Sprint car racing

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Dave Blaney's winged sprint car
Mini sprint car
Silver Crown 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 primarily in the United States of America and Canada, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Sprint cars have very high power-to-weight ratios, with weights of approximately 1,400 pounds (640 kg) (including the driver)[1] for 410 sprint cars, power outputs of over 900 horsepower (670 kW) are commonplace for these machines, which are around 140-340 more horsepower than 2014 Formula One engines. Typically they are powered by a naturally aspirated, mechanically fuel injected (methanol) American V8 with an engine displacement of 410 cubic inches (6.7L) capable of engine speeds of 9000 rpm.[2][3] Depending on the mechanical setup (engine, gearing, shocks, etc.) and the track layout these cars achieve speeds in excess of 160 mph.[4] A lower budget and very popular class of sprint cars uses 360 cubic inch (5.9L) engines that produce approximately 700 horsepower (520 kW). Sprint cars do not utilize a transmission, they have an in or out gear box and quick change rear differentials for occasional gearing changes. As a result, they do not have electric starters (or even electrical systems other than magneto / ignition) and require a push to start them. The safety record of sprint car racing in recent years has been greatly improved by the use of roll cages, and especially on dirt tracks, wings, 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, Parnelli Jones, Johnnie Parsons, Al Unser, Sr., 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[edit]

There are several sanctioning bodies for non-winged sprint cars. The United States Automobile Club (USAC) has become the top 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 Indiana, for decades. The Silver Crown series was started in 1971 as an offshoot of the series that competed for the National Championship Trail including the Indianapolis 500, known as "big cars".[5]

Non-winged sprint cars are considered the traditional sprint car, dating back to the first sprint cars in the 1930s and 1940s (that ultimately evolved into Indy Cars). Today, they are essentially the same car as a winged sprint car, only without wings. In fact, many of them have the "stub outs" in the frame for adding wings . They use the same 410ci and 360ci aluminum engines as their winged counterparts (although many local tracks have rules mandating steel blocks and some 305ci displacements, this is mostly a cost control). Their tuning and gearing are different for performance at lower RPMs than a winged car. Chassis set ups and tires are also different.

While they do not have the same top speed as a winged car (because they lack downforce for traction), they are thought by many to be more fun to watch. They tend to have a more extreme driving style and are often sliding sideways through corners and doing wheelies. This makes them more dangerous than winged cars and their crashes are known for their spectacular nature. They also lack the inherent safety that a wing provides. It is fairly uncommon for someone to be good at driving both winged and non-winged cars (especially at a professional level).

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.[6] 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 Knoxville Nationals.

In 1987, Australia followed suit with its own national series for winged sprint cars called the World Series Sprintcars, founded by Adelaide based sedan driver and then Speedway Park track promoter John Hughes. Famous Australian tracks used in the WSS have included Speedway Park/City in Adelaide, South Australia, Claremont Speedway and later Perth Motorplex in Perth, Western Australia, Valvoline Raceway in Sydney, New South Wales, Archerfield Speedway in Brisbane, Queensland, and the Premier Speedway (home of the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic) in Warrnambool, Victoria. There is also a single meeting Australian Sprintcar Championship which has been run since 1963 and has been run under various class names before finally settling on the Australian Sprintcar Championship in 1979. While non-Australian (usually American) drivers are free to race in the WSS and other meetings including the various State Championships, only Australian drivers are permitted in the Australian Championship meeting.

The Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic at Warrnambool is the largest sprint car meeting in the world; in the 2014-15 season, the 2015 Classic race outdrew the Knoxville Nationals in entries.

Until the late 1990s, Sprintcars in Australia were restricted to 366 cui (6.0L) V8 engines as opposed to the 410 cui (6.7L) engines used in the United States. Currently Australia runs two classes of winged Sprintcars, the 410 or Open class, and one for cars with 360 cui (5.9L) engines. Both classes have separate Australian Championship meetings.

Midget sprint cars[edit]

Midget Sprint Car

Midget sprint cars are smaller versions of a full size sprint car, normally non-wing only. Midgets date back to the 1930s as a very common form a sprint car racing, still very popular today and also sanctioned by USAC. They are powered by 4 cylinder engines but otherwise very similar to their larger cousins.

Micro sprint[edit]

Winged micro sprint

Micro sprints are small racecars that are smaller versions of full sprint cars. A starter class for striving sprint car enthusiasts, they run side mounted 600cc motorcycle engines and are chain driven. They have a chassis and a body styled like that of a full sized sprint car or a midget sprint. Micro sprints are generally run on small dirt tracks that are usually a fifth of a mile or less in size, though they sometimes run on larger tracks. They can be either raced with wings or without wings. The general minimum weights for the cars to pass tech is 750 lbs for winged and 725 lbs for non wing. Micro sprints are generally a cheaper alternative than racing a mini sprint or a midget sprint, but they can be as expensive as a full sized sprint car.

Sanctioning bodies[edit]

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) is to have the cars line up four wide just before starting the race.

The All Star Circuit of Champions (ASCoC) is an American motorsports sanctioning body of winged sprint car racing founded in 1970. The series sanctions 410ci sprint car races in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, and Florida. On average the series runs 40 races per year, starting February and ending in October each year.

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.[7]

In Australia, Sprint Car racing is controlled by the Sprintcar Control Council of Australia (SCCA) who sanction the Australian Championships and the World Series Sprintcar series as well as the various State Championships and other meetings held around the country.

Non-winged sprint car series[edit]

Series Website Engine Founded Countries Locations
AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Championship USAC 410ci 1956 United States Indiana, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Arizona, Iowa, Nebraska
Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series BOSS 410ci 2011 United States Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania
Lucas Oil POWRi Wingless Auto Racing WAR 410ci 2012 United States Missouri, Kansas, Illinois
Michigan Traditional Sprints MTS 410ci 2006 United States Michigan, Pennsylvania
USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series USAC/CRA 410ci United States California, Arizona
Midwest Sprint Car Series MSCS 410ci 2001 United States Illinois, Indiana
USAC Southwest Sprint Cars USAC SW 360ci 1991 United States Arizona, New Mexico
USAC West Coast Sprint Cars USAC WC 360ci 2009 United States Arizona, California
New Mexico Motor Racing Association NMMRA 360ci 1946 United States New Mexico, Texas
Heartland Racing Association HRA 360ci 2006 United States Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa
Heart of the West Racing Series HOTWRS 360ci 2013 United States Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming
UMSS Traditional Sprint Car Series UMSS 360ci 2011 United States Minnesota, Wisconsin
Northern Renegades NRSCS 360ci United States Minnesota
Wisconsin Wingless Sprint Series WWSS Crate 2015 United States Wisconsin
Northeast Wingless Sprint Cars NEWSC 602 2015 United States New Jersey, New York

Winged sprint car series[edit]

Series Website Engine Founded Countries Locations
World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series WoO 410ci 1978 United States 27 states
All Star Circuit of Champions ASCOC 410ci 1970 United States Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin
National Sprint League (ended) NSL 410ci 2014-2016 United States Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, South Dakota
IRA Outlaw Sprint Series IRA 410ci 1967 United States Illinois, Wisconsin
King of the West 410 Sprint Car Series KWS 410ci 1960 United States California
Sprintcar Challenge Tour SCT 360ci 2017 United States California
Midwest Open Wheel Association Sprint Car Series MOWA 410ci United States Illinois, Iowa, Missouri
Northern Outlaws Sprint Association NOSA 410ci 1994 United States Canada Manitoba, Minnesota, North Dakota
Ohio Valley Sprint Car Association OVSCA 410ci 2010 United States Ohio, West Virginia
Fremont/Attica Sprint Title FAST 410ci &305ci 2009 United States Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania
Ohio Sprint Car Series OSCS 410ci 2016 United States Ohio
Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series ASCS 360ci 1992 United States Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas
Civil War Sprint Car Series CWSC 360ci 1993 United States California
Empire Super Sprints ESS 360ci 1983 United States Canada New Jersey, New York, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Quebec
Midwest Sprintcar Association MSA 360ci 1996 United States Wisconsin
Nebraska 360 Sprint Series NSS 360ci United States Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota
Patriot Sprint Tour PST 360ci 2003 United States Canada New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario
Southern Ontario Sprints SOS 360ci 1996 Canada Ontario
Sprint Cars of New England SCoNE 360ci 2004 United States New Hampshire, Vermont
Sprints on Dirt SOD 360ci United States Canada Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Ontario
United Racing Club URC 360ci 1948 United States Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania
United Sprint Car Series USCS 360ci United States Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee
Upper Midwest Sprint Car Series UMSS 360ci 2009 United States Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin
World Series Sprintcars WSS 410ci 1987 Australia New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria
Oval Superstars Tour 410ci 2016 New Zealand North Island including Wellington, Palmerston North, Napier, Stratford, Huntly
Ultimate Sprintcar Championship USC 410ci 2014 Australia New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria
Sprintcar All Stars SCAS 360ci 2007 Australia New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria

Sprint Car World Championship[edit]

Despite the 50 plus years of Sprint car racing, the category has only ever held one unofficial "world championship". This was in 1987 at the ⅓ mile (586 metres (641 yd)) Claremont Speedway in Perth, Western Australia. The event attracted the best drivers from Australia, NZ, Canada, and South Africa, as well as several World of Outlaws drivers. Australian veteran Garry Rush from Sydney, a 10-time winner of the Australian Sprintcar Championship, was the winner.

Television coverage[edit]

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 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. In 2015, the World of Outlaws have had several races broadcast on CBS Sports Network as well as live on online-pay-per-view on DIRTVision.com. Knoxville Raceway has their weekly series as well as World of Outlaws & National Sprint League events on MavTV. USAC currently has some races televised on MavTV, primarily through Jack Slash Media's Dirty 30 highlights program. Other series such as the Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Series, King of the West Sprint Cars, King of the Wing Pavement Sprint Cars, MustSeeRacing.com Pavement Sprint Cars and several weekly/regional series also air on MavTV.

Australia[edit]

In Australia, the World Series Sprintcars is currently televised on free-to-air channel One HD.

Sprint Car Books[edit]

There are a number of publications featuring Sprint Cars. Full Throttle Publishing, based in Sydney Australia, have numerous books including "Caged Heat - The Wild World of Sprint Car Racing"

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 marginally improve their safety with wings that absorb some of the energy from violent flips and crashes, although winged sprint cars are generally traveling at higher speeds than their non wing counterparts.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]