When you talk about auto racing, most people think of NASCAR, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. It is arguably the most popular sport in America. Besides NASCAR, there are three other major types of auto racing in America: Formula 1, Champ Car, and the Indy Racing League. Together, these four groups of racing offer a wide range of competitions and challenges for drivers and exciting races for fans.
The Formula 1 race calendar starts in March and goes into October with 18 races in 18 different countries. The US race will be held at Indianapolis Speedway, and the 2006 race will take place on July 2. The race covers approximately 190 miles or 73 laps of the Indy track.
Formula 1 cars have open cockpits, and open wheels, and are very low to the ground. They were created with one primary purpose in mind: speed. Extremely high speeds characterize Formula 1 races.
The chassis, which must be strapped in by the race team, is made of ultra-lightweight materials such as carbon fiber, which allows the cars to fly around the track. They also have wings in the front and back, which are designed to keep the cars low to the ground and reduce drag. Every aspect is dedicated to precision and speed, thus eliminating unnecessary features such as bumpers. The intimate cockpit is located in the center of the vehicle, giving the machine a strong center of gravity. All these elements make them extremely aerodynamic and fast; their speeds reach over 200 mph.
The complex track that these cars travel on is one of the most difficult challenges for their drivers. The Indianapolis track has 13 corners, including hairpins that require a driver to quickly downshift from a speed close to 200 mph to 86 mph and then to 36 mph. Then the driver pushes the accelerator to 160 mph. All of this happens over a series of five turns that span about 1/2 mile on the 2.6-mile trail. Many Formula 1 races are run on city streets that become race tracks just for that event.
Along with the blinding speed, lightweight vehicles and complex courses come the dangers of this sport. When a car travelling at 200 mph loses its grip on the track, spins, and nails a retaining wall, other drivers have to adapt immediately. If they don’t, the results can be deadly.
Of the four major categories of auto racing, Formula 1 is the least popular in America. Perhaps this is due to the international nature of the venues—there is only one race in America—along with the fact that the races are held every other week, unlike NASCAR, which is held every week except Easter Sunday.
The 16-race Champ Car World Series kicks off in late March and runs through mid-November. Fourteen of his races are in the US, Canada, or Mexico, while two other competitions are held in Australia and South Korea. Bridgestone is the title sponsor of Champ Car (Champ Car is short for Championship Car).
Although a few races are held on ovals, most competitions are held on road courses. In fact, many of the races are held on city streets that have been converted to a road course for that one weekend. Cities setting up temporary tracks include Long Beach and San Jose, CA; Houston, Texas; and Denver, CO. While some are shorter and others a bit longer, most Champ courses are about 2 miles in length. Champ Cars, like their Formula 1 counterparts, can reach speeds of nearly 200 mph.
Champ Car race tracks are shorter than Formula 1 tracks, and they also have fewer and more gradual curves. You’ll find that Formula 1 tracks have between 12 and 20 turns with at least one tight set of hairpins, while Champ Car tracks average around 9 turns, and while they certainly require tight manoeuvring, they don’t offer the complex, extremely narrow corners of Formula 1.
Since Champ cars race on ovals along with street courses, they are heavier and have a longer wheelbase. Oval tracks, with their lack of curves, encourage higher speeds, and these speeds put more pressure on a car, so a Champ Car’s wheelbase is firmer but less agile than Formula 1 racers. These less nimble wheelbases are one of the main reasons Champ Cars don’t have to take the ultra-tight turns of the street course that their counterparts do.
There is certainly a rivalry between the American-based Champ Car enthusiasts and the international Formula 1 fans, who are focused on the better tracks, more competitive races, and the best teams. When looking at any type of car, it is difficult to tell the difference between them. They are very similar, but all have unique characteristics.
Formula 1 race cars are powered by gasoline and do not have a turbocharger, while Champs burn methanol and use the turbo. Champ Cars use grooved tyres as well, and they are permitted to include a set of softer compound wheels, giving them an advantage over other cars and making the race outcome less predictable.
Some racing fans prefer Champ Car over Formula 1 because of the fact that changes to the lead are more achievable in the former and also because the less strict tyre rules allow for creativity that can bring excitement and positive results on the track.
LEAGUE OF INDOOR RACING
The Indy Racing League (IRL) sponsors races primarily on oval tracks centred on the Indianapolis 500, which is held each year over Memorial Day weekend at Indianapolis Speedway. The schedule, with the fewest races of the four major racing organizations, yields 14 events. The IRL season starts at the end of March and runs until the beginning of September. The only road race for this series in 2006 is the Infineon in Sonoma, CA, and the only race to be held outside the US is the Twin Ring Motegi, Japan.
The IRL was founded in 1996 and has gone through several growing pains since then. Like in the Champ Car World Series, the cars are open-wheel racers with a central cockpit. In the beginning, the IRL struggled to attract top drivers. However, as the organisation gained credibility, it was able to attract a number of competitive drivers. As of
2007, as part of an environmentally friendly policy, all IRL cars will run on ethanol. Indy track cars have tyres comparable to those of Formula 1 cars, while their manoeuvrability and weight are comparable to those of Champ racers.
Of the four race groups, the IRL is arguably the weakest when it comes to financial stability and brand awareness. Many fans, sports writers, and officials interested in open-wheel racing have called for the unification of the IRL and Champ Cars, creating one organisation with the very best drivers and the most competitive races. Many people think that American Indy car racing would benefit from having a single group in charge. This would make the product less dilute and help Indy car racing dominate Formula 1.
Even if you don’t know what the letters stand for or if you’ve never been to a NASCAR sanctioned race, everyone knows that NASCAR is about stock car racing. Stock cars are simply race cars that take road models or common stock as the basis from which they are made.
The Nextel Cup Series, NASCARS’ premiere event, starts in February and ends in November. NASCAR has not only the longest racing season but also has the most events — 39! In addition, they have the most motivation with 50 as opposed to the 20 or so involved in each of the other organizations.
NASCAR races are held on road courses, ovals, irregularly shaped tracks, and circular raceways. Three things that make NASCAR popular are the regularity of its schedule, its expert machinery, crews, and drivers, and the organization’s ability to be innovative while still holding on to tradition.
The look of the standard cars, as opposed to the racers for Formula 1, Champ Car, or IRL, makes NASCAR the race of the people because we all drive vehicles that resemble Jeff Gordon’s cars. Sterling Martin and Jimmie Johnson manoeuvre every week. Few of us can imagine ourselves in a Formula One car, but many of us drive a Chevy like Tony Stewart, a Dodge like Kyle Petty, or a Ford like Dale Jarrett. This connection fans are making with the stock car certainly helps to increase the track’s popularity in the US.
In addition, unlike the other three organizations, NASCAR hosts its races on a weekly basis. It’s grueling, but it also creates a great competitive atmosphere and a large following who want to know if Sterling Martin is going to shut down Jeff Gordon, just like he did last week; and if he does, what is Gordon going to do about it?
Stock car races often involve lots of line changes, sparring between drivers and athletic pit stops. NASCAR also holds all of its races in the United States, giving the entire circuit a specific national focus.
While NASCAR isn’t the only game in town, it is the best known and most organized, offering fans weekly competition with an intensity and drive that no other racing organisation can match. The other groups certainly have their following and produce a great product, but Formula 1 may be too elite to ever reach Americans like NASCAR has. The Champ Car is more rooted in America but lacks the weekly head-to-head competition and the IRL has been unable to exploit the mystique of the Indy race car.
It might suit you to check out all four of these major racing organisations and their events. If you are a NASCAR fan, you may find something unique in Formula 1 that you can enjoy as well. Champ Car enthusiasts should be able to get into the non-stop nature of stock car racing. While Formula 1 fans may enjoy the variety NASCAR offers, IRL enthusiasts may appreciate the international flavour of Formula 1.
On the other hand, these camps and their allegiances may not be interested in ever crossing over to the other side.
If you think sports betting is limited to the four major sports (football, basketball, baseball, and hockey), think again. A number of online sportsbooks offer racing fans the opportunity to cash in on their favorites. You can easily find online the odds of which driver or team will win a race, take pole position, or finish in the top three.
The cars are driving-join in the excitement on race day. Check out more on Drag Racing.