Sprint cars are small, high-powered race cars designed primarily for the purpose of running on short dirt or paved tracks. Sprint cars have a high power-to-weight ratio making sprint car racing exciting with speeds in excess of 140 MPH on some tracks. This speed often also makes it very dangerous. The safety record of sprint car racing in recent years has been greatly improved by the use of roll cages to protect the drivers, which, since the 1970's, are often joined by wings mounted on top of the cars to give them sufficient downforce so as not to become airborne as readily as was previously the case. In case the car went airborne, the tumbles were not as violent, and the wing would break off or absorb the impact of the flip. In some cases, teams are able to replace the wing during the ensuing red flag and be able to race once the race resumed.
Many NASCAR drivers got their start in sprint car racing, including Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. As a challenging form of auto racing, sprint car racing is considered an excellent training ground for NASCAR series.
For a complete history of sprint car racing, the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum located in Knoxville, IA features exhibits to highlight the history of both winged and non-wing sprint cars.
In Canada, A local series has taken off, 10 years in the making. www.southernontariosprints.com The SOS is a club of racing fanatics who race for family values and the year end trophy.
Non-winged Sprint Cars
A non-winged sprint car racing is chiefly sanctioned by the United States Automobile Club. USAC sprint car racing divisions include the popular Silver Crown series which race on both paved and dirt track. Other USAC divisions include the National Sprints Series of sprint cars and midgets.
Winged Sprint Cars
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.
With the addition of wings, a new sanctioning body and touring series to promote the sport was founded. In 1978, Ted Johnson formed the leading promotional body for winged sprints car called the World of Outlaws. Racing throughout the United States from March 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 Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa and Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Each August, the Knoxville Raceway holds the paramount sprint car event, the Knoxville Nationals.
Despite the availability of advertising exposure on the wings, live television coverage was hard to find, compared to the non-winged cars, which had an ESPN contract with the United States Auto Club.
The first national live television deals with winged sprint cars came on The Nashville Network in 1992-93 and again in 1993-94 with a winter-based series in Arizona, which featured top motorsports commentator Mike Joy calling the action.
Live coverage of the Knoxville Nationals, also 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, and 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 when midway through the season, MTV Networks closed the CBS motorsports operations in 2001, angering the World of Outlaws and relegated the remainder of the season to tape delay races, a move not happy with either the Outlaws, competitors, fans, or broadcasters. Thus ended a seven-year partnership which gave the sport live exposure, and damaged the sport's image.
A deal with Speed Channel followed for the next season, but was on tape delay.
Since 2003, television coverage was moved to The Outdoor Channel, usually on tape delay two weeks or more after the race had ended, and the Knoxville Nationals would be on Speed Channel. However, the 2005 Nationals did not air as rain postponed the event, and there was not enough space for Speed to air the event.
However, in 2003, Johnson sold his organisation to DIRT Motorsports, which has attempted to control dirt-track auto racing by acquiring other late model stock car series. That, along with The Outdoor Channel television contract being unfriendly to some contestants, has led to the creation of a rival league backed by Richard Petty, his son Kyle, and 2001 championship team owner Tony Stewart, the National Sprint Car League. Danny Lasoski, Stewart's sprint car driver, noted the lack of media coverage since MTV's mistreatment of the Outlaws was hurting the sport, and DIRT's financial balance sheet being troubling, forced the issue, and has drawn teams to the 2006 NSCL. Stewart is moving his Eldora Speedway to the NSCL. As of this time, the situation has not been rectified.
- Official USAC website
- National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum
- The Knoxville Raceway
- National Sprint Car League
- Sprint Car Racing Association
- World of Outlaws
- American Sprint Car Series
- All Star Circuit of Champions
- National Championship Racing Association
- ASA Northwest Sprint Car Series
- SOUTHERN ONTARIO SPRINTS
- Alberta, Canada Sprint Car Series