Are NASCAR cars manual? How can they shift w/o clutch?

Why do NASCAR cars use a 4-speed manual transmission?

NASCAR cars have been using 4-speed manual transmission since 1950, it is just one of the many things that makes Nascar what it is. And it may not change very soon.

The aspect of NASCAR that makes it different from a lot of other racing series is that they restrict technology to a very tight rules package. This allows the focus to be on the driver and their skill. Unlike F1, the Nascar car doesn’t have paddle shifters (F1 drivers press the pedals and the computer will do the work). NASCAR drivers have to do it themself using a 4-speed H-pattern gear selector. Without the help of electronic devices, humans make mistakes. And that’s what makes the races interesting in their own way.

Torque is another reason why NASCAR only uses 4-speed transmission. The fifth gear would have less acceleration than the fourth (even though it had more speed). Therefore, switching from the 4th and 5th constantly would be inefficient. At many points in the race, the 4th gear is just the perfect combination of speed and acceleration.

Another reason why the 4-speed transmission design is perfect for NASCAR is its simplicity and durability. You can watch the video below to know more about a typical NASCAR transmission.

NASCAR drivers don’t use the clutch when shifting gears.

NASCAR uses a dog-clutch transmission which is different from what most people are used to. In a normal car, the gears are selected by pressing the clutch pedal, moving the gear stick into position, and releasing the clutch.

Dog-clutch transmission is designed for race cars as it allows drivers to quickly shift gears without pressing the clutch.

Another method used to shift gears is rev matching.

Rev matching is a technique to match the engine RPM to the transmission speed before shifting gears. This technique is used to make the shifts smoother and faster without using the clutch. However, unlike commercial manual cars, NASCAR cars do not have RPM gauges so this must be done by drivers’ feelings.

How many times do NASCAR drivers shift gear during a race?

During a typical oval NASCAR race, drivers only shift gears on start, pit stops, the transition between yellow and green flag, or on restarts. The reason for this little need for gear shifting is that NASCAR cars often run at a consistent speed.

NASCAR road courses, on the other hand, involve lots of left and right turns so remaining at a consistent speed is impossible. For that reason, there is more gear shifting involved in road courses.

Do NASCAR cars have reverse?

Yes, NASCAR cars do have reverse gear. It is mainly used to move the car in/out of the trailer or pit areas.

Sometimes, in the pit lane, drivers make mistakes and drive past their pit box. That’s when they switch to reverse gear and get back to the pit box.

Another use of the reverse gear is for the car to move out of the way in case something unexpected happens on the track.

Are Nascar pace cars manual?

NASCAR pace cars (safety cars) are high-performance production cars. So most of the time, NASCAR pace cars are manual, but it is not the same one as the ones used in races.

However, all-electric vehicles sometimes become the pace car. And as you may already know, EVs do not have multi-speed gearboxes like petrol or diesel vehicles. So, even though it does not make much sense to say this, EV pace cars are not manual.

The 6-speed transmission is being developed

Ford’s Next Gen Mustang
Ford’s Next Gen Mustang.

According to Fox News, the next-generation NASCAR Cup Series is currently in development of a six-speed gearbox. Another change of the transmission is that there is no more H-pattern gear selector, instead, there will be a sequential gearbox.

This Next-Gen NASCAR CUP Series was planned to be launched at 2021 Daytona 500. However, because of the Covid-19, it has been postponed until 2022.

There were many negative comments on these changes.

“It’s not NASCAR anymore. They’ve wrecked the innovation that was inherent from competing designs.  There is nothing stock about these cars. Nothing. Now it’s all about sponsors and politics.  This is what happens when you try to impose a bureaucracy in a battle for best of anything. The bureaucracy always wins. Get back to race on Sunday and sell on Monday.  The auto industry will actually start producing quality durable products again. Saturday night local race is always a blast tho.”

“They took the ‘stock’ out of stock car racing.”

“NASCAR racing used to be all about performance. Richard Petty used to win because he drove a Chrysler product with a hemi in it and he knew how to handle the power. Then NASCAR put in rules that made the cars become more uniform and the emphasis was put on driver performance rather than car performance. I quit watching the minute they put on the restrictor plate on the carburetor because Bobby Allison couldn’t handle his car at Talladega Superspeedway. They turned NASCAR into a kiddy car ride where speeds were limited to under 200 MPH. How sad!”

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