Sprint Cup Series
|Drivers' champion||Kyle Busch (1)|
|Teams' champion||Joe Gibbs Racing (4)|
|Makes' champion||Chevrolet (39)|
|Official website||Sprint Cup Series|
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) and it became the Sprint Cup Series (2008–2016) 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, After 2016, Sprint will no longer carry the title sponsor of the Cup Series.
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 Sprint Cup.
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.
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 traditionally spartan in nature.
- 1 History
- 2 Drivers' Championship
- 3 Owners' Championship
- 4 Manufacturers' Championship
- 5 Sprint Cup cars
- 6 Sprint Cup Series tracks
- 7 Cup Series records
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Strictly Stock and Grand National
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.
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.
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.
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.
From 1971 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. 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.
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.
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, Darrell Waltrip nearly won in 1989, Dale Jarrett nearly won in 1996 and Jeff Gordon won in 1997. 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.
The series underwent a large boom in popularity in the 1990s. 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.
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. To avoid advertising tobacco in a Disney film, "Piston Cup" served as Pixar's allusion to the Winston Cup.
Nextel and Sprint
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.
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. NASCAR CEO Brian France has become a prime target for criticism among fans.
In 2016, NASCAR announced the creation of a charter system, which would guarantee 36 teams entry for all 36 races; to be eligible for a charter, a team would have to attempt to qualify for every race in the last three seasons. In conjunction with this rule, NASCAR also reduced the size of the Cup field to 40 cars.
Starting in 2017, the Cup Series will have a new name as the agreement with Sprint expires.
Chase for the Cup
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.
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-place 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.
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 three 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.
For 2014, NASCAR announced wide-ranging changes to the Chase format:
- 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 drivers 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 before the Chase, with a three-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, In 2016, for the Chase for the Championship, formerly Challenger, Contender and Eliminator round, will be changed to Round of 16, Round of 12, and Round of 8.
- Round of 16 (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.
- Round of 12 (races 30–32)
- Begins with 12 drivers, each with 3,000 points.
- Round of 8 (races 33–35)
- Begins with eight drivers, each with 4,000 points.
- Championship 4 (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.
- Round of 16 (races 27–29)
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.
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.
On November 20, 2011, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards ended the season in a first-ever points tie. Stewart's five season wins (over Edwards' one) gave him the tie-breaker to claim the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Drivers' Championship is awarded by the chairman of NASCAR to the most successful Sprint Cup Series racing car driver over a season, as determined by a points system based on race results and victories. First awarded in 1949 to Red Byron, thirty-one different drivers have won the championship. The first driver to win multiple championships was Herb Thomas in 1951 and 1953, while the record for the most championships is held by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Jimmie Johnson has the record for most consecutive championships, winning five from 2006 to 2010. Thus far, every champion has originated from the United States, including current champion Kyle Busch.
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 – if more than 43 cars attempt 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.
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 No. 40. Another example was in the aforementioned 2011 Daytona 500.
A Manufacturer's Championship is awarded each year, although the Driver's Championship is considered more prestigious. In the past, manufacturer's championships were prestigious because of the number of manufacturers involved, and the manufacturer's championship was a major marketing tool. In the Xfinity Series, the championship is known as the Bill France Performance Cup.
Up to the 2013 season, points were 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 meant that if Chevrolets placed first through tenth in a given race and a Ford was 11th and a Dodge 12th, Chevrolet earned 9 points, Ford 6 and Dodge 4. Starting in 2014, NASCAR changed the system to mimic the Owner's Championship. Under this system, each manufacturer's best finishing representative effectively earned them the same amount of points as that team earned, including any bonus points from leading a lap or winning the event.
In NASCAR's earliest years, there was a diverse array of machinery, with little support from the car companies themselves, but by the mid 1960s, participation was exclusively American manufacturers with factory support. Chrysler, Ford and General Motors were the primary, if not only, competitors for much of NASCAR's history. Plymouth, while somewhat successful in the 1960s with the Hemi, never won a Manufacturers Championship until Ford pulled out of racing in the early 1970s. Ford completely dominated NASCARS big block era during the 1960s, by not only winning more races than any other brand, they also won seven straight Manufacturers Championships in a row (1963–69). GM was still using four different brands in NASCAR in 1991, but within three years, Buick and Oldsmobile were gone. Pontiac survived until 2004, leaving only Chevrolet. 2007 saw the first new brand since 1971, when Japanese manufacturer Toyota joined. Chrysler's Dodge brand returned after a 15-year hiatus in 2001, but departed after 2012, leaving just Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota.
During the big block era of the 1960s, Chevrolet very seldom visited the winners circle. When Ford and Chrysler pulled out of NASCAR in the early 1970s, Chevrolet was basically racing against itself and was finally able to win races. Even with no NASCAR involvement in the 1970s, Ford was the most successful manufacturer up till 1998, with 479 wins to Chevrolet's 469 wins.
Chevrolet has been the most successful manufacturer as of August 2015, with 749 race wins and 38 manufacturers championships. Ford ranks second with 636 victories and 15 manufacturers championships. Dodge is third in wins with 217, Plymouth fourth with 190, and Pontiac fifth with 155. Toyota currently ranks 9th all time, with 74 victories.
Sprint Cup cars
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. Each team may build their own cars an NBd engines (per NASCAR's specifications) or purchase cars and engines from other teams.
The cars are powered by EFI V8 engines, with compacted graphite 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 more than 10,000 rpm. 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 Coca-Cola 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. 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.
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
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. 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 race speeds of exactly 200 mph. The Ford-based Mercury Spoiler powered by a Ford Boss 429 engine was timed at 199.6 mph. Beginning in 1971, NASCAR rewrote the rules to effectively force the Ford and Chrysler specialty cars out of competition by limiting them to 305ci (5.0L). The cars affected by this rule include the Ford Talladega, Mercury Spoiler II, Dodge Charger 500, Dodge Charger Daytona and the Plymouth Superbird. This rule was so effective in limiting performance that only one car that season ever attempted to run in this configuration.
In 1971, NASCAR handicapped the larger engines with a restrictor plate. By 1972, 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). The transition was not complete until 1974 and coincided with American manufacturers ending factory support of racing and the 1973 oil crisis.
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 suffered 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. 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).
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 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)
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
Generation 6 car (2013–present)
In 2013, manufacturers were given increased leeway for branding their Sprint Cup cars, creating the Generation 6 race car. These changes made the cars resemble their street counterparts more closely, as the current cars in the Xfinity Series have done since 2011.
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.
- Chassis: Steel tube frame with safety roll cage, must meet NASCAR standards
- Engine Displacement: 5.86 L (5,860 cc; 358 cu in) Pushrod V8
- Gearbox: 4-speed manual with reverse
- Clutch: 3-disc carbon-fibre clutch
- Minimum weight: 3,300 lb (1,497 kg) (without driver, fuel); 3,475 lb (1,576 kg) (with driver, fuel)
- Power Output: 725 hp (541 kW) unrestricted; 445 hp (332 kW) with restrictor plate (2015)
- Torque: 720 N·m (530 ft·lb)
- Fuel: 98 octane E15 provided by Sunoco
- Fuel Capacity: 18 US gal (68 L) most tracks
- Fuel Delivery: Port fuel injection
- Fuel Injection type: McLaren
- ECU Provider: MES Freescale TAG-400N
- Compression Ratio: 12:1
- Aspiration: Naturally-aspirated
- Front suspension: Unequal length double wishbones
- Rear suspension: Trailing arms with Panhard rod
- Brakes: Cast-iron disc with multi-piston caliper
- Wheelbase: 110 in (2,794 mm)
- Steering: Power, recirculating ball
- Tires: Slick tire provided by Goodyear
- Length: 198.25 in (5,036 mm)
- Width: 77 in (1,956 mm)
- Height: 54.25 in (1,378 mm)
- Ground clearance: 3.5 in (89 mm)
- Safety equipment: 6-point seatbelt, fire system in cockpit and trunk areas, rear view mirror, HANS device, helmet, NOMEX firesuit, fire resistant gloves, fire resistant shoes, window net, side-impact energy-absorbing foam, Hood, trunk, wing and spindle restraints
Sprint Cup Series tracks
Presently, the Sprint Cup is held mostly in eastern states with just six tracks situated west of the Mississippi River. Sprint Cup races are not conducted on identical tracks. The 2015 season has 21 oval tracks and two road courses on the schedule. Oval tracks vary in length from .526 miles (0.847 km) (Martinsville Speedway) to 2.66 miles (4.28 km) (Talladega Superspeedway). While some tracks are true ovals (Bristol Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway), many are tri-ovals (Daytona International Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Kentucky Speedway). Other configurations are quad-oval (Atlanta Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway), D-oval (Auto Club Speedway, Michigan International Speedway and 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 seven 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.
Race speeds vary widely based on the track. The fastest track is Talladega Superspeedway where the record race average speed is 188.354 mph (303.126 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. The slowest tracks are Sonoma Raceway, a road course, with a record race average speed of only 81 mph (130 km/h) (roughly 1:18.444 seconds) and qualifying lap of 99 mph (159 km/h) (roughly 1:12.364 seconds); and Martinsville Speedway, a short, nearly flat "paper clip" shaped oval, with a record race average speed of 82 mph (132 km/h) (roughly 23.093 seconds) and a qualifying lap of also only 99 mph (159 km/h) (roughly 19.127 seconds). 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.
Cup Series records
- Most wins for one year model car: 59 (years 1957–1960), 1957 Chevrolet 150.
- Most championships: 7 (tied) – Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt
- Most Chase for the Cup Championships: 6 – Jimmie Johnson
- Most Consecutive Championships: 5 – Jimmie Johnson (2006–2010)
- Youngest champion: Bill Rexford, 23 years old
- Oldest champion: Bobby Allison, 45 years old
- Fewest victories in a championship season: 1 (tied) – Benny Parsons, Bill Rexford, Ned Jarrett, Matt Kenseth
- Most career wins: 200 – Richard Petty
- Most career wins in the modern era (1972–present): 93 – Jeff Gordon
- Most career poles: 123 – Richard Petty
- Most career poles in the modern era (1972–present): 83 – Jeff Gordon
- Fewest starts before a win: 2 (tied) – Jamie McMurray (2002 UAW-GM Quality 500), Trevor Bayne (2011 Daytona 500)
- Most wins in a season: 27 – Richard Petty (1967)
- Most wins in a modern era season: 13 (tied) – Jeff Gordon (1998), Richard Petty (1975)
- Most Top 10's in a modern era season: 30 – Jeff Gordon (2007)
- Most career starts: 1,184 – Richard Petty
- Smallest margin of victory: 0.002 seconds (tied) – Jimmie Johnson (2011 Aaron's 499), Ricky Craven (2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400)
- Largest margin of victory by laps: 22 laps – Ned Jarrett (Spartanburg 1965)
- Largest margin of victory by distance: 19.25 miles (30.98 km) – Ned Jarrett (1965 Southern 500)
- Most consecutive seasons with at least one win: 18 – Richard Petty (1960–1977)
- Most consecutive starts: 797 – Jeff Gordon
- Youngest race winner: Joey Logano, 19 years, 35 days (2009 Lenox Tools 301)
- Oldest race winner: Harry Gant, 52 years, 219 days (1992 Champion Spark Plug 400)
- Most lead changes in a race: 2010 Aaron's 499 – 88 lead changes among 29 drivers
- Youngest Daytona 500 winner: Trevor Bayne, 20 years, 1 day (2011)
- Fastest qualifying speed: Bill Elliott – 212.809 mph at Talladega (1987 Winston 500)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to NASCAR Sprint Cup.|
- 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
- List of Sprint Cup champions
- List of all-time NASCAR Cup Series winners
- List of NASCAR teams
- List of NASCAR drivers
- List of NASCAR race tracks
- Stock car racing
- Xfinity Series
- Camping World Truck Series
- Sprint Cup (trophy)
- NASCAR rules and regulations
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