Sprint car racing

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For NASCAR's top series, see Sprint Cup Series.
Winged sprint car
Mini sprint car
Non-wing 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, at a weight of approximately 1,400 pounds (640 kg) (including the driver)[1] for a 410 Sprint car, power outputs of 900 horsepower (670 kW) to 1,100 horsepower (820 kW) are commonplace for these machines, which is around 140-340 more horsepower than a 2014 Formula One engine. Typically they are powered by a naturally aspirated 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, transmission) and the track layout these cars achieve speeds in excess of 160 mph.[4] A lower budget but likewise very popular class of Sprint cars uses a 360 cubic inch (5.9L) engines that 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, 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, 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 1971 as an offshoot of the series that competed for the National Championship Trail including the Indianapolis 500, known as "big cars".[5]

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 become quite popular in Australia. Wingless sprints are powered by a 6-cylinder Holden engine which can develop around 500 horsepower (370 kW), as well as reach speeds up to 180 km/h (112 mph). Wingless sprints have entirely the same chassis as a normal Sprintcar, just without the front and top wings.

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 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, Parramatta City 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.

The Warrnambool race is the largest sprint car meeting in the world; in the 2014-15 season, the 2015 Warrnambool race outdrew Knoxville in entries.

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 enthusiast. 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 mile or less in size, though they sometimes run on larger tracks. They can be either raced with wings or with out 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 sometimes they can be as expensive as a full sized sprint car, depending on how much money is put into it. There are different classes of micro sprints. The restricted class is the starting class. It is a winged class that runs restrictor plates and runs stock engines. The age of the driver that races in the restricted class can vary depending on the track. The ages are usually 12-15. The next class is the stock class. It is a winged class or a non wing class. The age of the driver can be 12(depending on the track, some do not allow kids this young) and up. There is no age limit to this class. It is like the restricted class in that the engine is stock bore and stroke, but they don't run restrictor plates. The next class is the multi class. The age of the drivers is the same as that of the stock class. It can be a winged or a non wing class. It is also known as the super or open class. This class does not require the bore or the stroke to be stock. This class is generally more expensive than the others, but the cars do go faster.

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) is to have the cars 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.[7]

In Australia, Sprint Car racing is controlled by the Sprintcar Control Council of Australia (SCCA) who sanction the Australian Championships.

Non-winged sprint car series[edit]

Series Website Engine Founded Countries Locations
AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Championship USAC 410ci 1956 United States Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin
Midwest Sprint Car Series MSCS 360ci United States Illinois, Indiana
Ontario Topless Sprints OTS 2012 United StatesCanada Michigan, New York, Ontario
UMSS Traditional Sprint Car Series UMSS 350ci 2011 United States Minnesota, Wisconsin

Winged sprint car series[edit]

Series Website Engine Founded Countries Locations
World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series WoO 410ci 1978 United States Canada 24 states and Alberta, Ontario, Quebec
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 NSL 410ci 2014 United States Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, South Dakota
IRA Outlaw Sprint Series IRA 410ci United States Illinois, Wisconsin
King of the West 410 Sprint Car Series KWS 410ci 1960 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
World Series Sprintcars WSS 410ci 1987 Australia New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria
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 Sprint Car Series MSCS 360ci United States Illinois, Indiana
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
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 official "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, 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[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.


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

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]


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