What Would Happen if NASCAR Tried Right Turns?

Photo: mnapoleon

With the exception of a few road course races, most of the NASCAR races are held on ovals. The cars always race counter-clockwise on the ovals, meaning the cars only turn left.

Given all the attention that learning and expertise has been getting, I’m deeply curious as to what would happen if for one race NASCAR went in the opposite direction, so that it was all right turns. I understand that they would probably have to do a lot of work to the cars, because the cars must be optimized for left turns, but put that aside. Would lap times be appreciably worse because the drivers would have trouble cornering? Would there be more crashes? Would the same drivers excel?

I think NASCAR should give it a shot. It would generate a lot of interest. I suspect, both among hardcore NASCAR fans and more casual sports fans.

I’ve even got the obvious name for the race: The Rite Aid 400.


Sandra Bales

That would be real interesting! I know when I go skating & they reverse the direction you can skate, it takes a while for everyone to get into the groove.

I say LET'S DO IT on one of the more boring tracks.

Peggy Butler

Dang - then, the crick would end up on the other side of my neck! Just kidding.

Seriously, since the teams build cars for every race, it could be done, but don't think I'd enjoy it as much.

Alex

Oval racing is a battle of tire grip (holding the car to the track) versus centrifugal force (pulling the car to the wall). The fastest drivers are the ones who can finely balance that battle of physics through good car set-ups and driving skill lap after lap. So while the passing viewer sees cars driving in circles, the NASCAR fan watches a battle of physics fought with keen engineering and sheer will and determination.

When a driver loses that battle of physics, either due to mechanical or competitive reasons (what fans call the "chrome horn" or "bumpin'"), the car slams into the outer wall. The force generated by that impact can be fatal, as it was for Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500. One of many protective factors for drivers is that the wall impact side of the car is NOT the driver's side.

While this is an interesting idea, oval tracks are built for counter-clockwise racing. The pits are designed to be entered by left turning racers. Even trying such a race would require drastic changes to the track's design. Thus, I don't think we'll see this anytime soon.

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kyle

The problem is the side of the car the drivers sit on: for safety obviously you don't want them smacking the wall with the drivers' side of the car. IMO it would take drivers one practice to get up to speed... Ii is the reverse pit stops that would suffer more than the lap times.

Neil (SM)

As many people have said, they'd likely need to build new cars just for the clockwise track events. So we'd probably see RHD cars in that case. But as you said, reconfiguring the track and pits seems like an expensive endeavor as well.

Bunny

It might make an interesting experiment. Maybe they should try it and see what happens.

Arnold

I think this it would be verry interesting to watch wich driver would adapt best to this situation.
It will show us the best talented one around (except for Montoya who allready had his, verry succesfull, share of right hand turns)
Quick reaction and reflexes wich are learned and automated driving the ovals turning left have to be "reinvented" in a fraction of the normal learning period. Takes a lot of brainrewiring.
This flexibilty is in my opinion a sign of real talent!

biggord

thats just plain stupid

Timmy

it would be better so we have more road course racse

Jack

I believe this was question was posed a few years ago on the Ny times Freakonomics blog when Dale Enheart Jr. was guest answering fan questions. Dale said that he didn't know what what happen, but it would be spectacular to watch

( guess who asked the question)
Jack

Tatahatso

A NASCAR team typically has 12-18 cars for various tracks (short, long, superspeedway, road courses). The requirements for constantly turning left requires a design that is so specialized that a right-turner would have to be a completely different car... There's a lot more to it than just deciding which way to turn the wheel. As a result, each team would have to add at least two cars (one backup if the primary car were wrecked). Some of the well-heeled teams might absorb that, but there are several that are operating on a shoestring and might be forced to chose between missing a race or becoming unprofitable.

A single counterclockwise race, therefore, would increase the annual cost to each team at least 10% if not more. This might be a good idea for fans who want to see something different but a bad idea for race teams struggling to remain profitable.

Tatahatso

My comment was based strictly in an economic sense, because "...they would probably have to do a lot of work to the cars, because the cars must be optimized for left turns, but put that aside." That's a really tough thing to put aside.

A more economical way to do this -- see the effects of driver skill rather than just car setup -- would be to put the drivers on an unfamiliar track without having all the pressure the teams have to win money and points and the championship. That was done, quite successfully, in the 70s with the International Race of Champions. IROC provided identically prepared cars and had drivers from different series compete on a variety of tracks. It was a great exercise, popular with the fans, and didn't cost 43 teams millions of dollars.

Sean

Well first of all the road course races suck most of the time. So having a race where they made only right hand turns might be interesting to say the least but dont ever see it happening. I mean even in INDY where they race mostly ovals they still do it making left turns and they are way more aerodyamicly advandced then NASCAR

burbanite

The Australians kind of did it back in the '80's.

They built a 1.1 mile oval near Melbourne, used NASCAR equipment from the US and many of the US guys went over and competed, this was run in the normal direction. To help local guys they started the AUSCAR series using cars available in Australia, they were right hand drive and ran in a clockwise direction, many of the locals raced in both types of car on the same day turning left and right.

Tracy Michael

Would love to see them go the other direction, but don't they already turn right once in a while. I don't think the guys and girls would have a problem with that and it would shake up nascar.

steve

Who cares about right hand turns? I want to see a loop-de-loop like my old hot wheels set.