Sprint car racing

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Dave Blaney's winged sprint car

Sprint cars are high-powered race cars designed primarily for the purpose of running on short oval or circular dirt or paved tracks. Sprint car racing is popular primarily in the United States of America and Canada, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Sprint cars have very high power-to-weight ratios, with weights of approximately 1,400 pounds (640 kg) (including the driver)[1] for the 410 sprint car class. Power outputs of over 900 horsepower (670 kW) are commonplace for these machines, which, when combined with their light weight, gives them a power-to-weight ratio comparable to an F1 car. Typically, they are powered by a naturally aspirated, methanol injected over-head valve V8 with an engine displacement of 410 cubic inches (6.7L) capable of engine speeds approaching 9000 rpm.[2][3] Depending on the mechanical setup (engine, gearing, shocks, etc.) and the track layout, these cars can achieve speeds in excess of 160 miles per hour (260 km/h).[4] A lower budget and very popular class of sprint cars uses 360 cubic inch (5.9L) engines that produce approximately 700 horsepower (520 kW). Sprint cars do not utilize a transmission, they have an in or out gear box and quick change rear differentials for occasional gearing changes. As a result, they do not have electric starters (or even electrical systems other than a magneto / ignition) and require a push to start them. The safety record of sprint car racing in recent years has been greatly improved by the use of roll cages, and especially on dirt tracks, wings, to protect the drivers.

Many IndyCar Series and NASCAR drivers used sprint car racing as an intermediate stepping stone on their way to more high-profile divisions, including Indianapolis 500 winners A. J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, Parnelli Jones, Johnnie Parsons, Al Unser, Sr., and Al Unser, Jr., as well as NASCAR Sprint Cup champions Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

The National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum located in Knoxville, Iowa, USA features exhibits highlighting the history of both winged and wingless sprint cars.

Non-winged sprint cars[edit]

There are several sanctioning bodies for non-winged sprint cars. The United States Automobile Club (USAC) has become the top series for non-winged sprint car racing throughout the United States, especially after taking over the Sprint Car Racing Association (SCRA) and turning it into the USAC/California Racing Association (USAC/CRA). This series has become the premier non-winged sprint car series on the west coast of the United States. USAC also has hosted the Silver Crown series, based in Indiana, for decades. The Silver Crown series was started in 1971 as an offshoot of the series that competed for the National Championship Trail including the Indianapolis 500, known as "big cars".[5]

Non-winged sprint cars are considered the traditional sprint car, dating back to the first sprint cars in the 1930s and 1940s (that ultimately evolved into Indy Cars). Today, they are essentially the same car as a winged sprint car, only without wings. In fact, many of them have the "stub outs" in the frame for adding wings. They use the same 410ci and 360ci aluminum engines as their winged counterparts (although many local tracks have rules mandating steel blocks and some 305ci (5.0L) displacements, this is mostly a cost control). Their tuning and gearing are different for performance at lower RPMs than a winged car. Chassis set ups and tires are also different.

While they do not have the same top speed as a winged car (because they lack downforce for traction), they are thought by many to be more entertaining to watch. Their relative lack of grip creates different driving characteristics than their winged counterparts, causing them to be more difficult to control through the corners. This, and the lack of roll-over protection a wing provides, makes them more dangerous than winged cars and their crashes are known for their spectacular nature. It is fairly uncommon for a driver to be skilled at driving both winged and non-winged cars (especially at a professional level).

Winged sprint cars[edit]

World of Outlaws drivers make a Four Abreast lap at the Knoxville Raceway

The world's first winged car, known today as a winged sprint car, was created and driven by Jim Cushman at the Columbus Motor Speedway (Ohio) in 1958.[6] In the early 1970s, many sprint car drivers began to put wings with sideboards on both the front and top of their cars. The added wings increased the downforce generated on the car, with the opposite direction of the sideboards helping to turn the car in the corners. The increased traction makes the car faster and easier to control.

The wing also affects safety. The added downforce lessens the likelihood of going airborne. When cars do go airborne, the wings frequently break off or crumple upon hitting the ground, lessening the impact on the driver. Due to the reasons mentioned above, winged cars are safer to drive and the wings are sometimes referred to as "aluminum courage." In some cases, the wing protects the car as well. If a winged car rolls over, the massive roof mounted wing hits first, lessening the chance for mechanical damage. Often teams are able to replace the wing during the ensuing stoppage and are able to race once the race resumed.

In 1978, Ted Johnson formed the promotional body for winged sprint cars called the World of Outlaws. Racing throughout the United States from February to November, the World of Outlaws is the premier dirt sprint car racing series. Famous tracks featured in the series included the Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, the Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pennsylvania, the Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa and Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Each August, the Knoxville Raceway holds the Knoxville Nationals.

In 1987, Australia followed suit with its own national series for winged sprint cars called the World Series Sprintcars, founded by Adelaide based sedan driver and then Speedway Park track promoter John Hughes. Famous Australian tracks used in the WSS have included Speedway Park/City in Adelaide, South Australia, Claremont Speedway and later Perth Motorplex in Perth, Western Australia, Valvoline Raceway in Sydney, New South Wales, Archerfield Speedway in Brisbane, Queensland, and the Premier Speedway (home of the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic) in Warrnambool, Victoria. There is also a single meeting Australian Sprintcar Championship which has been run since 1963 and has been run under various class names before finally settling on the Australian Sprintcar Championship in 1979. While non-Australian (usually American) drivers are free to race in the WSS and other meetings including the various State Championships, only Australian drivers are permitted in the Australian Championship meeting.

The Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic at Warrnambool is the largest sprint car meeting in the world; in the 2014-15 season, the 2015 Classic race outdrew the Knoxville Nationals in entries.

Until the early 2000's, Sprintcars in Australia were restricted to 6200cc (372 cui) V8 engines as opposed to the 410 cui (6.7L) engines used in the United States and New Zealand. Brian Healey, the Sacramento (US)-based Australian who owned Parramatta City Raceway, pushed for the change in 2003 to follow both nations to 410. Today, Australia follows the standard 410ci formula, and has both the 410 and 360 cui (5.9L) formulae. Both formulae have separate Australian Championship meetings.

Midget cars[edit]

Midget Sprint Car

Midget cars are smaller versions of a full size sprint car, normally non-wing only. Midgets date back to the 1930s as a very common form of sprint car racing, still very popular today and also sanctioned by USAC. They are powered by 4-cylinder engines developing around 350 horsepower (260 kW), but are otherwise very similar to their larger cousins.

Mini sprint[edit]

Mini sprint car

Mini sprints are similarly sized to midget cars, but have an upright-style chassis and a center-mounted, chain-driven 4-cylinder motorcycle engine with a displacement between 750 to 1200cc.

Micro sprints[edit]

Winged micro sprint

Micro sprints are small racecars that are smaller versions of full sprint cars. A starter class for striving sprint car enthusiasts, they run side mounted 600cc motorcycle engines developing around 100hp and are chain driven. They have a chassis and a body styled like that of a full sized sprint car or midget. Micro sprints are generally run on small dirt tracks that are usually a fifth of a mile or less in size, though they sometimes run on larger tracks. They can be either raced with wings or without wings; the latter are sometimed called micro midgets. The general minimum weights for the cars to pass tech is 750 lbs for winged and 725 lbs for non wing. Micro sprints are generally a cheaper alternative than racing a mini sprint or a midget sprint, but they can be as expensive as a full sized sprint car.

Outlaw karts[edit]

Outlaw karts are go karts with a roll cage and wing. They are some of the cheapest race cars that are very competitive costing around $5,000. Most tracks are one sixth of a mile or less. Outlaw karts run side mounted engines of various types. The beginner boxstock and boxstock divisions run pull start clone motors and are usually for the younger drivers first getting their start. The intermediate division runs a 250cc dirt bike engine with the driver/team having choice of running a four stroke or a two stroke. At some tracks, the intermediate division has to run a harder compound of tire. The biggest and baddest division in outlaw karts is the open division. The opens can run 450cc four strokes, 500cc two strokes, or 550cc four strokes. The 450cc and 500cc motors are the more popular option because the 550cc motors aren't run at all tracks and the tracks that do run them make the kart weigh extra. The weight range for the karts is around 150 lbs to around 500 lbs.

Outlaw Kart

Sanctioning bodies[edit]

The NOS Energy Drink World of Outlaws (WoO) is a division of 410ci (6.7L) winged sprint cars that run all over the United States and have a few events in Canada. The cars have 15-inch (380 mm) wide right rear tire and a 410 cubic inch engine with mechanical fuel injection. These sprint cars have no battery or a starter in them, necessitating a push start by a quad or truck. They also do not have flywheels, clutches or transmissions, but the direct drive system can be engaged or disengaged from the cockpit. This is done both for weight reasons and tradition. Another tradition the WoO has pertaining their "A-main" (the last race of the event) is to have the cars line up four wide just before starting the race.

The All Star Circuit of Champions (ASCoC) is an American motorsports sanctioning body of winged sprint car racing founded in 1970. The series sanctions 410ci sprint car races in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, and Florida. On average the series runs 40 races per year, starting February and ending in October each year.

The United States Automobile Club (USAC) National Sprint Car Championship is a division of non-winged 410 cubic inch sprint cars that run throughout the United States on asphalt and dirt tracks. The USAC also sanctions regional 360ci non-winged sprint car series: the USAC East Coast Sprint Cars, USAC Southwest Sprint Cars, and USAC West Coast Sprint Cars.

The United Racing Company (URC) is a division for winged sprint cars that run mainly in the northeastern part of the United States in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The URC started in 1948 with 11 races in its season. It slowly progressed to 28 races. The URC uses a 360 cubic inch (5.9 L) engine which generates approximately 650 horsepower (480 kW). They race with alcohol fuel and use mechanical fuel injection (MFI) to deliver it into the combustion chamber.

The American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) is a winged sprint car series racing within the United States. ASCS uses a 360 cubic inch engine which lead to fans calling the cars "360s". The series was started by well-known racing promoter Emmett Hahn. The series national headquarters are in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The all-time leader in wins for the series is Texan Gary Wright with 127 A main victories under his belt.[7]

In Australia, Sprint Car racing is controlled by the Sprintcar Control Council of Australia (SCCA) who sanction the Australian Championships and the World Series Sprintcar series as well as the various State Championships and other meetings held around the country.

Non-winged sprint car series[edit]

Series Website Engine Founded Countries Locations
AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Championship USAC 410ci 1956 United States Indiana, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania
USAC/CRA AMSOIL Sprint Car Series USAC/CRA 410ci 2004 United States California, Arizona
Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series BOSS 410ci 2011 United States Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania
Lucas Oil POWRi Wingless Auto Racing WAR 410ci 2012 United States Missouri, Kansas, Illinois
Michigan Traditional Sprints MTS 410ci 2006 United States Michigan, Pennsylvania
Midwest Sprint Car Series MSCS 410ci 2001 United States Illinois, Indiana
USAC East Coast Sprint Cars USAC EC 360ci 2018 United States Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania
USAC Southwest Sprint Cars USAC SW 360ci 1991 United States Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico
USAC West Coast Sprint Cars USAC WC 360ci 2009 United States Arizona, California, Nevada
New Mexico Motor Racing Association NMMRA 360ci 1946 United States New Mexico, Texas
Heartland Racing Association HRA 360ci 2006 United States Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa
Heart of the West Racing Series HOTWRS 360ci 2013 United States Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming
UMSS Traditional Sprint Car Series UMSS 360ci 2011 United States Minnesota, Wisconsin
Northern Renegades NRSCS 360ci 2017 United States Minnesota
C&H presents Hunt Magnetos Sprint Car Series JHMSCS 360ci (Spec) United States California
V8 Non-wing Sprints Australia V8NWSA 346ci 2016 Australia Queensland, Victoria, West Australia
Lucas Oil POWRi Elite Sprint Cars Elite 305ci

410ci (2018+)

2014 United States Texas
Northeast Wingless Sprint Cars NEWSC Crate 2015 United States New Jersey, New York
RUSH Sprint Car Series RUSH Crate 2018 United States Ohio, Pennsylvania
Wisconsin Wingless Sprint Series WWSS Crate 2015 United States Wisconsin
Australian Wingless Sprint Racing AWSR V6 Australia New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, West Australia

Winged sprint car series[edit]

Series Website Engine Founded Countries Locations
World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series WoO 410ci 1978 United States Canada 27 states including Canada
All Star Circuit of Champions ASCOC 410ci 1970 United States Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin
Great Lakes Super Sprints GLSS 360ci 2015 United States Canada Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Canada
National Sprint League (ended) NSL 410ci 2014-2016 United States Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, South Dakota
IRA Outlaw Sprint Series IRA 410ci 1967 United States Illinois, Wisconsin
King of the West 410 Sprint Car Series KWS 410ci 1960 United States California
Sprintcar Challenge Tour SCT 360ci 2017 United States California
Midwest Open Wheel Association Sprint Car Series MOWA 410ci United States Illinois, Iowa, Missouri
Northern Outlaws Sprint Association NOSA 410ci 1994 United States Canada Manitoba, Minnesota, North Dakota
Ohio Valley Sprint Car Association OVSCA 410ci 2010 United States Ohio, West Virginia
Fremont/Attica Sprint Title FAST 410ci &305ci 2009 United States Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania
Ohio Sprint Car Series OSCS 410ci 2016 United States Ohio
Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series ASCS 360ci 1992 United States Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas
Civil War Sprint Car Series CWSC 360ci 1993 United States California
Empire Super Sprints ESS 360ci 1983 United States Canada New Jersey, New York, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Quebec
Midwest Sprintcar Association MSA 360ci 1996 United States Wisconsin
Nebraska 360 Sprint Series NSS 360ci United States Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota
Patriot Sprint Tour PST 360ci 2003 United States Canada New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario
Southern Ontario Sprints SOS 360ci 1996 Canada Ontario
Sprint Cars of New England SCoNE 360ci 2004 United States New Hampshire, Vermont
Sprints on Dirt SOD 360ci United States Canada Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Ontario
United Racing Club URC 360ci 1948 United States Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania
United Sprint Car Series USCS 360ci United States Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee
Upper Midwest Sprint Car Series UMSS 360ci 2009 United States Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin
World Series Sprintcars WSS 410ci 1987 Australia New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria
Oval Superstars Tour 410ci 2016 New Zealand North Island including Wellington, Palmerston North, Napier, Stratford, Huntly
Ultimate Sprintcar Championship USC 410ci 2014 Australia New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria
Sprintcar All Stars SCAS 360ci 2007 Australia New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria

Sprint Car World Championship[edit]

Despite 50 plus years of Sprint car racing, the category has only ever held one unofficial "world championship". This was in 1987 at the ⅓ mile (586 metres (641 yd)) Claremont Speedway in Perth, Western Australia. The event attracted a collection of drivers from Australia, NZ, Canada, and South Africa, as well as several World of Outlaws drivers. Australian veteran Garry Rush from Sydney, a 10-time winner of the Australian Sprintcar Championship, was the winner.

Television coverage[edit]

United States[edit]

Non-winged cars were televised first when USAC had an ESPN television contract. The first national live television deal with winged sprint cars came on The Nashville Network (TNN) in 1992-93 and again in 1993-94 with a winter-based series in Arizona, which featured Mike Joy calling the action. Live coverage of the Knoxville Nationals on The Nashville Network began in 1995. A year later, a next-day tape deal with CBS for one race at Eldora Speedway aired while TNN coverage expanded. By 2000, CBS (which owned TNN at the time) announced TNN would air 15 live events, including the King's Royal at Eldora Speedway and the Knoxville Nationals. By the 2001 season, plans were to cover 18 live races, but midway through the season MTV Networks closed the CBS motorsports operations. This move relegated the remainder of the World of Outlaws season to tape delay races. A tape delayed deal with the Speed Channel followed for the next season. Television coverage began on The Outdoor Channel in 2003. Events are usually tape delayed for two weeks or more. The Knoxville Nationals were on Speed Channel. The 2005 Knoxville Nationals did not air as bad weather postponed the event, and there was not enough space for Speed to air the event, won by Kraig Kinser. In 2003, Johnson sold his organization to DIRT Motorsports. Because of complaints about DIRT Motorsports and the lack of television coverage, Northwest Sprint Tour owner Fred Brownfield formed the National Sprint Tour as a rival to the World of Outlaws Sprint for the 2006 season. Notable teams in the NST included Steve Kinser Racing (#11), Roth Motorsports (sometimes known as the "Beef Packers" team) (#83), Tony Stewart Racing (#20). After Brownfield Promotions' owner Fred Brownfield was killed in a crash, Kinser and principals of two other teams purchased the entire Brownfield promotion. That series folded after the 2006 season, while the Northwest tour, a regional tour, was sold. The SuperClean Summer of Money aired on ESPN2 starting in mid June 2008 with the World of Outlaws at Knoxville Raceway and for 8 weeks straight leading up to the Knoxville Nationals which were live on SPEED. In 2015, the World of Outlaws have had several races broadcast on CBS Sports Network as well as live on online-pay-per-view on DIRTVision.com. Knoxville Raceway has their weekly series as well as World of Outlaws & National Sprint League events on MavTV. USAC currently has some races televised on MavTV, primarily through Jack Slash Media's Dirty 30 highlights program. Other series such as the Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Series, King of the West Sprint Cars, King of the Wing Pavement Sprint Cars, MustSeeRacing.com Pavement Sprint Cars and several weekly/regional series also air on MavTV.


In Australia, the World Series Sprintcars is currently televised on free-to-air channel One HD. The Ultimate Sprintcar Championship and various other events in Australia are also broadcast on Clayperview.com

Sprint Car Books[edit]

There are a number of publications featuring Sprint Cars. Full Throttle Publishing, based in Sydney Australia, have numerous books including "Caged Heat - The Wild World of Sprint Car Racing"

Safety aspects[edit]

The safety record of sprint car racing in recent years has been greatly improved by several new mandatory safety regulations including the use of roll cages to protect the drivers, fuel tank bladders to prevent fuel leakage, alcohol fuel, requirements to use a six or seven-point safety harness seatbelt two years old or newer, and driver suit standards to consist of two layers and rated at least SFI 3.2A/5. In addition, drivers must wear nomex driving gloves. Other equipment requirements include: helmets must be full coverage and must exceed Snell 2000 rating; arm restraints systems must be used; cars must have a 1/8 inch wire debris/rock screen in the front roll cage opening covering the entire opening; and headrests mandatory on the right side of the drivers seat. Some sanctioning bodies are also requiring a head and neck restraint system.

Winged sprint cars also have the wing as an additional safety aspect. Winged sprint cars are able to marginally improve their safety with wings that absorb some of the energy from violent flips and crashes, although winged sprint cars generally travel at higher speeds than their non-wing counterparts.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.williamsgrove.com/divisions.htm
  2. ^ http://www.williamsgrove.com/divisions.htm
  3. ^ "Sprint Car Specs". Corey Houseman. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  4. ^ http://www.williamsgrove.com/divisions.htm
  5. ^ SAC Silver Crown specs and history Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Brown, Allan (2003). The History of America's Speedways - Past & Present. Third Edition. ISBN 0-931105-61-7.
  7. ^ American Sprint Car Series

External links[edit]