What Types Of Cars Are Used In NASCAR Racing?

What Types Of Cars Are Used In NASCAR Racing?

From the "Next Gen" to a Late Model Stock Car, we break down what cars are used throughout NASCAR racing.

Aug 20, 2023 by Rob Blount
What Types Of Cars Are Used In NASCAR Racing?

Whether you’re an experienced racing fan, or a newbie curious about NASCAR, you’ve probably heard someone call the car a “NASCAR.” Well, what is a “NASCAR?” 

Let’s get this out of the way right away. There is no such thing as a “NASCAR.” NASCAR is the sanctioning body of a type of auto racing, and it stands for “National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.” NASCAR is to racing what the NFL is to professional football. It’s just the league, not the car itself. Make sense?

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s break down the type of cars found in NASCAR racing.

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What Does A NASCAR Cup Car Drive Like On Dirt?

What Is The Next Gen NASCAR Car?

The premier series under the NASCAR banner is the NASCAR Cup Series. So what makes something a “Cup” car? The cars seen on Sundays that are driven by Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, and Ross Chastain have gone through a lot of changes throughout the years. What started as a slightly modified “stock car” is now a true a purpose-built race car, and has been for many years.

The current car is the seventh-generation Cup car. It is a fuel-injected V8 engine that produces 670 horsepower for a majority of the race tracks (Daytona, Talladega, and Atlanta have reduced horsepower outputs in the name of safety). The current Cup car, known as the “Next Gen” car, has a five-speed transaxle instead of a traditional four-speed transmission.

The Cup car is also a rear-wheel drive car, which most likely makes it very different from your street car. Another difference is that the Next Gen car, has one center-locking wheel nut. Most likely, your street car still has five lug nuts holding your wheel in place.

The car models currently being used in the Cup Series are the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, and Toyota Camry.

NASCAR Next Gen cars race at Daytona International Speedway in 2023. 

What Is The NASCAR Xfinity Car?

The NASCAR Xfinity Series is the second tier series in NASCAR. It uses a different type of stock car from the current “Next Gen” car seen in the Cup Series. For many years, the Xfinity car closely resembled the Cup car, but with some slight differences. Now, as a result of the Next Gen, the current Xfinity car couldn’t be further apart from the Cup car.

The current Xfinity car still has five lug nuts holding the wheels in place, unlike the Next Gen car. The Xfinity car has a four-speed manual transmission, with a traditional “H-pattern” shifter. Its power output is currently 650 horsepower.

The car models currently being used in the Xfinity Series are the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, and the Toyota Supra.

It’s worth noting that the car itself is not called an “Xfinity car.” The car itself does not actually have a name beyond “NASCAR stock car.” The title sponsor for this series is Xfinity, a telecommunications company owned by Comcast Corp.

NASCAR Xfinity Cars race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2023. 

What Is A NASCAR Truck?

If you didn’t know it, NASCAR has a series that runs pickup trucks. The series, known as the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, is the third tier series that NASCAR runs nationally. It debuted in 1995 as the NASCAR SuperTruck Series. 

While it looks like a pretty standard pickup truck with a closed bed, it’s really a purpose-built race car, just like every other car run in NASCAR today. The current power output for the truck engines is around 450 horsepower. It is a rear-wheel drive vehicle with a four-speed manual transmission. It has five lug nuts, much like the Xfinity car.

The current truck models being used in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series are the Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, and the Toyota Tundra.

NASCAR Trucks at World Wide Technology Raceway in 2023. 

What Is A NASCAR Modified?

The oldest division in NASCAR is the NASCAR “Modified” division. The first race ever held under the NASCAR banner was a Modified race on the Daytona Beach course in 1948, which was won by Red Byron. At the time there was a “Modified” division and a “strictly stock” division. The strictly stock division ran cars that were meant to be exactly how they came off the assembly line. The Modified division saw cars that were modified, or changed, hence the name.

Today, the Modified is an “open-wheel” car, meaning that the car has no fenders and the tires and wheels are fully exposed. The Modified has bumper bars on all four sides of the car known as “nerf bars.” It has a power output of 650 horsepower and weighs just 2,610 pounds, giving it one of the highest power-to-weight ratios in NASCAR.

The NASCAR Modified is typically found in the Northeast of the United States. It is the car used on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the premier division for NASCAR Modifieds in the country. 

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour cars in action at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2023. 

NASCAR “Late Model Stock Car”

One of the most confusing things in short track racing as a new fan is when you hear that one track is running Super Late Models, with Pro Late Models as a support division, while another track is running Late Model Stock Cars. What the heck is the difference? A Late Model is a Late Model, right? Well, unfortunately, the short answer to that second question is no. 

The Late Model Stock Car is the type of Late Model used at most NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series tracks in the Southeast, and is the car used in the premier division of CARS Tour racing too. The Late Model Stock Car is the headlining division vehicle at South Boston Speedway, Hickory Motor Speedway, Langley Speedway, and Florence Motor Speedway just to name a few. 

So, what is a Late Model Stock Car? The Late Model Stock Car is a “perimeter rail” chassis, meaning the frame rail that outlines the chassis goes right down the outside edges of the race car. The power output is approximately 510 horsepower. There are many more technical details that further define exactly what a Late Model Stock Car is, but to keep it simple, these are the two main items that define a Late Model Stock Car.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Late Model Stock Car at North Wilkesboro Speedway in 2023.

The Super Late Model and Pro Late Model are also used at some NASCAR tracks around the country. Those two cars are identical in nearly every way except the Super Late Model uses a “built” engine that produces around 600-plus horsepower, while the Pro Late Model uses a “crate” engine that produces around 500 horsepower. These two cars are a “straight rail” chassis.

For a more in-depth look at the differences between a Super/Pro Late Model and a Late Model Stock Car, CARS Tour driver Landon Huffman made a great video explaining them that you can check out here.