You've tried to watch a NASCAR race and don't get the excitement over left turns for three hours. In fact, NASCAR is so technical with so many funky terms, it's difficult to understand what's going on while lugnuts are flying off tires and cambers are being adjusted. Confused? Don't be. You're not alone. But fear not, Lisa Horne has the answers to some of your burning questions.
Are those real lights on the cars? NASCAR is big on promoting its sponsors and manufacturers. A Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge and Toyota each has different head/brake light designs. Since they don't actually need lights during a race, they use decals to make the car look as realistic as possible so the fan and potential consumer can identify with the manufacturer of the car. It's all about marketing to potential car buyers and making their brand unique from the others.
Is there a draft in here?
Why is there no window on the driver's side? If we rolled down only one window in our own car, that "wup wup" sound would drive us nuts — it feels like your brain is getting sucked out of your head and the car tends to vibrate unless you roll down another window to equalize the pressure. However, NASCAR stock cars are modified to reduce that pressure inside of the car — the passenger side window may have holes in it, and there are hoses in some rear windows that take in air and equalize the pressure. Keep in mind, a driver can't hear the "wup wup" sound anyway because he's wearing a helmet. There is no window on the driver's side because in case of emergency, the rescue crews need to pull him out quickly.
Back and forth
Why do drivers wiggle their cars around during caution? It's not because they're bored. During a race, a lot of debris (such as rubber) gets kicked up to the high side of the track (groove). When a caution is out, the tires are still hot and can collect that debris (nicknamed "marbles"), which can make them very slippery. The wiggling is done to get rid of the marbles.
Are they licensed to drive?
Do you need a state driver's license to race in NASCAR? Surprisingly, no. Many drivers start out in go-karts at a young age, and therefore mandating a valid state driver's license would keep them out of the races. There is also this: If a NASCAR driver has too many speeding tickets and gets his state license suspended, it would keep them out of the race. The drivers do have to possess a valid NASCAR driver's license to race, but we're pretty sure parallel parking is not part of the test.
It's a little nuts
How much are lugnuts? This question had everyone guessing: A lugnut costs $1, and there are five lugnuts per tire. Since the tracks vary in length, tire changes vary, but the average cost of lugnuts for one car during the entire season is between $8,000-10,000, according to NASCAR's parts supplier Glenn Cox. A team that has four cars spends almost $40,000 a season alone on those little nuts. If you ask us, that's nuts!
Fuel for thought
What type of fuel do they use? Apparently, most pit crew members don't know the answer to this question — we got various answers inside the garage, ranging from 98 octane to 121 octane, but we finally got the definitive answer from Mike Miller, the tech manager from Sunoco's corporate office. NASCAR uses Sunoco 260 GTX, an unleaded 98 octane gasoline. It costs approximately $6 a gallon, and if you put it in your car, it won't make your car go any faster because that fuel is for modified engines, not street car engines. While it won't hurt your car, it will hurt your wallet.
What do they use to inflate tires? Unlike normal street tires, NASCAR teams use nitrogen instead of oxygen. According to Blair Patterson, a pit crew member for Rusty Wallace Racing in the Nationwide Series, the less moisture in the gas, the easier it is to predict fluctuation of pressure — and nitrogen is drier than oxygen. Compressed air has moisture in it, and since moisture builds heat, the tire will expand during the race, which can cause inner tire liner damage. Nitrogen also creates more accurate pressure, reducing the possibility of blowouts.
Why don't they race in the rain?
If NASCAR ran a race during rain on an oval, the cars would be sliding everywhere. The cars are barely gripping the track when it's dry — a wet track would be a disaster. NASCAR has tried running in the rain, using rain tires on the road course at Montreal in 2008, but that's as far as the experiment has gone.
Call of the wild
So what do drivers do when they need to use the bathroom during a race? For the answer to one of the most common fan questions, we went straight to Daytona 500 winning crew chief Larry McReynolds: "Well, there are some that say 'I gotta go' and just do their business right in the race car. But I'll tell you, whenever you are so deep into something and the intensity is up, you forget about things like having to go to the bathroom. Now, I've had drivers who almost ripped off the car door to run to the restroom after the race, but most of the time they forget they have to go."So how do drivers hide their "in car" incident? A garage source said that if a driver pulls into Victory Lane and dumps soda on his head before climbing out or he tells his crew that he sweated a lot in the race car, you can pretty much figure it out.