Would you be brave enough to push a race car to 200 mph on a track? How about if you had no speedometer to tell you how fast you were going? NASCAR drivers, not allowed speedometers, do exactly this every weekend. But some NASCAR drivers are demanding NASCAR allow them speedometers.
Do NASCAR Cup Cars have speedometers?
NASCAR does not allow speedometers in Cup Cars. Drivers use the gear they are in and their engine speed to judge their overall speed. But with an increasing number of speeding tickets on pit lane, some drivers would like a speedometer.
NASCAR stuck with analog gauges for many more seasons than Formula 1. Because a NASCAR race car driver had a tachometer, drivers use engine RPM and the knowledge of their transmission gear to judge their overall speed. Drivers choose the most appropriate gear for every part of the track and then push their car just as fast as they can.
By 2016, NASCAR began the conversion to digital dashboards. These new units have multiple pages of data and drivers can choose what their dashboards display. The NASCAR Next Generation race car leverages the McLaren PCU-500N digital dashboard.
The tachometer page continues to be the most important gauge for drivers. They also closely monitor water and oil temperatures. Keeping these two within five degrees of one another guarantees they are coaxing as much power out of their engine as possible, without it overheating.
The new digital dashboard is developed with Formula 1 technology, and it could display a speedometer like Formula 1 drivers have. But NASCAR rules still prohibit speedometers.
Can a NASCAR driver get a speeding ticket?
NASCAR race tracks post a speed limit for their pit lane. And these speed limits vary by track. If officials catch a driver speeding on pit lane, the penalty can lead to losing the race.
Pit lane can be a dangerous place. Crews are jumping over the wall to service their car and send the driver on their way. Every team is at a different point in their pit stop routine. Meanwhile, cars are driving inches away, sometimes at 50 mph.
For this reason, NASCAR has strict penalties for drivers caught speeding on pit lane. For years, officials watched passing drivers and timed them with stopwatches. According to the New York Times, NASCAR switched from this stopwatch system to an electronic timing system in 2005. The result has been lots of drivers caught pushing the speed limit on pit road.
During an unforgettable 2009 Indy 500, Juan Pablo Montoya led 116 laps before getting flagged for driving 60.06 mph on pit road. The penalty bumped him back to the middle of the pack. After a similar incident at that year’s Brickyard, he revealed, “It’s just really devastating when you have one of the races of your life slip through your fingers.”
Why do NASCAR drivers want a speedometer?
Most racecar drivers would prefer to know their engine RPMs to their overall speed while racing. But NASCAR’s pit lane speed limit, and the stiff penalties for speeding, have drivers asking for a speedometer in the car.
During the era of the analog gauge, NASCAR deemed speedometers both superfluous and heavy and thus outlawed them. The first lap behind the pace car is traditionally completed at the pit lane speed limit. Drivers take this opportunity to note their tachometer reading in any relevant gears. At the end of the analog era, teams even developed a colored light system the drivers could set for the local pit road speed. The lights glow yellow, then red as the driver exceeds the all-important RPM limit on pit lane.
But with the McLaren PCU-500N digital dashboard, this system is entirely superfluous. NASCAR could ask McLaren to create a speedometer page that only displays on pit road, or automatically displays when driving less than 100 mph. Such a system would give drivers the same precise data that NASCAR authorities use to issue speeding tickets.
When a NASCAR fan asked Reddit, “Why don’t the drivers get a speedometer” back in 2018, driver Chase Briscoe joked, “Would make pit road to easy.”
Next, find out the top speed of a NASCAR Cup Car or see how NASCAR drivers use their digital dashboard in the video below: