NASCAR 101: Part 1 – NASCAR Basics

Tamhas Woods
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Welcome to NASCAR Basics, part 1 of our first timers guide to NASCAR! In Europe, the less enlightened motorsport follower is all too quick to dismiss NASCAR as an unskilled, brutish art. After all, what can possibly be glamorous about driving around in an oval for three hours?

Not to mention the near-constant advertising!

Without further ado, we proudly present the NASCAR basics, for F1 and MotoGP fans who want something a little different in 2017!

NASCAR Basics: Races

Sprint Cup races generally span 300-600 miles, depending on the length of the track and the surface composition. The distance (in miles) is always shown after the event name. For instance, the season-opening Daytona 500 runs for 500 miles.

Oval racing needs little further explanation, but every driver will hit the track with a battle plan in mind. In particular, fuel efficiency is extremely important:

The video above is a prime example as to why some drivers will wish to hold back until the latter stages, in the hope that leading rivals will run out of fuel.

A few unfamiliar terms may be used during races, but the only one that NASCAR newbies really need to know about is the ‘beneficiary rule’. It is also known as the “lucky dog” or “free pass”.

The lapped driver who is closest to the leader is permitted to pass other cars to the front of the field during a caution. This enables the driver to gain back a lap, albeit at the back of the field.

The beneficiary rule prevents anybody racing to the start/finish line after a yellow flag and ensures the safety of drivers.

NASCAR Basics: Flags

A simple flag system is in place to ensure the safety of drivers:

Flags: A vital part of NASCAR basics

There is also a ninth, figurative flag known as a green and white chequered finish (GWC).

It occurs when a late caution has caused the race to run over its allotted laps, taking the event into ‘overtime’.

A GWC finish causes unbelievable anguish for any driver that might have had a comfortable lead until the caution!

Cautions are issued for many reasons, but most commonly for debris on the track and/or serious crashes.

Though overtaking is forbidden under caution, the more experienced drivers can exploit any gaps (upon issue of a green flag) which may appear during caution racing.

In Part 2, we explore the scoring and playoff systems. Watch this space!

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