Unveiling NASCAR Engines: How They Compare to Street Car Engines

by AutoExpert   |  15 May, 2024

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So, what's the real scoop on NASCAR engines compared to the ones purring in our everyday rides? Let's dive in with the 2022 Ford Mustang GT Next Gen as our guide. This ride, along with its buddies from Toyota and Chevy, is part of NASCAR's push to make race cars look more like their street-legal twins. But as much as they share a silhouette, what's under the hood tells a different tale.

You might know that NASCAR stands for "National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing," and with "stock car" right in the name, you’d think these race cars are just like the ones we zip around in to grab groceries or drop kids off at school. But are they? Well, not quite.

NASCAR Engines

NASCAR's strict rules shape what goes into these cars, especially their engines. The Next Gen car, which hit the tracks in 2022, looks slick like a street car—think the Chevy Camaro ZL1, Ford Mustang, and Toyota TRD Camry—but under that hood, the story’s much the same as it’s been in recent years.

Here’s the lowdown: all NASCAR Cup cars rock a V-8 engine that maxes out at 358 cubic inches (5.9 liters). They stick to the old-school push rods instead of modern overhead cams. Depending on the track, engines might be dialed down to 550 horsepower with restrictor plates for safety reasons, but at other tracks, they can go up to 670 horsepower.

NASCAR Engines

The Next Gen cars have brought some cool tweaks, though. The exhaust now exits either left or right, which means it’ll sound like these hefty V-8s are humming on just four cylinders if you're listening from the stands. And there’s more—these cars now sport a snazzy five-speed sequential shifter, a big jump from the old four-speed stick. Why the upgrade? NASCAR’s eyeing a switch to hybrid engines soon, and these setups are just laying the groundwork.

NASCAR Engines

Curious how this stacks up to the cars we drive? Take the 2022 Chevy Camaro ZL1. It’s got a beefier 6.2-liter engine and kicks out 650 horsepower—pretty neck and neck with its NASCAR version. The 2022 Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500 isn’t far behind, with a 5.2-liter engine pushing a whopping 760 horsepower, easily outpacing its track alter ego. As for the Toyota Camry TRD, it’s running a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 301 horsepower—not quite track level, but definitely no slouch in the city.

NASCAR Engines

And just when you thought NASCAR might be stuck in its ways, there’s buzz about an all-electric division. It’s still up in the air, but who knows? We might just see electric NASCARs zipping around as an exhibition series soon. So, while NASCAR engines and our street car engines start from the same idea, the execution is a world apart—built for speed and spectacle on the track, and comfort and convenience on the road.

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