Now and then somebody will ask why we don't race this brand or that brand of automobile. "Why don't you take one out of the showroom and try it," they will say.
Sorry, pal, but you can't race a car right out of the showroom.
Let me try to explain. The first thing that will happen is the tires will roll off the wheels. Now you don't see that happening a lot with street cars, but you don't put those vehicles in pressure situations like a race car. You don't have the g-forces and the banking.
Don't try this, but if you cut left or right in your street car at 100 mph, it will probably slide. In the banked turns of a racetrack it will stick. Again, please don't go 100 in your street car. I don't want to lose a reader.
OK, let's move along. So let's say by some means your tires stand the pressure, then the next thing that will fail will be your wheels. The wheel will simply break around the studs.
In 1949, when NASCAR ran its first Late Model races that today is Winston Cup, the first thing that broke on the cars was wheels. So they built the wheels stronger. The next thing that broke was the studs on the wheels. Teams built the studs stronger, and then hubs began breaking. Teams built the hubs larger and stronger, then the spindles broke. Once they got the spindles big enough, tie-rod ends and ball joints snapped. They had to make these larger, and once they did, then the system started pulling out of the chassis.
What I have just explained is pretty much how stock car racing has grown over the years. When something broke, you didn't take it to the next race. In other words, you take a weak point and fix it. It leads to another weak point and you fix that. Finally, you just keep on until you get all the weak points made strong. That is how race cars have grown over the years. The parts and pieces fit a race car.
In the early days, engines were not so much a problem, at least not like the wheels. Engines would get hot and that created a problem, so teams built larger radiators. The oil didn't get hot in those strictly stock engines because there were limiters and lifters that kept down the rpms. Rpm is what creates heat.
In the first two or three races in 1949, the cars were right out of the showroom. As problems developed, NASCAR worked with the teams to fix whatever was going wrong. In those first few races when a wheel broke, the car would flip. NASCAR had safety in mind from the start. The sanctioning body was ready to work with teams and change whatever was necessary to make the sport safer.
When Darlington opened in 1950, I think everybody went down there with two or three engines. They were stock engines, but they took an extra one. A lot of the car was stock in 1950, especially the tires.
Johnny Mantz, who won the first Southern 500, had raced at Indianapolis. He brought some Firestone racing tires with him, so he was able to win the race. By this time, teams were using a steel plate on the inside of the wheels, which helped keep them from breaking.
The wheels, however, stood up pretty well in that first Darlington race. Tires were the problem. Teams were not getting but 25 or 30 miles before they would have to come in and change. They were burning up those tires. This was before air wrenches, too. I don't think Mantz stopped but four or five times for tires. Johnny didn't outrun anybody. He just didn't have to sit still as long as everybody else.
By the mid-'60s we had specialized equipment, built especially for a race car. There were no stock parts. Up until about the mid-'60s, we'd go to a dealer and get a new car, bring it back to the shop, tear it down, build rollbars, go over the car and make it work for us.
Then we would get just bodies from the factory and put them on our chassis. This led to people building their own chassis.
Nope, pal, your street car could not compete with one of our race cars. I hope this column gives you and other readers some idea of why.
But, I'll tell you something else: The cars we build are fine for racing, but I'll take your street car for everyday use. It's a lot more comfortable for going places, and you don't need to go fast anyway.