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

Last Updated on August 29, 2023 by Pittalks

Are you ready for this? Because I am about to blow your mind! This article covers not only the type of transmission in a NASCAR car, but some of the history behind the transmission type, some pros & cons, and more. What are you waiting for? Let’s get to it!

So, are NASCAR cars manual or not?

NASCAR cars are not just manual, they utilize a powerful 4-speed manual transmission! Isn’t that just thrilling? Now, if you’re a car enthusiast like me, you’ll understand the pure adrenaline rush that comes with the mention of a 4-speed manual transmission.

Think about it! The sheer skill and precision it takes for those drivers to navigate around those tracks at such high speeds, all while managing a 4-speed manual transmission is nothing short of awe-inspiring. It’s not just stepping on the gas and going for it, no way! This is an intense, hands-on driving experience that requires absolute focus and expert control. There’s no room for error here. These drivers are not just steering the car; they are feeling every bit of its power and response at their fingertips.

But that’s not all. The 4-speed manual transmission also means that these cars have an incredible range of power. From the start line to the finish line, these cars are able to maintain top speeds while still offering a level of control that is simply unmatched by automatic transmissions. It’s a game of speed, skill, and strategy. It’s about knowing when to shift gears, when to push harder, and when to ease back. It’s all about balance.

So, in summary: yes, NASCAR cars are indeed manual! And not just any manual, but a 4-speed manual transmission! This is what makes NASCAR racing such an electrifying spectacle to watch and an even more exhilarating experience to be a part of. The roar of the engines, the squeal of the tires, the cheer of the crowd – it all adds up to an unforgettable experience. And at the heart of it all? That’s right – the remarkable 4-speed manual transmission!

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.

more benefits of a manual gearbox to follow bellow

Are there benefits to this transmission type for racing, when compared to others?

Definitely yes! There are absolutely some exciting benefits to a 4-speed manual transmission when compared to other transmission types for racing.

First off, let’s talk about control. Nothing can beat the sheer thrill of being in total control of your vehicle, and that is exactly what manual transmission cars provide. It gives you the power to choose exactly when to shift gears based on the specific demands of the race track, the condition of the vehicle, and your personal racing style. It’s like being the conductor of an orchestra, where every move you make orchestrates a symphony of speed and power!

But that’s not all! A 4-speed manual transmission also offers a level of simplicity and reliability that’s unmatched by other types of transmissions. With fewer gears, there are fewer parts that could potentially fail, giving racers that much-needed peace of mind in high-pressure racing situations. It’s like a reliable old friend who always comes through when you need them the most.

And let’s not forget about weight. In racing, every ounce counts. A 4-speed manual transmission is typically lighter than its counterparts with more gears, which means less weight for your vehicle to carry around the track. This can result in faster times and a crucial edge in competitive racing.

So yes, there are undeniable benefits to a 4-speed manual transmission when compared to other transmission types for racing. The feeling of control, the simplicity and reliability, and the weight advantages all combine to make it a fantastic choice for those who live for the thrill of speed and competition. It’s like being handed the keys to success on a silver platter! Can you feel the excitement? I sure can!

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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