If your a fan of NASCAR racing you may be wondering how the drivers see behind them. Do they have rear-view mirrors like a normal car? There are no outside mirrors allowed in this motorsport, so how do drivers keep track of what’s happening in the race behind them?
NASCAR cars have rearview mirrors and a driver mirror on the inside of the roll bar so they can see behind them. Drivers communicate with ‘spotters’ situated above the track to help them with race tactics, positions of nearby cars and any hazards on the track. Spotters can relay information to the driver about what is going on behind them.
When you’re driving around a track at 200 mph it’s useful to know whats going on behind you. This article will explore who spotters are, the size regulations for mirrors, and many more aspects that really explore how NASCAR drivers see behind them in a race.
How do NASCAR Drivers See Behind Them?
Surprisingly, NASCARs do have a rear-view mirror that’s actually the same size as a normal car. Driver’s don’t use them as much as they would use a spotter, but it’s there if they need them.
NASCAR’s aren’t allowed to have any external mirrors due to safety regulations. Some drivers have a fish-eyed-mirror attached to the inside of the driver’s side roll bar. This allows them to see their blind spot on the left side of the car, which allows them to see if anyone is coming up on the inside. Everything is left to the spotter, but some drivers like to be sure of where they are going before they move.
NASCAR drivers see behind them mainly by using spotters. Spotters stand above the grandstand and relay to their driver what is happening in the race and where they should go.
They use a two-way radio system, and each team has its own frequency so they don’t listen to each other. Drivers have to listen to their spotters during every second of the race because one wrong move can and will lead to a crash.
Spotters are in charge of the strategy during the race and each team decides how much the spotter will talk during the race. Some drivers like constant chatter and a stream of information. Other drivers like quiet.
Each team has its own strategy that they bring to the race. One thing that is always the case is that the team is practiced in their communication, and they know how each other works. Drivers tend to only look at the four or five cars ahead of them and one car behind. Any crash that takes place behind them they don’t know about unless the spotter tells them about it.
Even though spotters are key in race and strategy, they are only payed $2,500 USD max per race. A small price for a big job.
If They Can’t See Behind Them, How do NASCAR Drivers Know When to Pass?
Spotters are essential in a driver’s success. When driving at 200 mph, the cars cover approximately one football field (97 yards to be exact) every second.
If the drivers miss an opening by a second, they could crash or spin out, take another car out, lose their position and potentially kill themselves and other drivers.
Spotters tell drivers when to move, how far to move, and when an opening is coming up.
Drivers can only really see the four or five cars in front of them and one car behind them. They don’t know lap times, their positions, crashes behind them, crashes coming up, anything wrong with the track or how far away the lead car is without their spotters.
If They Can’t See Behind Them, How do NASCAR Drivers Pass at all?
So, their spotter tells them to go (in whatever language and terms the spotter and driver are comfortable with), how do NASCAR drivers pass a car in front of them? I
n NASCAR, it all depends on the line. Some drivers will go high to pass. Even though it’s a longer distance around the track, they can go faster because of that increased distance.
Some drivers will have a line that they like through the inside of the track. As the race is driven, “grooves” are formed in the good lines. These are lines around the track that are free from marbles and debris because cars are constantly driving on them.
Though most NASCAR drivers stick to the grooves during the race, others will take a chance high and outside over the marbles to get ahead.
What Kind of Language do Spotter Use to Help NASCAR Drivers see Behind Them?
Most spotters and drivers will have their own preferences on what do say or how to say it. With the two-way radio system, drivers can speak back to their spotter during the race.
This can lead to some heated arguments between the spotter, the crew chief, or even the racer’s main spotter (Kyle Busch is notorious for expletives on the radio channel), but there’s a few industry standards on how spotters communicate different things during a race.
Inside: There’s a car towards the inside of the track
Outside: There’s a car towards the outside of the track
# Back (or # Behind): There’s a car # of lengths behind you
In and Out: You’re driving three across, with a car inside and a car outside
At Your (quarter panel, door, bumper): There’s a car’s FRONT bumper at this area of the car
Clear: There’s an area that’s free somewhere (ie Clear behind, clear inside, etc.)
Check Up: Ease up on the throttle, slow down
Go Low: Head to the inside of the track, usually to avoid an accident
10-4: Affirmative, I understand, okay
Bottleneck: There’s slower cars in front of you, there may need to be patience to pass.
Other than this, most teams will have their own ideas of what is important and what isn’t. It’s entirely dependent on the driver. Some drivers like to know every detail of what is going on in a race, others only like to know when they should pass.
You can listen in to team radio stations to get an idea of what they need to know and what your favorite driver likes to hear. Some owners even get in on the action, and there’s been some arguments between owners and drivers while the race is going about language choices and cursing.
Being able to listen to your favorite team gives a fan major access into the driver’s tactical plans. It’s really an all-access pass to what your driver is thinking at every part of the race, which gives NASCAR a completely different watching experience than any other sport (other than players who are mic’d up in the NFL).
In most sports, having a live feed of what’s being said during the game is unheard of, giving fans of NASCAR an ultimate watching experience.