Rally -vs- Nascar

Posted: October 3, 2008 in Sports
Tags: , , ,

This is a paper I did from 2004.


There are many facets to the exciting world of motorsports but I will present just two. NASCAR has become extremely popular in recent years (second only to Football in the US) possibly because of its simplicity. In a different kind of racing, the events are held in 16 countries all across the globe; so it has become popular worldwide. This superior sport is called Rally racing.

Rally cars compete mostly on dirt roads and some pavement, whereas NASCAR cars drive on an oval pavement track. Rally drivers have to watch for constantly changing road surfaces, from ice-snow-mud-gravel, curvy back roads, public roads with set speed limits, jumps, ↓

fording streams, cliffs, and animals jumping out on the road. NASCAR drivers race on ovals that have flat straight-aways and banked turns, yet they compete with 43 other cars simultaneously. Rally drivers rarely pass, or even see another car.

A rally lasts 3 days with 5-10 stages in a day. Each stage can be up to 50 km long and cars have to drive on public roads to the next stage. NASCAR races last one day and can be 600 miles long.


“Rally cars are thus unlike virtually any other top-line racing cars in that they retain the ability to run at normal driving speeds and indeed are registered for street travel.” (fact-index). They are small, 4 wheel drive, turbocharged cars that can go up to 130 mph but average 70-80 mph. “Stock (NASCAR) cars superficially resemble standard American family sedans, but are in fact purpose-built racing machines built to a strict set of regulations governing the car design ensuring that the chassis, suspension, and such are architecturally identical on all vehicles. Ironically, these regulations ensure that stock car racers are in many ways technologically less sophisticated than standard cars on the road.” (fact-index).

Drivers in the World Rally Championship hail from all different countries and are usually bilingual. They race with someone else in the car. This person is the co-driver. Their job is to read pace notes to the driver to give them a chance to be ready for what the road is like just around the bend. NASCAR drivers race alone and sometimes struggle to speak English well.

The maintenance crews for both sports are very highly skilled. The rally crews have 12-15 minutes every 3 or 4 stages to fix what’s wrong with the cars and replace broken or hanging parts. Then they have all night to get the car ready for the next day’s battle. NASCAR crews take just 13-17 seconds to provide support for their car as it makes its way around the oval track.

NASCAR drivers can pull in for service whenever they need to. If a rally driver flips off the road into a tree and spectators get them back on the road, they might have to wait 60 miles before they can repair their car.

The spectators for both sports are fairly similar. While most of them are average blue collar workers, there are wealthy fans as well. They all like to drink and have a good time. Rally fans are from all over the world and can see the race for free. They can stand or sit closer than 20 feet away with no fence between them and the action. NASCAR fans are mostly from the United States where all the races occur. They have to pay for tickets, and are separated by bleachers and fences from their favorite cars; unless they want to pay $200 + for a pit pass.

So, where NASCAR is straight, Rally is curvy. Where NASCAR is American, Rally is international. Where NASCAR is flat pavement, Rally is bumpy and muddy. Where NASCAR is turning left, Rally is sliding 180 degrees around a hairpin turn down a mountain road, just feet from a cliff that’s hundreds of feet tall. Where NASCAR is lacking complexity and just plain not entertaining, Rally is very difficult and an enthralling spectacle.

Works sited:

“Press release.” 2 March 2004. Federation Internationale De L’Automobile. February 6th 2004. <http://www.fia.com/mediacentre/Press_Releases/FIA_Sport/2004/300104-01.html&gt;.

“Rally racing.” Fact Index. 24 February 2004. <http://www.fact-index.com/r/ra/rally_racing.html&gt;.

“Stock car racing.” Fact Index 24 February 2004. <http://www.fact-index.com/s/st/stock_car_racing.html&gt;.

“rally pictures.” 2003 season <http://www.wrc.com/en_GB/Gallery/Photo/2003&gt;.

“NASCAR pictures” <http://www.nascar.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/index.html&gt;.

  1. Mike says:

    I see you forgot to mention that NASCAR race cars have a top speed of about 230 mph and an average speed of 160. And that there are 10 road course races per year, that are almost identical to a rally race… Well except for a couple things, like cars are actually on the track WITH each other so you can see if someone passes someone else rather than watching your stop watch. And the fact that road course average speeds for NASCAR are about 130 mph instead of your average freeway speed of 70 or 80. The most important rule to remember when writing a vs. paper is to be unbiased. This paper should have been called “I like rally racing” instead of Rally vs NASCAR. You failed.

  2. alpinmack says:

    Touche. You’re right, I did forget to mention those things. Going faster makes driving in a straight line then turning left MUCH more exciting. However if I remember correctly, the assignment was to write a paper that presented two opposites and to champion one. In that sense, I succeeded. Clearly you are a NASCAR fan and you are entitled to your opinion. I’m glad you get enjoyment out of watching NASCAR. I don’t, but that’s me. And yes, I do like Rally Racing. So there ya go. Anyway, thanks for commenting. I can’t believe it’s taken someone this long. I thought that there would be many more outraged NASCAR fans by now.

  3. Mike says:

    “And that there are 10 road course races per year, that are almost identical to a rally race…And the fact that road course average speeds for NASCAR are about 130 mph instead of your average freeway speed of 70 or 80.”

    It seemed like you missed this part of my comment so I thought I’d mention it again. Yes, taking any turn at 180 mph is exciting. In my opinion the issue is how fast the racing LOOKS on TV. Rally cars appear very fast because they are on a 2 lane dirt road at most and are spitting up rooster tails around every corner (I admit this is fun to watch), but if you personally go to a NASCAR race you get to see just how fast 210 mph really is, and how much raw horsepower it takes to get you there. It doesn’t show very much on TV because of the wide angle shots, but the cars in a NASCAR race get sideways off of every corner. I’d like to see a rally car get sideways coming out of a corner, on asphalt at 160mph. Agreed, different racing is for different people. I’ve noticed a trend in race fans… The more people know about cars and building horsepower, the more they like NASCAR racing. If all they know about cars is how to mash the gas pedal and steer, they tend to prefer Rally. By no means am I saying that Rally fans are stupid, I’m just saying they don’t have much personal experience working on cars.

    Far from outraged,


  4. alpinmack says:

    Hey Mike,
    Thanks. I wrote part of my article based on being inflammatory without a lot of research. I guess I just don’t appreciate NASCAR as much as other people. One thing I really like about Rally is that it’s accessible. I mentioned fan proximity in the article but I also mean the cars. NASCAR fans can’t just go and buy a production car from Ford or Dodge that is anywhere close to the cars they see their heroes drive on TV. Rally fans can stop by a Subaru dealer and get a WRX STI which is much more similar to what is actually raced. Yes the WRC cars are still heavily modified with different shocks, sway bars, etc. but the stock cars can still go 0-60 in 4.4 seconds. (This played a big part in why I have a WRX. I raced for a few years in the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) and got a few medals for my troubles. Very fun.) I forgot to mention that Rally cars get up to 130 mph speeds on the asphalt sections of the race, and they go sideways around corners then. It’s not 160 mph, but still. Anyway, different sports for different people. Cheers!

  5. BigFatJoe says:

    I am a big fan of the WRC and Rally Racing. While I can appreciate the pace and the speed of Nascar, I do find Rally to be much more interesting to watch. What first got me started watching rally was witnessing one of the many videos on youtube of the spectacular crashes that can be seen in Rally. Also watching a man go 80-100 mph on a road that I would fear to go 20-30 mph on is quite exciting. To watch a car drive around a curve with no guard rail, while driving through the snow, is a heart stopping sight.

    Sadly Nascar, has decided that I want to watch the whole race. In rally within a 30 minute show I can see all of the amazing things that happened in a rally race. In Nascar, I have to watch Hours of a race to see the 30 minutes or less of amazing action. Seeing a Race Roadside though is a different story. I love watching races from the roadside. That being said, I do like watching long races, from a race track/arena/roadside. But if I am at home, and I cannot make it to the race track/arena/roadside, I am not looking at spending hours to see a race. So I recommend to Nascar to create a highlight track of a race so that I can, maybe, get into watching Nascar.

    Lastly, Rally cars are a bit more complex than Nascar Cars, because they have to be. There is a slightly more complex Roll bar and suspension system, allowing the cars the ability to adapt to changing road conditions, This makes a rally car much heavier than is found in Nascar. This is the primary reason that Rally Cars Slower, but very facinating to car freaks, like myself. This isn’t to say that Nascar doesn’t hold any appeal, but I would rather own a Rally car than a Nascar car any day of the week.

    So Nascar, please give me highlights (either on TV or on the internet), and maybe I will look at you again, but until then, Rally I am faithfully yours.

  6. Frostbite says:

    Thanks for pointing these issues out. I’ll be sure to send some angry Facebook NASCAR fans your way as they already hate on me for calling it boring crap. The WRC is far more interesting than going in circles for hours, and the “road courses” as mike put it aren’t much more interesting. Again, that’s just my view, but at least you came up with legitimate points that I can use in later discussions to my advantage.

  7. TheDoc says:

    Great Article,
    Mike was talking rally fans not working on there cars. You don’t know many STI or EVO owners do you? These guys are more Automotive Scientist’s than Grease Monkey’s. Calculating Power curves down to the fraction of a second. I grew open around engines and NASCAR freaks. The past couple years I have gotten in to Rally racing and I can tell you the knowledge cruve is WAY different. Most my friends that are into NASCAR can’t even figure out EFI much less Distributor-less Ignition System, Turbo’s, or VVTI. Rally guy’s (and girls) spend as much time behind a laptop mapping the Turbo has they do under the hood. Before you say they are the Rare expection go to a SCCA race and look at the parking lot.
    Just my 2 cents.

  8. alpinmack says:

    Big Fat Joe, Frostbite, and The Doc,
    Sorry I haven’t been keeping up with the comments. Thank you all for your input.

    Joe, I feel you about the way they take turns that would make me balk. When I took the van tour up Mt. Washington in NH, they had just had the race to the peak challenge a few days before. The skid mark were still all over the curves. I remember looking at them as we rounded the corner at 20 mph, listening to the tour guide saying the average speed they drove was 90! And yeah, give me the highlights any day, over the whole race. That’s a big reason to watch NASCAR in the first place right? For the crashes. That’s why highlight shows for soccer are so popular. They show the two or three goals that happened in the whole 90 minutes.

    Frostbite, send away. I already admitted that the paper is biased, but I will be happy to debate with anyone. I have to say that the commenters here are doing an excellent job of that themselves.

    The Doc, Thank you. I do know both types of grease monkeys. The guys whole only work on muscle cars because you don’t need a computer to mod it out, just a wrench. And the guys who spend just as much on software for their turbo chips, than they do on hardware. Sadly, I am neither, especially since I have a kid now. I find that the money I would spend on a chip, or a new exhaust system is always needed elsewhere. But I still love blowing people off the line in my WRX when I get the chance.

    Thanks again to everyone who contributed to this conversation.


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