Behind The Scenes>> The Nascar Experience

Before all of you start getting red in the face, I'd like you all to take a second take a few slow breaths, calm down and relax. Your regularly scheduled speedhunting has not been bought out, taken over and been renamed to oval-hunters or left-turn-hunters. This is just a look at something that we normally would never cover or have the opportunity to cover.  

The guys at Mobil 1 approached us with the rare opportunity with an inside look into the world of NASCAR. 

So, let it be known that I am a huge ricer. I like machines that go fast in a straight line, turn right, turn left, then turn right again immediately. I am also fond of automobiles that spark and crawl down the motorway at the eye blistering speed of five miles per hour while looking oh-so-fine in the process. I was never a fan of NASCAR –never. I muttered words of distain with the slightest mention anything stock car, oval tracks, or the name of all names, Dale Earnhardt Jr.. Mobil 1 asked for the most left-turn hating of all speedhunters, and well, they got me. 

And you know what? After a weekend spent with my arch-nemesis of motorsports, I fell in love with it –all of it.

So, a few weeks ago I was whisked away to Charlotte, North Carolina for an insider behind-the-scenes tour of the high-tech world of stock cars and also to watch that weekend's "Big Show": the NASCAR Sprint Cup All Star Race.

My first foray into the world of NASCAR was a tour of Michael Waltrip Racing race shop. The race shop literally is a factory to pump out these racing machines as fast and as quality as possible.

It first starts off with the building of the actual tube framed chassis. Each chassis is hand build from the ground up to NASCAR's specification and tolerances. And those chassis build tolerances is something NASCAR is very anal about. The metal thickness of the steel tubing has to be in a certain parameter or it would be considered illegal.

A spokesmen at the NASCAR Research and Development center mentioned that they've found race teams trying to hide the metal thicknesses to save as a way to save weight. The spokesmen also mentioned that there are only two kinds of racers: "cheaters and those that will be caught cheating."  

When the chassis is all finished up, it is then taken to the body shop to have the aluminum body fitted on. 

After the body finished, it is taken to this contraption. This machine is a template to measure the body of the car to see if it falls under NASCAR's tolerance specs. 

And once it passes through the chassis and body shops, it is then taken painted then taken to the final floor of the race shop. At this point everything else is put on. The engineers install the engine, the suspension and finish up the car's livery. 

Before the race on Sunday, I went to go check out the newly opened NASCAR Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte. My previous exposure to NASCAR and the history of stock car racing was from the Pixar Studio's film, "Cars."

So, seeing the Hudson Hornet in real life at the museum was a rather shocking and eye opening experience. What went through my mind: "There's no way that car is real. It's from a CG cartoon!" to "OH MY GOD IT IS." 

That's the real Hudson Hornet, ladies and gentlemen. 

As continued down the row of famous and iconic stock car, I came across this Plymouth Superbird. I believe a Museum employee had to rush over with a mop to clean up the puddle of drool that was forming right under me. 

Another "OH-EM-GEE ANOTHER CAR FROM 'CARS'" moment. For those of you that aren't in the stock car know, this is Richard Petty's Plymouth Belvedere which lead him to win the 1964 Daytona 500. This was a time when stock cars still resembled their showroom compatriots. 

What a car, though….

This is a car that needs no introduction, even for the NASCAR ignorant. This is the #3 car driven by Dale "the Intimidator" Earnhardt.

After the brief visit at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, it was time to head to Charlotte Motor Speedway and straight enter the alien world of professional stock car racing…

I've attended Formula D events, one FIA GT event, and a few rounds of the American Le Mans series and none of those racing series can match up to the amount of money, glamor and glitz that NASCAR has in its paddock…

…take for instance, ex-Formula1 turned Sprint Cup driver, Juan Pablo Montoya's design on the team's rig.

Montoya's rig is an extremely cool looking rig. 

The money spent on a NASCAR program extends all the way down to the engineers and their uniforms. The Target branding and design aesthetic throughout the team makes the team as a whole look extremely professional.

Have you ever seen a generator cart as slammed and as flush as this one? And yes, I just said that about NASCAR. Not even in the ricer series of Formula D has slammed and flush generator carts (let alone slammed and flush competition cars….)!

The paddock strangely reminded me of the Mos Eisley spaceport on Tatooine from the Star Wars Universe. Every turn felt dangerous. It seemed as though the teams were still trying to illegally run moonshine from county to county. Also, if you weren't looking where you were going around the paddock, you can get run over by passing tire carts, generators, and giant pit stop engineers. There was a plethora of people running about doing their business. So, in the confusion of the crowd and engineers, you just have to watch out if Greedo was to fire first…

Oh wait.

I spied a set of grooved tires next to the Mobil 1 rig and asked one of the Mobil 1 reps why they need grooved tires for a day that has zero percentage of rain. He mentioned that they have "rain" tires just to have them. Stock cars never race in the rain. these tires are for mildly moist conditions. Once the rain starts coming down at a regular interval, they stop the race completely. 

The Mobil 1 Team prepping for the All Star Race. 

The paddock was filled with fans and the stands were filled up more so…

…150,000 spectators to be exact.

The opening ceremonies went underway with a some celebrities saying a few words. America's Most Wanted host, John Walsh, spoke a few words to the crowd followed by NBA basketball superstar, Michael Jordon.

As the opening ceremony was going on, the teams started pushing out the cars onto the pitlane before the race start. 

And here are the teams waiting for the ceremonies to finish so the race can begin….

You'd think because of all the NASCAR stereotypes that there would be a lot of redneck women walking throughout the paddock, but oh you'd be wrong. There were southern belle's left and right!

Right before the race started, I was whisked away up to the upstairs booths to watch the race start. The yellow device on the table is a little TV which you can choose which camera angle to watch and which driver to follow on the little screen! Anything and everything you want to view about the race is under control at your fingertips.

When you have a racing series this big, luxuries like the little handheld TVs come with it.    

I had no idea what to expect when the green flag went down and 40 stock cars opened their throttles completely! Before the All Star Race, I would've joined the NASCAR nay-sayer crowd in support that stock car racing is not real racing. But after seeing these guys navigate through a pack of cars, drive inches away from each other, and negotiate around the bits and pieces of crashed cars, I have to say that these guys are real racers. 

I've seen a lot of racing in my time, but nothing was as aggressive, as fast, and as dramatic as seeing all these cars bunched up and bouncing off each other –NOTHING.

In other racing series, the action dies down after the first few laps once the cars get settled into the rhythm of the race. But in the All Star race that I was watching, the action never stopped. My butt did not touch down on my seat until 30 or so laps into the race. 

NASCAR is –wait for it– cool. Extremely cool. 

I remember when drifting was first becoming popular in the States and I was trying to convince all my friends and acquaintances to fall in love with the sport as much as I was. Expressive words and even youtube videos usually failed to persuade them into loving the sport. Though, their minds completely change instant you take them to their first drift event. Seeing a car fly into a corner and looking as though it is almost going to spin out is life changing. 

I feel that NASCAR is the same way. I can tell you how cool it is from my point of view, but like drifting, NASCAR is an event that you have to go see in person. 

Being at a race and feeling a pack 40+ cars fly past you at 200 miles per hour is a feeling that cannot be felt anywhere else but on the NASCAR super speedways as with hearing wall of 150,000 fans scream in support of their drivers and booing their enemies.

NASCAR is a sport that you have to feel. 

…and felt I did. The morning after the race, I was once again whisked away to Charlotte Motor Speedway for a few laps around the track in a Sprint Cup spec car driven by the #77 Mobil 1 driver, Sam Hornish. 

The acceleration in a straight line was really nothing I have not felt before, but once the car hits the first bank, you're slammed into a wall of g-forces. At 170+ miles per hour around a high speed bank, the g-forces are so intense that you can't move. Your arms are glued to your body and your face wants to fly out the window. So, thank the gods for window nets! Sam completed two laps round the track before he returned the pits. If he was to drive the car for just a few more laps, I would've either: 1.) threw up my breakfast, or 2.) blacked out from the g-forces. 

If I had to pick which, I would've picked the latter. The g's are that intense. 

The g's sent all the blood out down from my head and straight into my feet. So with a head light on blood, I climbed out of the car and set foot on Charlotte Motorspeedway's pavement feeling a bit woozy. But at that point, my life changed. I saw the world with open eyes. The arch-nemesis of motorsport was now my best friend –if not my closest lover. 

The guys at Mobil 1 invited a few journalists that weekend, including myself, to Charlotte, that have never had the chance experience NASCAR. Their goal was to maybe sway their opinions on the sport somehow. A few journalists left with the same opinions they came with, but me?

Consider myself as a born again petrol head. 

Regular speedhunting will resume………… now. 


Mobil 1 Racing



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I love NASCAR!


now i have a lot more respect for nascar. this is a great article, really changed my opinion as well haha. just one thing still bothers me... those painted on "headlights"!




The K&K #71 is a Dodge Charger Daytona and the #43 is a 1967 Belvedere


Sell out blog is selling out...yeah.


The honest truth is, if your into racing, your into racing. Its about the love of cars and going fast. I personally dont like Indy cars, but would I turn down the chance to ride in one? Never. Get over your selves people and open your eyes to the wide world of racing! :)


I hate to spoil your fun,but the bodies are made from sheet steel. the nose and rear bumper caps are carbon fiber. More High-Tech than alot of people give the cars credit for.


_said: If you don't have anything remotely constructive to say, shut your mouth and stay off the site. Damn kids and their judgements...

Rinhbergh: Always gotta be pushing the envelope in every single way, dontchya? Excellent words, beautiful pictures (as always), and a perfect account of NASCAR. I'm lovin' it!


I must admit I was the same, but earlier this year I was able to go and watch the daytona qualifying whilst on holiday in the states and the whole atmosphere is like nothing you get in the uk, maybe BTCC come close or least it did back in the 90s when there were works teams but all the money in NASCAR really shows up our euro series.

And the noise those cars make as they thundered round, even seeing a Panoz LMP-1 on the Donnington straight or a Mercedes CLK-DTM doesn't come close!


Lihnbergh... Cool well written and illustrated piece as ever............must go to a NASCAR event myself one is racing even if I prefer 24 hours at Le Mans, Spa or Nurburgring........keeping an open mind is the important thing.


NASCAR has the two things I dislike most about racing, silhouette cars and oval tracks.

When they run on road cores(Sears Point, Watkins Glen, ect) I can stand watch it most of the time.

If they went back to there roots(which is more like Euro style Rally Cross) with tube based cars, it would be epic.


hell, this elegant


Good work, sir. It was for sure a blast! :)


great article!


and that hellaflushed generator is ....a honda.. nuff said. lol. great coverage btw. nascar is not everybody's cup of tea but you are absolutely right, you gotta be there in person to enjoy it. thats how i felt about f1. and you probably got the insider treatment that no other spectator would get to enjoy. i love the perks of your job!


I still dont think this is racing. Is just g's and a lot of packed cars. BUT ill give it a shot sometime and see if its like you say it is :P


nice feature :)


you didn't address the reason i hate yea i still don't like it. still will never watch it, will go to a race if someone is paying for my ticket and beer though and just route for crashes.


Superbird is the sickest american car ever made!

that model deserves its own review.


excellent article! As MX5=Love, if you're into racing, you're into racing!


Lihnberg your pics make the NASCAR looks like an epic battle! They are great.




The Plymouth Superbird and the Plymouth Belvedere were from back when the "Stock Car" looked like a Stock Car... But you cant beat the racing now days that's for sure! Dale Earnhardt Jr ROCKS!!


I've come to learn, as it seems you are, that racing is racing, and all of it is cool when you are there at the right time :) I'm not too ashamed to say I had fun at sand drags and tractor pulls; a 2500hp tractor makes a great noise :):)


Very well written Linhbergh this does make me think different about Nascar.


Haters gonna hate. They always will. If you sit back and take a relaxed look into the style, the cars, the racing, all of it, you realize it is one of the top levels of motorsport, and yes, by that I mean the same level as F1 or GT cars. Great story, Linhbergh. Your awesome use of photography and words reall captured what the sport is. Yes, I did say "sport."


I used to think the same thing about NASCAR until I found out how much they know about each car and track. A team will have a different car for every event that requires different suspension geometry different wheel bases and track widths and even different placement of the body over the chassis. Still not a fan but you gotta respect knowledge


And i thought hudson hornet was just a cartoon!


Nascar has more racing at every lap then any other form of racing. Always exciting and always incredibly fun to watch in person at the track or on TV.


i just dont get how nascar is so popular. its boring to watch compared to any kind of racing i've ever seen. we need to start converting people over to drifting :)


did you gain any knowledge on tyre technology in nascar?


@nascar fails - I believe what you meant to say is "THEY'RE" not "THERE." Criticize with class my friend.


Go team 48!!


Racing is racing, and these NASCAR guys race just as hard as anyone else. Good writeup Linhbergh, good snaps and a wonderfully open-minded review. I'm pretty jealous you actually got a ridealong!


I'm off again on again about NASCAR. Great article. The road coarses are some of the best racing to watch in the world. And kudos to NASCAR for keeping it in the schedule, because they could have easily taken it out and made a lot of people happier.

As for the cars and technology, there is no getting around it. With that much money on the line with sponsors and purses, they are fighting for every inch on that track. Having worked at a shop that did cylinder heads for a handful of the top guys i can tell you they will scrap their entire engine program if they can find another 5 hp with a new set up. That is all of the assembled engines, spare motors and spare parts. Right out the window. Cylinder heads, cams, intakes, piston design and countless hours on the dyno and in the port room gone! That's money!

That thing about NASCAR being anal about body templates. If you watch the winners circle coverage they don't let the drivers jump on the hood or roof after the race anymore. Guys were beating them back down by jumping on them so that when the car failed the tech template, they had an excuse. I love that inventiveness.


Dont waste my time with this shit. I spend half my life avoiding NASCAR on TV and everywhere else! WHY DO WE NEED TO SEE NASCAR EVERYWHERE?!?!? GTFO!


Back in the day, man, NASCAR was an awesome sport. Now it's just a bunch of yuppies and idiot sport principals.

But yeah, your jaw dropped at the Hudson Hornet? As in you've never seen a Hudson Hornet before? That fact right there would make me want to question your title of racing fan.


Honestly at the end of the day, racing is RACING!!! If you're a drift, rally, or an F1 fan, then that means you are just biased to that particular type of motorsport, and have locked yourself in a "fan box" of your own fabrication. But if you're a real CAR know, a PETROL HEAD then you're gonna love ANY form of racing because it involves two things: cars and speed. That's that. Now as for NASCAR, it's not that I hate it. After all you cant judge until you've been there. Just like you can't act like you know about drifitng if you've never been to a drift event. I just hate that SPEED channel has turned into NASCAR Central. 90% of that crap is 'NASCAR on SPEED' Leave room for the other crap, too geez!!! I bet if any of us NASCAR haters actually went to a race in person then we would have different opinions after we left. But then, if drifting had the same amount of money put into it that NASCAR does...hmmm


I wouldn't mind watching NASCAR in person but on TV I simply can not stand the hicks yammering away.


I was never into nascar but after one ride around in a stock car my whole perception changed! Hitting those banks with that much speed and to endure so many laps with your body. Crazy. i respect them!


That's Petty is a 67


It has been almost two years since I've owned this large black painted chunk of magnesium . It seems