Sprint car racing

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For NASCAR's top series, see Sprint Cup Series.
Modern sprint car
Mini sprint car
Old-style sprint car

Sprint cars are high-powered race cars designed primarily for the purpose of running on short oval or circular dirt or paved tracks. Sprint car racing is popular in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Sprint cars have a very high power-to-weight ratio, making speeds in excess of 140 miles per hour (230 km/h) possible on some tracks. Power outputs of 900 horsepower (670 kW) up to 1,100 horsepower (820 kW) is commonplace for these machines, which typically are powered by a naturally aspirated V8 with a 410 cubic inch engine displacement.[1] A lower cost but still popular class of sprint cars uses 360 cubic inch engines and produce approximately 700 horsepower (520 kW). The safety record of sprint car racing in recent years has been greatly improved by the use of roll cages to protect the drivers. Many IndyCar Series and NASCAR drivers used sprint car racing as an intermediate stepping stone on their way to more high profile divisions, including Indianapolis 500 winners A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, Parnell Jones, Johnnie Parsons, and Al Unser, Jr., as well as NASCAR Sprint Cup champions Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

The National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum located in Knoxville, Iowa, USA features exhibits to highlight the history of both winged and non-wing sprint cars.

Non-winged sprint cars[edit]

There are a few sanctioning bodies for non-winged sprint cars. The United States Automobile Club (USAC) has become the premier series for non-winged sprint car racing throughout the United States, especially after taking over the Sprint Car Racing Association (SCRA) and turning it into the USAC/California Racing Association (USAC/CRA). This series has become the premier non-winged sprint car series on the west coast of the United States. USAC also has hosted the Silver Crown series based in the Midwestern United States state of Indiana for decades. The Silver Crown series was started in 1972 as an offshoot of the series that competed for the National Championship Trail including the Indianapolis 500, known as "big cars".[2]

Australia also has non-winged divisions which include 360 non-winged sprint cars, which are raced mainly in the South and West Coast. Wingless sprints or sometime referred to as nose sprints have also became quite popular all over Australia. Wingless sprints are powered by a 6 cylinder Holden engine which can get around 500 hp, as well as reach speeds up to 180 km/h. Wingless sprints have entirely the same as a sprintcar just without the wing.

Winged sprint cars[edit]

World of Outlaws drivers make a Four Abreast lap at the Knoxville Raceway

The world's first winged car, known today as a winged sprint car, was created and driven by Jim Cushman at the Columbus Motor Speedway (Ohio) in 1958.[3] In the early 1970s, many sprint car drivers began to put wings with sideboards on both the front and top of their cars. The added wings increased the downforce generated on the car, with the opposite direction of the sideboards helping to turn the car in the corners. The increased traction makes the car faster and easier to control.

The wing also affects safety. The added downforce lessens the likelihood of going airborne. When cars do go airborne, the wings frequently break off or absorb some of the impact of the flip, lessening the impact on the driver. Wings also provide an amount of protection for the driver in case of an accident and are sometimes referred to as "aluminum courage." In some cases, teams are able to replace the wing during the ensuing stoppage and are able to race once the race resumed.

In 1978, Ted Johnson formed the promotional body for winged sprint cars called the World of Outlaws. Racing throughout the United States from February to November, the World of Outlaws is the premier dirt sprint car racing series. Famous tracks featured in the series included the Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, the Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pennsylvania, the Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa and Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Each August, the Knoxville Raceway holds the paramount sprint car event, the Knoxville Nationals.

Sanctioning bodies[edit]

Main article: World of Outlaws

The World of Outlaws (WoO) is a division of winged sprint cars that run all over the United States and have a few events in Canada. The cars have 15-inch (380 mm) wide right rear tire and a 410 cubic inch engine with mechanical fuel injection. These sprint cars have no battery or a starter in them, necessitating a push start by a quad or truck. They also do not have flywheels, clutches or transmissions, but the direct drive system can be engaged or disengaged from the cockpit. This is done both for weight reasons and tradition. Another tradition the WoO has for their A-main (the last race of the event) they line up four wide just before starting the race.

The United States Automobile Club (USAC) is a division of sprint cars that run throughout the United States. They race non-winged 410 cubic inch sprint cars on asphalt and dirt tracks.

The United Racing Company (URC) is a division for winged sprint cars that run mainly in the northeastern part of the United States in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. URC started in 1948 with 11 races in its season. It slowly progressed to 28 races. URC uses a 360 cubic inch engine which generates approximately 650 horsepower (480 kW). They race with alcohol fuel and use mechanical fuel injection (MFI) to deliver it to into the combustion chamber.

The American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) is a winged sprint car series racing within the United States. ASCS uses a 360 cubic inch engine which leads to fans calling the cars "360s". The series was started by well-known racing promotor Emmett Hahn. The series national headquarters are in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The all time leader in wins for the series is Texan Gary Wright with 127 A main victories under his belt.[4]

Lincoln Speedway - Abbottstown, PA[edit]

Sprint Car World Championship[edit]

Despite the 50 plus years of Sprint car racing, the category has only ever held one official "World Championship". This was in 1987 at the 550 metres (600 yd) Claremont Speedway in Perth, Western Australia. The event attracted the best drivers from Australia, NZ, Canada, South Africa, as well as several World of Outlaws drivers, headed by regular visitor to Australia, Steve Kinser. Australian veteran Garry Rush from Sydney, a 10 time winner of the Australian Sprintcar Championship, was the winner and so far the only ever Sprint car World Champion.

Television coverage in the United States[edit]

Non-winged cars were televised first when USAC had an ESPN television contract. The first national live television deal with winged sprint cars came on The Nashville Network (TNN) in 1992-93 and again in 1993-94 with a winter-based series in Arizona, which featured Mike Joy calling the action. Live coverage of the Knoxville Nationals on The Nashville Network began in 1995. A year later, a next-day tape deal with CBS for one race at Eldora Speedway aired while TNN coverage expanded. By 2000, CBS (which owned TNN at the time) announced TNN would air 15 live events, including the King's Royal at Eldora Speedway and the Knoxville Nationals. By the 2001 season, plans were to cover 18 live races, but midway through the season MTV Networks closed the CBS motorsports operations. This move relegated the remainder of the World of Outlaws season to tape delay races. A tape delayed deal with the Speed Channel followed for the next season. Television coverage began on the The Outdoor Channel in 2003. Events are usually tape delayed for two weeks or more. The Knoxville Nationals were on Speed Channel. The 2005 Knoxville Nationals did not air as bad weather postponed the event, and there was not enough space for Speed to air the event, won by Kraig Kinser. In 2003, Johnson sold his organization to DIRT Motorsports. Because of complaints about DIRT Motorsports and the lack of television coverage, Northwest Sprint Tour owner Fred Brownfield formed the National Sprint Tour as a rival to the World of Outlaws Sprint for the 2006 season. Notable teams in the NST included Steve Kinser Racing (#11), Roth Motorsports (sometimes known as the "Beef Packers" team) (#83), Tony Stewart Racing (#20). After Brownfield Promotions' owner Fred Brownfield was killed in a crash, Kinser and principals of two other teams purchased the entire Brownfield promotion. That series folded after the 2006 season, while the Northwest tour, a regional tour, was sold. The SuperClean Summer of Money aired on ESPN2 starting in mid June 2008 with the World of Outlaws at Knoxville Raceway and for 8 weeks straight leading up to the Knoxville Nationals which were live on SPEED.

Safety aspects[edit]

The safety record of sprint car racing in recent years has been greatly improved by several new mandatory safety regulations including the use of roll cages to protect the drivers, fuel tank bladders to prevent fuel leakage, alcohol fuel, requirements to use a six or seven-point safety harness seatbelt two years old or newer, and driver suit standards to consist of two layers and rated at least SFI 3.2A/5. In addition, drivers must wear nomex driving gloves. Other equipment requirements include: helmets must be full coverage and must exceed Snell 2000 rating; arm restraints systems must be used; cars must have a 1/8 inch wire debris/rock screen in the front roll cage opening covering the entire opening; and headrests mandatory on the right side of the drivers seat. Some sanctioning bodies are also requiring a head and neck restraint system.

Winged sprint cars also have the wing safety aspect, as those sprint cars are able to improve their safety with wings that absorb the violent flips and crashes. The safety value of these wings was illustrated when Tony Stewart suffered a dramatic flip and crash in 2013, with only bones in his leg broken.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Sprint Car Specs". Corey Houseman. Retrieved 2009-11-11. 
  2. ^ SAC Silver Crown specs and history[dead link]
  3. ^ Brown, Allan (2003). The History of America's Speedways - Past & Present. Third Edition. ISBN 0-931105-61-7. 
  4. ^ American Sprint Car Series

See also[edit]

External links[edit]