The NASCAR Cup Series is the highest level of professional competition in NASCAR, and has its roots in the NASCAR Strictly Stock Division that premiered in 1949.
The series is especially popular in Southeastern United States, and a majority of the races are held in the eastern parts of the U.S. Only six of the tracks currently in use are found west of the Mississippi River.
The famous Daytona 500 race is a part of the NASCAR Cup Series and is known to attract a lot of viewers, both on-site and on TV.
Since 2001, the Cup Series season has been comprised of 36 races over 10 months. The series employs a point system, where drivers accumulate points based on finish placement and number of laps led.
The season consists of two segments: first 26 initial races and then 10 races that constitute the NASCAR playoffs. After the first 26 races, 16 drivers are selected (chiefly based on wins) for the remaining ten races.
In the period 1950-1970, what we today call the NASCAR Cup Series was known as the Grand National Division, followed by the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 1971-2003. In the early 21st century, the naming rights were procured by Nextel, Sprint and Monster Energy, respectively. In 2019, NASCAR announced a new sponsorship model were no sponsor is allowed to name the series.
Cup Series cars are unusual in the world of automobile racing, since their body style make for poor handling. They are based on the body styles of cars currently available for retail sale in the United States, but fitted with powerful engines that can bring the speed up to over 200 mph.
A team is allowed to build their own car and engine, or purchase from other teams. Fielding a car for one season will typically cost at least $10 million.
Some information about the Cup cars:
- They must adhere to the strict NASCAR specifications.
- Their basic design is front engine rear-wheel-drive.
- Each car has a closed cockpit, fenders, NACA ducts in the windows, side skirts, a rear spoiler, and an aerodynamic front splitter. For safety reasons, there is a roll cage.
- Since 2012, the cars are powered by EFI V8 engines.
- Front suspension: double wishbone
- Rear suspension: two-link live axle with trailing arms
- Brake rotors must be of magnetic cast iron or steel and may no exceed 12.72 inches in diameter.
- The cars are NOT allowed to have rear diffusers, vortex generators, canards, wheel well vents, hood vents, and undertrays.
- Traction control is NOT permitted.
- Anti-lock brakes are NOT permitted.
Cuper series tracks
The Cup Series races are not carried out on standardized tracks, and both lap length and other conditions will vary from one track to another. There is for instance the Martinsville Speedway where a lap is just 0.526 miles and the Talladega Superspeedway where a lap is whopping 2.66 miles. Most tracks are some type of oval tracks, but road courses are also used. The series first road course event took place back in 1954, when the Linden Airport in New Jersey was employed for a racing event. Since 1963, there has been at least one road course race in every season.
A majority of the oval tracks are paved with asphalt, but some are wholly or partially paved with concrete instead. Dirt tracks have not been used for the Cup Series since 1970.
Some oval tracks are true ovals, but tri-oval is also common. Ponco Raceway has its characteristic triangular shape, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is more of a rectangle, and the Darlington Raceway looks like an uneven egg.
Most races run counter-clockwise on oval tracks, but there are exceptions.
The banking in the corners vary a lot from one racecourse to the next. There is for instancce the nearly flat 7 degree corners of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway and the steep 33 degrees of the Talladega Superspeedway.
Banking on the straightways
Some courses have no banking on straightways, while others do. Dover International Speedway famously have 9 degree banking on straightways.