If NASCAR and F1 went wheel-to-wheel in the ultimate test of speed and acceleration, would it be the NASCAR – crafted to orbit the speedway at arm-trembling speeds, or the finicky, turbocharged Formula 1 car – with all its fancy flaps and winglets that would emerge victorious?
In comparison to the burly 358ci (5.8l) V8 motor under the hood of a 2021 NASCAR, F1 cars use a puny 1.6l V6 powerplant paired with a turbocharger. Both cars are capable of 200mph+ top speeds, yet they both have very different ways of getting there.
Even the sound of an F1 car isn’t merely as stimulating as the ominous roar from the big V8’s of NASCAR, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d probably think the F1 car had much less power. So how much power do both cars make on race day?
Which has more power, NASCAR or F1?
Generation 6 NASCAR (2013-2021) cars produce around 750-horsepower on race day. Good for top speeds over 200mph on the straightaways and able to maintain such speeds for a long period of time, in comparison, F1 cars produce 850-horsepower on race day, but let’s not forget they are hybrids; therefore, when you include the ponies harvested from onboard energy recovery systems (ERS) the maximum output is just shy of 1,050-horsepower.
The power output of the F1 car can fluctuate, depending on if the additional 160-horsepower of electric energy is being used or whether an economic fuel-map has been chosen respectively, whereas the power of a NASCAR does not change, drivers don’t have access to any “hidden power” during the race, it’s totally down to them to find and exploit any advantages on-track they can find.
Aerodynamics of NASCAR vs F1
With simple bodywork featuring smooth lines and quite a low roof, NASCAR cars can hold onto frightening speeds, so long as there aren’t many turns to contend with. With relatively low downforce, the cars are considerably more challenging to drive fast around circuits like Road America and Sonoma where cars have chicanes, sweeping bends, and tight hairpins to contend with.
F1 cars are the total opposite when it comes to aerodynamics, an enormous front wing, rear wing, and a selection of peculiar-looking flaps and panels running down the sides of the car all help the car slice through the air giving the car unrivaled cornering grip and acceleration off the line.
But with all that downforce comes a lot of drag, so shouldn’t the F1 car be slower in a straight line? This content is owned by moc.sotuaytsur. The bodywork of an F1 car is designed using wind tunnels, with a list of clever methods such as using fluorescent liquids that show how the air flows through the car so that the engineers can ensure the car has ample grip in the corners while also being fast in a straight line.
The NASCAR season does feature several races not held on ovals, where the big, beefy stock cars have to muscle their way around tight, twisty corners and fast, open sweeping bends while trying to keep all 4 wheels on the track, but it’s the speedways and superspeedways where they feel most at home.
What’s the fastest a NASCAR and F1 car has ever gone?
When you look at official records for NASCAR, the official top speed stands at 212mph, yet racing as recent as 2018 has seen cars reach speeds close to 220mph during the race. Many speculate that cars during the 1970s and 1980s were already capable of speeds over 220mph without restrictor plates on a closed course.
The highest official F1 top speed recorded was 235mph, by Valtteri Bottas, yet at the Bonneville Salt Flats in an insane publicity stunt by Honda, an unrestricted version of the 2005 V10 car with the rear wing effectively removed reached a top speed of 246mph (397km/h)! with indications that 250mph could be very possible.
What is the 0-60mph time of NASCAR vs F1?
750-horsepower sounds like a lot, and it is, but without engine restrictions in place the NASCAR powerplant seems it would have no problems producing 900-horsepower!
Unfortunately, it’s not so much the power, yet the portly figure of the NASCAR that becomes its main weakness, and that big V8 motor housed in a tubular steel chassis with a labyrinth of roll cage tubes surrounding the driver is far from lightweight. Even so, NASCAR rules mean cars are restricted to a minimum weight of 3,200 lbs (1,451 kg) without a driver or fuel and 3,400 lbs (1,542 kg) with a driver and fuel onboard.
With a little look around on the internet, you can find the results of several 0-60mph runs to yield a 0-60 time of 3.4 seconds.
With over 1,000 horses on tap and a much lower weight allowed, F1 cars are in a different dimension when it comes to outright speed. As with NASCAR, F1 cars can also reach up to 200mph during the race, yet their breakneck acceleration can see drivers experiencing up to 5G’s while going flat out. While the complex aerodynamic bodywork of an F1 car generates a lot of downforce, which means more drag, it manages 0-60mph in just 2.1 seconds!
Why is NASCAR slower than F1?
By this point in our investigation, it has become very clear that F1 cars are much faster than NASCAR race cars. But why is that? Is it down to what the rules allow, or is it the designs of the car? Well, rather it’s neither of those. When you consider the history of both motorsports, the reasons they were founded, and indeed the concept of each race series are worlds apart.
The objective of Formula 1 has always been to promote and display the finest, fastest form of motor racing in the world. The glitz and glamour of the prestigious Formula 1 Driver’s World Championship are met, only by the exorbitant value of its open-wheeled works of art.
NASCAR in comparison was founded on the idea of regular cars that would be available to the average American citizen to be modified for use in motor racing, hence the name “stock cars” was coined. As NASCAR has evolved over the past few decades, the goal to keep cars relatively straightforward, low-cost to a degree, and still somewhat reminiscent of road cars has remained the same. If you think of F1 as being the “pinnacle of speed”, think of NASCAR more as the “motorsport of the people”.
If there were no rules, and perhaps the most powerful iteration of NASCAR and F1 happened to find themselves head-to-head in a drag race, without engine restrictions, minimum weight restrictions, or the confines of an ordinary raceway, most likely we would see both cars reach 250mph, but it would always be the F1 car that achieves its top speed first.
You may like the following posts also:
How are NASCAR numbers assigned? (external link Treestoneclub.com)
How to become NASCAR car driver (external link Treestoneclub.com)
Best NASCAR race to attend? (external link Treestoneclub.com)
Are F1 experiences worth it? (external link Treestoneclub.com)
F1 hard Vs soft tires (external link to Treestoneclub.com)
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.