Formula One vs. NASCAR

Formula One vs. NASCAR

An infographic on the Red Bull web site got us thinking about the differences between NASCAR and Formula One. Their head-to-head comparison, while technically accurate in many areas, felt a little biased. Of course, when you realize the Formula One car pictured in the infographic is a Red Bull-sponsored car, it makes a little more sense. That said, it's an enjoyable debate, so we're going to delve into the differences between the two series, discuss the merits of each, and why we like them both.

 Origins

photo credit: The U.S. Army via photopin cc

photo credit: The U.S. Army via photopin cc

Start with NASCAR. Born in the hills of North Carolina by moonshiners driving souped-up hotrods they used to outrun police while delivering corn whisky to their customers, it's evolved into a pure expression of everything that's 'Merica. Corn dogs and Budweiser abound at a NASCAR race, and the cars depend on brute force to push them to 200 MPH, eschewing many of the aerodynamic additions that help F1 cars generate enough down force to actually drive on the ceiling.

The cars are called "stock cars" but bear little resemblance to anything you'd see on an actual road. They carry the badge and logos of companies like Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota, but the 750-horsepower engines manage to push the 3,400 lb. cars around the oval tracks at incredible speeds. NASCAR drivers drive their cars like tanks, bumping, grinding, and rubbing their way through the pack. Of course, the cars are built to take it, and the shape of the cars creates a nice little pocket right off the rear bumper a driver can use to slingshot himself to the lead.

 F1 Comparison

Compare that to a Formula One car, track and team and you'll quickly see the differences. F1 cars make the most of every technology available, including wings and aerodynamic packages that generate incredible down force and make for higher cornering speeds. They also generally weigh a third of what NASCAR cars weigh. And while NASCAR runs all but a few races on an oval track, F1 courses are built on actual roads and feature hairpins, left and right turns.

photo credit: Michael Elleray via photopin cc

photo credit: Michael Elleray via photopin cc

photo credit: StuSeeger via photopin cc

photo credit: StuSeeger via photopin cc

Formula One races are shorter, usually under 2 hours, but begin from a dead stop. According to an article in thestatemsan.com, you do NOT want to miss the start of an F1 race. In those first few seconds, a driver can win or lose a race as the cars accelerate from zero to 100 mph in the blink of an eye, all while jockeying for position among other racers. Those seconds are so important because F1 lead changes are rare. The record for the most overtakes in an F1 race is 40, in the 1965 Italian Grand Prix. The record for the fewest? 0, at the 2003 Monaco Grand Prix, the 2005 US Grand Prix, and the 2009 European Grand Prix.

At the end of the day, (or race), each type of racing circuit has its strengths, and while some fans may prefer one over the other, they're unique enough that most racing fans can enjoy both if they focus on the strengths of the two circuits, and not what they're missing.