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Sprint cars are high-powered race cars designed primarily for the purpose of running on short oval or circular dirt or paved tracks. Sprint car racing is popular primarily in the United States of America and Canada, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Sprint cars have very high power-to-weight ratios, with weights of approximately 1,400 pounds (640 kg) (including the driver) for 410 sprint cars; power outputs of over 900 horsepower (670 kW) are commonplace for these machines, which are around 140-340 more horsepower than 2014 Formula One engines. Typically, they are powered by a naturally aspirated, mechanically fuel injected (methanol) American V8 with an engine displacement of 410 cubic inches (6.7L) capable of engine speeds of 9000 rpm. Depending on the mechanical setup (engine, gearing, shocks, etc.) and the track layout these cars achieve speeds in excess of 160 miles per hour (260 km/h). A lower budget and very popular class of sprint cars uses 360 cubic inch (5.9L) engines that produce approximately 700 horsepower (520 kW). Sprint cars do not utilize a transmission, they have an in or out gear box and quick change rear differentials for occasional gearing changes. As a result, they do not have electric starters (or even electrical systems other than magneto / ignition) and require a push to start them. The safety record of sprint car racing in recent years has been greatly improved by the use of roll cages, and especially on dirt tracks, wings, to protect the drivers.
Many IndyCar Series and NASCAR drivers used sprint car racing as an intermediate stepping stone on their way to more high-profile divisions, including Indianapolis 500 winners A. J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, Parnelli Jones, Johnnie Parsons, Al Unser, Sr., and Al Unser, Jr., as well as NASCAR Sprint Cup champions Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.
There are several sanctioning bodies for non-winged sprint cars. The United States Automobile Club (USAC) has become the top series for non-winged sprint car racing throughout the United States, especially after taking over the Sprint Car Racing Association (SCRA) and turning it into the USAC/California Racing Association (USAC/CRA). This series has become the premier non-winged sprint car series on the west coast of the United States. USAC also has hosted the Silver Crown series, based in Indiana, for decades. The Silver Crown series was started in 1971 as an offshoot of the series that competed for the National Championship Trail including the Indianapolis 500, known as "big cars".
Non-winged sprint cars are considered the traditional sprint car, dating back to the first sprint cars in the 1930s and 1940s (that ultimately evolved into Indy Cars). Today, they are essentially the same car as a winged sprint car, only without wings. In fact, many of them have the "stub outs" in the frame for adding wings. They use the same 410ci and 360ci aluminum engines as their winged counterparts (although many local tracks have rules mandating steel blocks and some 305ci displacements, this is mostly a cost control). Their tuning and gearing are different for performance at lower RPMs than a winged car. Chassis set ups and tires are also different.
While they do not have the same top speed as a winged car (because they lack downforce for traction), they are thought by many to be more fun to watch. They tend to have a more extreme driving style and are often sliding sideways through corners and doing wheelies. This makes them more dangerous than winged cars and their crashes are known for their spectacular nature. They also lack the inherent safety that a wing provides. It is fairly uncommon for someone to be good at driving both winged and non-winged cars (especially at a professional level).
The world's first winged car, known today as a winged sprint car, was created and driven by Jim Cushman at the Columbus Motor Speedway (Ohio) in 1958. In the early 1970s, many sprint car drivers began to put wings with sideboards on both the front and top of their cars. The added wings increased the downforce generated on the car, with the opposite direction of the sideboards helping to turn the car in the corners. The increased traction makes the car faster and easier to control.
The wing also affects safety. The added downforce lessens the likelihood of going airborne. When cars do go airborne, the wings frequently break off or absorb some of the impact of the flip, lessening the impact on the driver. Wings also provide an amount of protection for the driver in case of an accident and are sometimes referred to as "aluminum courage." In some cases, teams are able to replace the wing during the ensuing stoppage and are able to race once the race resumed.
In 1978, Ted Johnson formed the promotional body for winged sprint cars called the World of Outlaws. Racing throughout the United States from February to November, the World of Outlaws is the premier dirt sprint car racing series. Famous tracks featured in the series included the Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, the Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pennsylvania, the Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa and Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Each August, the Knoxville Raceway holds the Knoxville Nationals.
In 1987, Australia followed suit with its own national series for winged sprint cars called the World Series Sprintcars, founded by Adelaide based sedan driver and then Speedway Park track promoter John Hughes. Famous Australian tracks used in the WSS have included Speedway Park/City in Adelaide, South Australia, Claremont Speedway and later Perth Motorplex in Perth, Western Australia, Valvoline Raceway in Sydney, New South Wales, Archerfield Speedway in Brisbane, Queensland, and the Premier Speedway (home of the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic) in Warrnambool, Victoria. There is also a single meeting Australian Sprintcar Championship which has been run since 1963 and has been run under various class names before finally settling on the Australian Sprintcar Championship in 1979. While non-Australian (usually American) drivers are free to race in the WSS and other meetings including the various State Championships, only Australian drivers are permitted in the Australian Championship meeting.
The Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic at Warrnambool is the largest sprint car meeting in the world; in the 2014-15 season, the 2015 Classic race outdrew the Knoxville Nationals in entries.
Until the late 1990s, Sprintcars in Australia were restricted to 372 cui (6.0L) V8 engines as opposed to the 410 cui (6.7L) engines used in the United States. Currently Australia runs two classes of winged Sprintcars, the 410 or Open class, and one for cars with 360 cui (5.9L) engines. Both classes have separate Australian Championship meetings.
Midget cars are smaller versions of a full size sprint car, normally non-wing only. Midgets date back to the 1930s as a very common form of sprint car racing, still very popular today and also sanctioned by USAC. They are powered by 4-cylinder engines developing around 350 horsepower, but otherwise very similar to their larger cousins.
Mini sprints are similarly sized to midget cars, but have an upright-style chassis and a center-mounted, chain-driven 4-cylinder motorcycle engine with a displacement between 750 to 1200cc.
Micro sprints are small racecars that are smaller versions of full sprint cars. A starter class for striving sprint car enthusiasts, they run side mounted 600cc motorcycle engines developing around 100hp and are chain driven. They have a chassis and a body styled like that of a full sized sprint car or a midget sprint. Micro sprints are generally run on small dirt tracks that are usually a fifth of a mile or less in size, though they sometimes run on larger tracks. They can be either raced with wings or without wings. The general minimum weights for the cars to pass tech is 750 lbs for winged and 725 lbs for non wing. Micro sprints are generally a cheaper alternative than racing a mini sprint or a midget sprint, but they can be as expensive as a full sized sprint car.
The World of Outlaws (WoO) is a division of 410ci winged sprint cars that run all over the United States and have a few events in Canada. The cars have 15-inch (380 mm) wide right rear tire and a 410 cubic inch engine with mechanical fuel injection. These sprint cars have no battery or a starter in them, necessitating a push start by a quad or truck. They also do not have flywheels, clutches or transmissions, but the direct drive system can be engaged or disengaged from the cockpit. This is done both for weight reasons and tradition. Another tradition the WoO has for their A-main (the last race of the event) is to have the cars line up four wide just before starting the race.
The All Star Circuit of Champions (ASCoC) is an American motorsports sanctioning body of winged sprint car racing founded in 1970. The series sanctions 410ci sprint car races in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, and Florida. On average the series runs 40 races per year, starting February and ending in October each year.
The United States Automobile Club (USAC) National Sprint Car Championship is a division of non-winged 410 cubic inch sprint cars that run throughout the United States on asphalt and dirt tracks. The USAC also sanctions regional 360ci non-winged sprint car series: the USAC East Coast Sprint Cars, USAC Southwest Sprint Cars, and USAC West Coast Sprint Cars.
The United Racing Company (URC) is a division for winged sprint cars that run mainly in the northeastern part of the United States in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. URC started in 1948 with 11 races in its season. It slowly progressed to 28 races. URC uses a 360 cubic inch engine which generates approximately 650 horsepower (480 kW). They race with alcohol fuel and use mechanical fuel injection (MFI) to deliver it into the combustion chamber.
The American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) is a winged sprint car series racing within the United States. ASCS uses a 360 cubic inch engine which leads to fans calling the cars "360s". The series was started by well-known racing promotor Emmett Hahn. The series national headquarters are in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The all-time leader in wins for the series is Texan Gary Wright with 127 A main victories under his belt.
In Australia, Sprint Car racing is controlled by the Sprintcar Control Council of Australia (SCCA) who sanction the Australian Championships and the World Series Sprintcar series as well as the various State Championships and other meetings held around the country.
|AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Championship||USAC||410ci||1956||Indiana, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania|
|USAC/CRA AMSOIL Sprint Car Series||USAC/CRA||410ci||2004||California, Arizona|
|Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series||BOSS||410ci||2011||Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania|
|Lucas Oil POWRi Wingless Auto Racing||WAR||410ci||2012||Missouri, Kansas, Illinois|
|Michigan Traditional Sprints||MTS||410ci||2006||Michigan, Pennsylvania|
|Midwest Sprint Car Series||MSCS||410ci||2001||Illinois, Indiana|
|USAC East Coast Sprint Cars||USAC EC||360ci||2018||Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania|
|USAC Southwest Sprint Cars||USAC SW||360ci||1991||Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico|
|USAC West Coast Sprint Cars||USAC WC||360ci||2009||Arizona, California, Nevada|
|New Mexico Motor Racing Association||NMMRA||360ci||1946||New Mexico, Texas|
|Heartland Racing Association||HRA||360ci||2006||Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa|
|Heart of the West Racing Series||HOTWRS||360ci||2013||Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming|
|UMSS Traditional Sprint Car Series||UMSS||360ci||2011||Minnesota, Wisconsin|
|C&H presents Hunt Magnetos Sprint Car Series||JHMSCS||360ci (Spec)||California|
|V8 Non-wing Sprints Australia||V8NWSA||346ci||2016||Queensland, Victoria, West Australia|
|Lucas Oil POWRi Elite Sprint Cars||Elite||305ci
|Northeast Wingless Sprint Cars||NEWSC||Crate||2015||New Jersey, New York|
|RUSH Sprint Car Series||RUSH||Crate||2018||Ohio, Pennsylvania|
|Wisconsin Wingless Sprint Series||WWSS||Crate||2015||Wisconsin|
|Australian Wingless Sprint Racing||AWSR||V6||New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, West Australia|
|World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series||WoO||410ci||1978||27 states including Canada|
|All Star Circuit of Champions||ASCOC||410ci||1970||Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin|
|National Sprint League (ended)||NSL||410ci||2014-2016||Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, South Dakota|
|IRA Outlaw Sprint Series||IRA||410ci||1967||Illinois, Wisconsin|
|King of the West 410 Sprint Car Series||KWS||410ci||1960||California|
|Sprintcar Challenge Tour||SCT||360ci||2017||California|
|Midwest Open Wheel Association Sprint Car Series||MOWA||410ci||Illinois, Iowa, Missouri|
|Northern Outlaws Sprint Association||NOSA||410ci||1994||Manitoba, Minnesota, North Dakota|
|Ohio Valley Sprint Car Association||OVSCA||410ci||2010||Ohio, West Virginia|
|Fremont/Attica Sprint Title||FAST||410ci &305ci||2009||Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania|
|Ohio Sprint Car Series||OSCS||410ci||2016||Ohio|
|Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series||ASCS||360ci||1992||Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas|
|Civil War Sprint Car Series||CWSC||360ci||1993||California|
|Empire Super Sprints||ESS||360ci||1983||New Jersey, New York, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Quebec|
|Midwest Sprintcar Association||MSA||360ci||1996||Wisconsin|
|Nebraska 360 Sprint Series||NSS||360ci||Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota|
|Patriot Sprint Tour||PST||360ci||2003||New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario|
|Southern Ontario Sprints||SOS||360ci||1996||Ontario|
|Sprint Cars of New England||SCoNE||360ci||2004||New Hampshire, Vermont|
|Sprints on Dirt||SOD||360ci||Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Ontario|
|United Racing Club||URC||360ci||1948||Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania|
|United Sprint Car Series||USCS||360ci||Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee|
|Upper Midwest Sprint Car Series||UMSS||360ci||2009||Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin|
|World Series Sprintcars||WSS||410ci||1987||New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria|
|Oval Superstars Tour||410ci||2016||North Island including Wellington, Palmerston North, Napier, Stratford, Huntly|
|Ultimate Sprintcar Championship||USC||410ci||2014||New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria|
|Sprintcar All Stars||SCAS||360ci||2007||New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria|
Despite the 50 plus years of Sprint car racing, the category has only ever held one unofficial "world championship". This was in 1987 at the ⅓ mile (586 metres (641 yd)) Claremont Speedway in Perth, Western Australia. The event attracted the best drivers from Australia, NZ, Canada, and South Africa, as well as several World of Outlaws drivers. Australian veteran Garry Rush from Sydney, a 10-time winner of the Australian Sprintcar Championship, was the winner.
Non-winged cars were televised first when USAC had an ESPN television contract. The first national live television deal with winged sprint cars came on The Nashville Network (TNN) in 1992-93 and again in 1993-94 with a winter-based series in Arizona, which featured Mike Joy calling the action. Live coverage of the Knoxville Nationals on The Nashville Network began in 1995. A year later, a next-day tape deal with CBS for one race at Eldora Speedway aired while TNN coverage expanded. By 2000, CBS (which owned TNN at the time) announced TNN would air 15 live events, including the King's Royal at Eldora Speedway and the Knoxville Nationals. By the 2001 season, plans were to cover 18 live races, but midway through the season MTV Networks closed the CBS motorsports operations. This move relegated the remainder of the World of Outlaws season to tape delay races. A tape delayed deal with the Speed Channel followed for the next season. Television coverage began on The Outdoor Channel in 2003. Events are usually tape delayed for two weeks or more. The Knoxville Nationals were on Speed Channel. The 2005 Knoxville Nationals did not air as bad weather postponed the event, and there was not enough space for Speed to air the event, won by Kraig Kinser. In 2003, Johnson sold his organization to DIRT Motorsports. Because of complaints about DIRT Motorsports and the lack of television coverage, Northwest Sprint Tour owner Fred Brownfield formed the National Sprint Tour as a rival to the World of Outlaws Sprint for the 2006 season. Notable teams in the NST included Steve Kinser Racing (#11), Roth Motorsports (sometimes known as the "Beef Packers" team) (#83), Tony Stewart Racing (#20). After Brownfield Promotions' owner Fred Brownfield was killed in a crash, Kinser and principals of two other teams purchased the entire Brownfield promotion. That series folded after the 2006 season, while the Northwest tour, a regional tour, was sold. The SuperClean Summer of Money aired on ESPN2 starting in mid June 2008 with the World of Outlaws at Knoxville Raceway and for 8 weeks straight leading up to the Knoxville Nationals which were live on SPEED. In 2015, the World of Outlaws have had several races broadcast on CBS Sports Network as well as live on online-pay-per-view on DIRTVision.com. Knoxville Raceway has their weekly series as well as World of Outlaws & National Sprint League events on MavTV. USAC currently has some races televised on MavTV, primarily through Jack Slash Media's Dirty 30 highlights program. Other series such as the Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Series, King of the West Sprint Cars, King of the Wing Pavement Sprint Cars, MustSeeRacing.com Pavement Sprint Cars and several weekly/regional series also air on MavTV.
In Australia, the World Series Sprintcars is currently televised on free-to-air channel One HD. The Ultimate Sprintcar Championship and various other events in Australia are also broadcast on Clayperview.com
There are a number of publications featuring Sprint Cars. Full Throttle Publishing, based in Sydney Australia, have numerous books including "Caged Heat - The Wild World of Sprint Car Racing"
The safety record of sprint car racing in recent years has been greatly improved by several new mandatory safety regulations including the use of roll cages to protect the drivers, fuel tank bladders to prevent fuel leakage, alcohol fuel, requirements to use a six or seven-point safety harness seatbelt two years old or newer, and driver suit standards to consist of two layers and rated at least SFI 3.2A/5. In addition, drivers must wear nomex driving gloves. Other equipment requirements include: helmets must be full coverage and must exceed Snell 2000 rating; arm restraints systems must be used; cars must have a 1/8 inch wire debris/rock screen in the front roll cage opening covering the entire opening; and headrests mandatory on the right side of the drivers seat. Some sanctioning bodies are also requiring a head and neck restraint system.
Winged sprint cars also have the wing safety aspect, as those sprint cars are able to marginally improve their safety with wings that absorb some of the energy from violent flips and crashes, although winged sprint cars are generally traveling at higher speeds than their non wing counterparts.
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