Scottvoight's NASCAR Blog

February 7, 2011

Aerodynamics and Drafting

Filed under: NASCAR Articles — Scott Voight @ 2:48 pm

In NASCAR there is a term used called drafting, drafting is when two or more cars line up in single file and use the air to create speed. If you have ever driven behind a truck on the highway you can feel the turbulence created when the air from the truck strikes your car. The closer you get to the back of the truck the calmer it gets. What happens is you create a vacuum and the air goes over your car and your engine uses less horsepower to maintain the same speed. NASCAR drivers have found out if you line up several cars in a row the air flow is like a tunnel above the car and they can go quite a bit faster while using less horsepower.

The aerodynamics involved in NASCAR are used by the car manufacturers to develop more efficient cars. Have you noticed almost all cars are now shaped like a wedges? They do this to eliminate drag, which is the resistance a car feels when driving through air at higher speeds. Have ever put your hand outside your car while it is moving you will feel air rushing by? If you position your hand like an air plane wing (flat) and you dip your fingers downward, the air will push your hand down, or up if you raise the fingertips skyward. This is the same action a race car feels when traveling forward.

If a car finds a way to use this air, the car can improve its performance, speed and gas mileage. This is called downforce, this is where the air pushes downward on the nose of the car to help the driver steer the car. By pushing down it increases the traction of the tires to the pavement. It is also helpful at the rear of the car too. Today many cars have wings on their trunks. The wing catches the air coming off the nose and top of the car and pushes down on the rear of the car helping the car to grip the road better and stabilize the car. NASCAR and their engineers are always finding ways to improve their race cars speed, performance, gas mileage, and aerodynamics. That engineering is directly transferred to the cars we drive today.

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