drivers still had complaints about the CoT, but this new timeline was intended to help teams save money by giving them only one car specification to work on.

The design of this car has focused on cost control, parity, and driver safety.[28] The car's width was increased by 4 inches (10 centimeters), the bumpers were re-designed to render bump and run tactics less effective, and the height of the car has increased by 2 inches (5 centimeters) to accommodate taller drivers and increase aerodynamic drag. The driver's seat was moved closer to the center of the car. The most noticeable changes to fans was the addition of a rear wing replacing the familiar spoiler. The wings could be adjusted between 0–16 degrees and were used with multiple configurations of end plates.

New rules for the car eliminate the asymmetrical bodies on cars which had run rampant since the 1998 Taurus release. However, almost all advantages of using one car over another have been nullified. NASCAR requires all CoTs to conform to common body templates, regardless of make and model.

The rear wing remained a controversial feature for several years. Its appearance was often criticized and it was accused of forcing cars to become airborne in high-speed spins such as the one experienced by Carl Edwards during the 2009 Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. In 2010 NASCAR decided to replace the wing with the original spoiler. The switch began with the 2010 Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.[29]

Kyle Busch's 2013 NASCAR Generation 6 Toyota Camry

For 2011, NASCAR altered the nose of the car once more, with the splitter being reduced in size, and the braces being replaced by a solid front valence.[30]

A major engine change occurred in 2012, with NASCAR's introduction of fuel injection technology. Initially, NASCAR indicated that it would transition to fuel injection midway through the 2011 season, but decided before that season to put off the change until 2012.[31]

In 2013, manufacturers were given a little more leeway for branding their Sprint Cup cars, creating the Generation 6 race car. These changes made the cars resemble their street counterparts more closely, such as the cars in the Nationwide Series.[32]

Setup[edit]

The automobiles' suspension, brakes, and aerodynamic components are also selected to tailor the cars to different racetracks. A car that understeers is said to be "tight", or "pushing", causing the car to keep going up the track with the wheel turned all the way left, while one that oversteers is said to be "loose", or "free", causing the back end of the car to slide around which can result in the car spinning out if the driver is not careful. The adjustment of front and rear aerodynamic downforce, spring rates, track bar geometry, brake proportioning, the wedge (also known as cross-weight), changing the camber angle, and changing the air pressure in the tires can change the distribution of forces among the tires during cornering to correct for handling problems. Recently, coil bind setups have become popular among teams.

These characteristics are also affected by tire stagger (tires of different circumference at different positions on the car, the right rear having the most influence in left turns) as well as the rubber compounds used in tire construction. These settings are determined by NASCAR and Goodyear engineers and may not be adjusted by individual teams.

Changing weather conditions may also affect a car’s handling. In a long race, it is sometimes advantageous to prepare a car to handle well at the end of an event while surrendering speed at the start. Without electronic controls, the carburetor must be tuned manually for the expected air temperature and barometric pressure. Rain will force a race to be halted immediately as there is no current provision for rain tires. While rain tires were developed for the series in the late 1990s, NASCAR abandoned them as there were not enough road courses on the schedule to justify the cost of making more tires to replace them as they aged. Sprint Cup cars have used these tires in practice sessions, but only the Nationwide Series has used them in race conditions. There was, however, one case of a Sprint Cup race being held in the rain. In 1956 a race at Road America was held in rain and won by Tim Flock.[33]

Specifications[edit]

A typical NASCAR Sprint Cup Series engine.
  • Chassis: Steel tube frame with safety roll cage, must meet NASCAR standards
  • Engine Displacement: 5,860 cc (5.86 L; 357.60 cu in) Pushrod V8
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual
  • Weight: 3,200 lb (1,451 kg) (without driver, fuel); 3,400 lb (1,542 kg) (with driver, fuel)[34]
  • Power Output: 865 hp (645 kW) unrestricted; 445 hp (332 kW) with restrictor plate (2007)[35]
  • Torque: 720 N·m (530 ft·lb)
  • Fuel: 98 octane E15 provided by Sunoco
  • Fuel Capacity: 17.75 US gal (67 L) most tracks
  • Fuel Delivery: Port fuel injection
  • Fuel Injection type: McLaren
  • ECU Provider: Freescale semiconductor
  • Compression Ratio: 12:1
  • Aspiration: Naturally-aspirated
  • Wheelbase: 110 in (2,794 mm)
  • Steering: Power, recirculating ball
  • Tires: Slick tire provided by Goodyear
  • Length: 208 in (5,283 mm)
  • Height: 53.5 in (1,359 mm)
  • Width: 76.5 in (1,943 mm)
  • Safety equipment: HANS device, seat belt 6-point supplied by Willans, Sabelt. (Optional: 7 point seat belt)

Sprint Cup Series tracks[edit]

Sprint Cup races are not conducted on identical tracks. The 2012 season has 21 oval tracks and 2 road courses on the schedule. Oval tracks vary in length from 0.526 miles (847 m) (Martinsville Speedway) to 2.66 miles (4.28 km) (Talladega Superspeedway). While some tracks are true ovals (Bristol Motor Speedway, Dover International Speedway), many are tri-ovals (Kentucky Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Daytona International Speedway). Other configurations are quad-oval (Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway), D-oval (California Speedway, Michigan International Speedway, Richmond International Raceway), oval with unequal ends (Darlington Raceway), triangular (Pocono Raceway), and almost-rectangular (Indianapolis Motor Speedway). Courses also differ in degree of banking on the curves, with differences in degree of banking and course length contributing to different top speeds on various courses. New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway are considered "flat" tracks as they have only 7 and 11 (respectively) degrees of banking in the turns. Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International are complex shaped road courses. While the series has a reputation for being oval centric, there has always been at least one road course on the schedule since its inception.

Bill Elliott's Melling Racing car that set the record for the fastest lap in a stock car – 212.809 mph (342.483 km/h), 44.998 sec at Talladega Superspeedway.

Race speeds vary widely based on the track. The fastest track is Talladega Superspeedway where the record race average speed is 188 mph (303 km/h) with the record qualifying lap of 212.809 mph (342.483 km/h) set by Bill Elliott in 1987- this was never beaten because for 1988 onwards engine restrictors were made mandatory to reduce speeds after several serious accidents.[36] The slowest tracks are Sonoma Raceway, a road course, with a record race average speed of only 81 mph (130 km/h) and qualifying lap of 99 mph (159 km/h); and Martinsville Speedway, a very short, nearly flat "paper clip" shaped oval, with a record race average speed of 82 mph (132 km/h) and a qualifying lap of only 98 mph (156 km/h). The average speed is figured out based upon the winner's race time throughout the entire race, from the waving of the green flag to the waving of the checkered flag, including laps spent under caution, divided by the distance of the race. Time elapsed during red flag periods is not added into the calculation of the average speed.

Manufacturer representation[edit]

Manufacturer Model Years active Cha.
Alfa Romeo Italy Giulietta 1962[37] 0
American Motors United States Nash Ambassador early 1950s
Hudson Hornet 3
AMC Matador 1971–1978 0
Aston Martin United Kingdom Unknown model 1953
Austin-Healey United Kingdom Austin-Healey Sprite 1961–1962
Chrysler United States DeSoto 1952, 1959 0
Dodge Coronet 1953–1957, 1965–1968 2
Dodge 440 1964
Dodge Charger/Daytona 1966–1977, 2005–2007
Dodge Magnum 1978–1980
Dodge Mirada 1981–1985
Dodge Intrepid 2001–2004
Dodge Avenger 2007 (COT)
Dodge Charger R/T 2008–2012
Chrysler 300 1954–1956 2
Chrysler Imperial 1983–1985
Plymouth Belvedere 1959–1967 2
Plymouth Road Runner/Superbird 1968–1974
Ford Motor Company United States Ford Fairlane 1955–1959, 1966–1967 15
Ford Fusion 2006–present
Ford Galaxie 1960–1966
Ford Taurus 1998–2005
Ford Torino/Talladega 1968–1977
Ford Thunderbird 1959–1960, 1977–1997
Mercury Monterey 1950s–1962 1
Mercury Marauder 1963–1966
Mercury Comet/Cyclone 1966–1967
Mercury Cyclone/Mercury Montego 1968–1980
Mercury Cougar 1970s-1980s
Lincoln 1949–1957 0
Edsel 1959
General Motors United States Buick Regal 1981–1985, 1988–1991 2
Buick Century 1976–1980
Buick Gran Sport 1970s
Buick LeSabre 1986–1987
Buick Somerset 1980s
Cadillac 1949–1955 0
Chevrolet Bel Air 1955–1958 27
Chevrolet Chevelle/Malibu 1964–1980
Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna 1973–1977
Chevrolet Impala 1979–1980, 2010–2012[38]
Chevrolet Impala SS (COT) 2007–2009
Chevrolet Lumina 1989–1994
Chevrolet Monte Carlo/Monte Carlo SS 1971–1988, 1995–2007
Chevrolet SS 2013–present
Chevrolet Beretta 1980s
Oldsmobile 88 1949–1960 4
Oldsmobile Cutlass/Cutlass Supreme/442 1960s–1994
Oldsmobile Delta 88 1986–1987
Pontiac Catalina 1959–1963 3
Pontiac Firebird 1970
Pontiac Grand Prix 1981–2004
Pontiac Le Mans 1970s
Pontiac GTO 1960s 0
Jaguar United Kingdom Jaguar XK120 1953–1956 0
Kaiser-Frazer United States Henry J 1949–1954
MG Motor United Kingdom MG T-type 1954
MG MGA 1960–1963
Packard United States Unknown model 1950-1956
Porsche Germany Porsche 356 1953–1954
Studebaker United States Unknown model 1950–1962
Toyota Japan Toyota Camry 2007–present
Triumph Motor Company United Kingdom Unknown model 1960
Tucker United States 1948 Tucker Sedan 1950
Volkswagen Germany Volkswagen Beetle 1953
Willys United States Unknown model 1952–1954

Cup Series records[edit]

List of Manufacturers' Championship winners[edit]

Note: This is a list of champions' manufacturers. Some winners of the championship are different from the manufacturer of the driver's championship winning car.

1992 Winston Cup trophy, won by Alan Kulwicki
Year Manufacturer
1949 Oldsmobile
1950
1951
1952 Hudson
1953
1954
1955 Oldsmobile
1956 Ford
1957
1958 Chevrolet
1959
1960
1961
1962 Pontiac
1963 Ford
1964
1965
1966
1967
1968
1969
1970 Dodge
1971 Plymouth
1972 Chevrolet
1973
1974
1975 Dodge
1976 Chevrolet
1977
1978
1979
1980
1981 Buick
1982
1983 Chevrolet
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991
1992 Ford
1993 Chevrolet
1994 Ford
1995 Chevrolet
1996
1997 Ford
1998 Chevrolet
1999 Ford
2000
2001 Chevrolet
2002 Ford
2003 Chevrolet
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
Sources:[39][40]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b NASCAR.COM – Officials to announce series name change to Sprint Cup – Jul 6, 2007
  2. ^ a b "NASCAR Announces Chase for the Sprint Cup Format Change" (Press release). NASCAR. January 30, 2014. Retrieved January 30, 2014. 
  3. ^ Jayski.com 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup TV Ratings' Retrieved August 21, 2009
  4. ^ "Strictly Stock Standings and Statistics for 1949" page of Racing-Reference website [1], retrieved 9 May 2007.
  5. ^ a b Fielden, Greg, "NASCAR Cleans Up", Speedway Illustrated, September 2004.
  6. ^ Mitchell, Jason, "How Do They Do That?: Winston Cup Point System", Stock Car Racing (ISSN 0734-7340), Volume 36, Number 10, October 2001.
  7. ^ Fielden, Greg. NASCAR Chronicle. Publications International, Ltd., Lincolnwood, Illinois, USA, 2006. p. 36.
  8. ^ DarlingtonRaceway.com "Darlington Legends: Million Dollar Bill" Retrieved 7/5/09
  9. ^ TheAutoChannel.com "Winston to Substitute "No Bull 5" for "Winston Million"" Retrieved 7/5/09
  10. ^ Autoracing1.com "NASCAR's Greatest Moments — Part 3" Retrieved March 12, 2009
  11. ^ Forbes.com "NASCAR Pulls Into Prime Time" Retrieved August 22, 2009
  12. ^ Daly, Steve (2006-06-19). Meet the Mater. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2012-12-27. 
  13. ^ Conheça os atores de Carros (in Brazilian Portuguese). Fast Driver. 2006-06-29. Retrieved 2012-12-27. 
  14. ^ Racingone.com, "Nextel Cup Unveiled" Retrieved 8–4–08
  15. ^ Desertnews.com "Is NASCAR losing traditional fan base?" Retrieved March 12, 2009
  16. ^ Insider Racing News.com "NASCAR's Brian France: Finally Answering the Clue Phone?" Retrieved March 2, 2009
  17. ^ Circletrack.com"The USAR Championship Trail" Retrieved 8–4–08
  18. ^ "10-race Chase for the Cup crowns series champ". NASCAR 101. NASCAR. January 28, 2011. Retrieved March 6, 2011. 
  19. ^ USATODAY.com"Nextel Cup finale gets big ratings" Retrieved 8–4–08
  20. ^ "NASCAR announces 2013 competition changes" (Press release). NASCAR. October 16, 2012. Retrieved October 18, 2012. 
  21. ^ "CHEVROLET CLINCHES BILL FRANCE PERFORMANCE CUP IN NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES". Speedway Media. Retrieved 2013-06-19. 
  22. ^ NASCAR.com "Waltrip race team finds important asset in partner" 2/15/08
  23. ^ USAToday"Debut of new rules could offer glimpse at road ahead" Retrieved 8/25/08
  24. ^ NASCAR.com Article explaining brake systems
  25. ^ Russwicks.com article on the speed record
  26. ^ Racing-Reference.info "1951-01" Retrieved 6/30/09
  27. ^ ESPN.com "Wallace wins Daytona's first truck race" Retrieved March 19, 2009
  28. ^ a b NASCAR.com "Harvick pleased after testing Car of Tomorrow" Retrieved August 29, 2005
  29. ^ espn.com "Drivers take spoiler for spin at Charlotte" Retrieved 3/26/10
  30. ^ Joe Gibbs Racing "5 Things You Should Know About NASCAR's New Nose." Retrieved November 18, 2010.
  31. ^ Rodman, Dave (January 22, 2011). "NASCAR defers fuel injection to 2012 season". NASCAR.com. Retrieved July 8, 2011. 
  32. ^ Jensen, Tom (2013-02-14). "CUP: Automakers Help NASCAR Find G Spot". Speed. Fox Sports. Retrieved 2013-06-19. 
  33. ^ MainStreetNewsSports.com "Flock Won Rainy Race Back In 1956" Retrieved 6/26/09
  34. ^ Stockcarscience.com "Why the New Car Won't Turn, Part I: The Center of Gravity" Retrieved February 21, 2009
  35. ^ Race Engine Technology Issue 027
  36. ^ Talladega Superspeedway Information
  37. ^ Racing-reference.info 1962 International 200 results, Retrieved May 18, 2009
  38. ^ NASCAR.com Chevrolet working hard on its car of the future, Retrieved January 20, 2011
  39. ^ "Nascar.Com". Nascar.Com. Retrieved 2013-10-10. 
  40. ^ "Sprint Cup Page". Racing-Reference.info. Retrieved 2013-10-10. 

External links[edit]