The Odd World of Stock Cars

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A stock car, as in stock car racing, is a vehicle upgraded for racing, as opposed to a “formula car,” which is designed and built to race. (Think Formula One and so on). So why take a new car and modify it? Well price for one thing. While you can spend tens of thousands of dollars modifying a car to race it’s nowhere near the cost of a formula car. This makes stock cars more accessible to the semi-pro, or weekend, racer and fan.

Even the sports origin is more “common man.” The activity seems to come from the prohibition era. In those days cars were adapted for speed, including lightening the chassis or main body to let moonshiners outrun the police.

Obviously, stock car racing exists on two basic levels—that of the weekend racer and that of the professional league racer. The former use cars with very few adaptions called “street stock” or “pure stock.” The only concession to racing is the addition of safety features.

The next grade up is super stock which allows some changes to be made, such as getting the power up to 373 kilowatts (maximum of 410 kilowatts). Other modifications might include adding front and rear spoilers for aerodynamics and removing seats.

Another term you’ll hear near these racers is a late model, which as the name suggests, refers to cars that have only just been manufactured.

When it comes to the racing late models it usually occurs on asphalt, such as the CRA Super Series and the Pro All Stars Series, however, there are a few dirt track races such as the Lucas Oil Late Model Series.

Obviously, you make significantly different modifications when rigging a car to race asphalt than for dirt.

race-car-1031767_1920A big point of contention among drivers of the two disciplines whether dirt driving or asphalt driving is the purest way to race. Some fans prefer dirt racing because the track is more a part of the race. It can be more exciting, seeing a car deal with a much tougher course. There are more dirt race tracks in the world and as a result more dirt racers.

On the other hand, asphalt racing reaches higher speeds and the focus becomes more head-to-head between drivers as they handle the speeds with inches between bumpers.

Types of Modification:

One way of describing the process might be getting rid of anything superfluous. There are so many different areas you have to bear in mind when modifying a car such as the aerodynamics of the vehicle, the weight distribution, the overall suspension, ergonomics (in other words is the equipment suitable for the user) as well as looking at the efficiency of the engine.

Whether dirt or asphalt, safety is the key modification. You might feel like your car contains safety measures, but it wasn’t designed to handle rolling out at 200 MPH or sliding several hundred yards on it’s roof. Why have a glove compartment when you can have a fire suppression system? Successfully adapting a car is a complex operation that can take years to learn.

The creation process begins with what is known as a safety cell or roll cage. This might be described as a second chassis where you are protected if anything goes wrong. It is impossible to remove all elements of danger and some participants may feel they don’t want to but it does help to reduce injury.

In fact, most asphalt racers are sedans, because of the room needed to accommodate safety features. Only certain saloon cars (sedans) are suitable to be turned into stock cars, such as the Ford Mondeo or Sierra and the Vauxhall Vectra.

Some dirt racers might choose a smaller car with beefed up suspension as they aren’t as likely to wreck at top speed. They do need much stronger tires such as those made by Yokohama.

If you’re thinking about buying a car, whether for a weekend track race or a daily commuter, be sure to have it inspected. Check out our sponsor TireKickers for more details.

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