NASCAR’s racing teams are always looking for ways to beat the competition—a twist of a wrench here, the removal of some weight there—and their engines reflect this stock car arms race. NASCAR’s head honchos have enacted some extreme lengths to make sure the racing is fair. For instance, after every race, the winning car is subjected to a “teardown” by NASCAR officials—the car is completely dismantled and scrutinized for irregularities that would have given the winner an advantage over his fellow racers. The rigid rules of NASCAR engines are as follows: the engine has to be a carbureted V-8 with an iron block, and there is an approved list of manufacturers from which teams can get their parts. Bodies also must have similar shapes and aerodynamics—NASCAR has templates to reinforce a standard(ish) size and shape.
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Did you know that certain racetracks are considered hazardous to a car’s engine? Their speed (that is to say, the speed the car can hit on the track), banks, turns, and layout can require sudden decelerating and accelerating—not good for that V-8. A NASCAR engine “blowing out” is a common occurrence during races. Combine the heat of an engine going 200mph (they can reach 2000 degrees Fahrenheit) with the pressure of how hard the engine has to work, and boom—that could be a recipe for an explosion. To control speed (and improve driver safety), restrictor plates are required on some tracks known for going Ricky Bobby-fast. These plates are basically a slice of aluminum that stops air and fuel from going in the engine. Less fuel + less air = less combustible energy = less speed. These babies can cut horse power in half! Necessary for driver safety? Sure. Fun for fans? Well, probably not. But NASCAR’s engines are consistently evolving, so someday soon we could be watching rocket boosters on the back of stock cars. Just give it a few years.