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NASCAR Races and How They Work

Betting on NASCAR races is a lot easier if you know the finer details of how they work.

NASCAR is the pinnacle of stock car racing, and one of the most exciting sports to watch. But it can also be a little tough to follow what’s going on at time.

Here you will learn all you need to know about NASCAR races and how they work, including some tips for betting on them.

This is what we cover.

Types of NASCAR Races

Perhaps you first came across NASCAR watching your uncle win his bets on the Daytona 500, jumping up and down in front of the TV.

Or maybe you watched Talladega Nights with your girlfriend and decided to dig into the sport a little more.

How you ended up here is of little importance. But what is of great importance, however, is learning how NASCAR works. Especially if you have plans of using this knowledge to win money betting on motorsport’s most awesome series.

First things first, let’s help you learn more about the different types of NASCAR races, what’s separates them from others, and how classification works.

As races in the Cup Series are the most popular of them all, we’ll start with those.

Cup Series Races

  • Regular Season Cup Series Races 
  • Cup Series Playoff Races
  • Exhibition Races

Races in the NASCAR Cup Series are divided into the three categories above.

Regular season races and playoff races award points, unlike exhibition races.

With events such as the Clash at Daytona, large purses are awarded. The minds behind the series hope that participants will exhibit the type of all-action driving that makes for a better spectacle.

Let’s take a closer look.

Regular Season Cup Series Races

  • Biggest Race – Daytona 500

The biggest race on the calendar, by some distance, is the world-famous Daytona 500.

This race typically gets more attention and higher viewing figures than any other race under the NASCAR banner. Betting on the Daytona 500 is very popular, too.

The Daytona 500 opens the Cup Series season. It is the first of 36 races on the calendar to award points.

It is also part of the unofficial “Grand Slam,” which is more commonly believed to include Talladega 500, the Coca-Cola 600, and the Southern 500, and the Brickyard 400.

The Coca-Cola 600 is huge, and definitely not a race you want to miss!

The Coca Cola 600 is the longest NASCAR race, at a total distance of 600 miles.

Cup Series Playoff Races

  • Biggest Race – Season Finale 

When it comes to the most valuable race, at least for drivers, it has to be the Season Finale.

The championship races determine the driver that wins the NASCAR Cup Series for that year. If the winner of the Championship 4 takes the checkered flag, they are crowned the champion for that year. If not, the closest of these drivers is awarded the title.

In order to make the Championship 4, drivers must first qualify as follows.

  • End the regular season as one of the Top 16 drivers
  • Qualify from the Round of 16
  • Qualify from the Round of 12
  • Qualify from the Round of 8

Qualification from each round is based on points accrued. Drivers can also qualify for the next round by winning a race outright.

Exhibition Races

  • Biggest Race – The Clash at Daytona

Although not part of the Cup Series, some fans also enjoy betting on NASCAR’s novelty races.

Races such as The Clash, The Duel, and the All-Star Race are popular exhibition events that are televised mostly in North America.

Races in Other Series

There are big races in the other two major NASCAR national series, but none of them come anywhere near the level of any Cup Series race.

You can find out more about the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series by visiting the following page.

Tips for Betting on NASCAR Races

You might have heard your friends discussing tips for gambling on NASCAR, and also want to make money betting on the Cup Series.

Or, perhaps you’re just dipping your toe in the water before you place any real money bets on NASCAR races.

Whatever your MO is, these tips will give you a basic understanding of how to approach betting on NASCAR races.

  • Only wager with the top online betting sites – Our recommended NASCAR betting sites and apps have great odds and markets for the races.
  • Watch as many NASCAR races as you can – There is no better way to understand how to gamble on a sport than immersing yourself in it. 
  • Get plenty of data for the races you are betting on – The line-up, in-form drivers, track history, and other stats are all crucial to winning your bets.
  • Make good use of the information on this page – You will have a better understanding of how NASCAR races work, qualifying, the tracks, and the terminology to help you bet like a pro.
  • Learn about the drivers – Read up and watch videos on the tracks certain drivers thrive on and use that to your advantage when placing your bets on NASCAR races.

Picks and Predictions for NASCAR Races

Whether you are a dedicated stock car racing expert or a pure beginner to NASCAR betting, you should always look for as much quality information, content, and advice as you can get your hands on.

If you’re serious about betting on the races, make sure you’re reading our expert content. We offer all kinds of useful information and advice, including picks and predictions for races.

Check out the following sections of our site to see what we have to offer.

Rules for NASCAR Races

Whether you’re gambling on NASCAR races or trying to understand what is going on in a race, you should have a decent understanding of the rules.

How does the series work around the fact that 30+ cars are flying around a track at huge speeds on any given race day? What is in place to protect drivers? How fast is a car allowed to be driven?

Let’s start with the basics before we get to the pit road and overtime.

Basic NASCAR Rules

  • NASCAR races consist of three stages — or four for the Coca-Cola 600 — that are split with a green and white checkered flag and caution period.
  • During the caution period, laps count towards the race.
  • Points are awarded at the end of the first couple of stages with most races, other than the Coca-Cola which awards points at the end of the third, too.
  • Stage winners receive 10 points and an additional Playoff point.
  • Stage runners-up receive 9 points only, third receives 8 points, and this carries on until no points are left to award.
  • Race winners receive 40 points plus an additional 5 Playoff points.
  • The runner up receives 35 regular points only, with a point awarded one less point from 2nd onwards.
  • A driver that finishes 36th or lower receives just one regular point.
  • The driver with the most points at the end of the regular season wins the Regular Season Championship
  • The driver that wins the Season Finale wins the Cup Series Championship

Pit Road Rules

NASCAR permits drivers to enter a designated area next to the track. This is called the pit road.

Drivers can enter the pit road for many reasons, including refueling, new tires, and adjustments to help them remain competitive in a race.

The pit road is a huge part of NASCAR strategy, for all teams. But there are rules in place to make sure that no one is getting any unfair advantages.

Included in these rules are the following,

  • Failure to complete work in five minutes leads to expulsion from the rest of the race
  • Only six members are initially allowed “over the wall” to work on the car at any time.
  • This number consists of two tire changers, two carriers, a jackman, and a gas man.
  • An additional member is allowed over the wall to tend to the windshield at a later point in the race.
  • For the safety of teams, speed from the entry to the exit of the pit must be kept below the standard (usually 35-55 mph depending on the circuit).
  • Teams can be penalized for other infractions, such as work carried out beyond the designated area of the pit, driving over air hoses, and more.

Drivers can enter pit road at any time other than when the race has entered a caution period.

There is serious pressure on teams to get things right at the pit road.

Overtime Rules

Designed to prevent races ending under caution, NASCAR introduced an overtime rule in 2016.

Controversial to some, the stock car big wigs decided that it would be better for the sport if the old rules were given the heave-ho.

That meant that rather than allowing drivers up to three attempts to finish a race, an “overtime line” was introduced to help things move along smoother.

The line depends on where the race is held, but the basics of the rule are as follows.

  • A valid green-white-checkered attempt – Once the race leader moves past the line on the first lap under green before a caution comes out.
  • An invalid green-white-checkered attempt – If the caution emerges before the leader moving past the line at first lap under green.

The race continues until there is a valid attempt registered.

As with most rules, there are exceptions. When it comes to overtime, it’s worth knowing that NASCAR can overrule any existing laws if they consider it necessary. So, they can effectively decide to end the race on a yellow flag.

This pretty much explains everything there is to know about overtime.

How NASCAR Qualifying Works

Ever wondered how NASCAR qualifying works, or how the grid is arranged?

Well, let’s cut to the chase and break that down for you.

Qualifying for Cup Series Races

In regular seasons, the qualifying process follows a set of rules that keeps things in shape.

Essentially, the structure of the qualifying and pit stall selection order comes down to different factors. The most important of these are qualifying rounds.

Qualifying rounds work differently depending on the type of track.

  • First and second-round qualifying at short tracks and intermediate speedways is set at 10 minutes, with third rounds lasting five minutes.
  • Downtime is five minutes for all courses.
  • There are untimed intervals of two rounds for single-lap qualifying on superspeedways.
  • Single-card qualifying applies to all NASCAR oval tracks.
  • Multi-car qualifying is used for road courses.

But how about the order of drivers?

Qualifying Order

Qualifying for a race in the Cup Series comes down to both speed in qualifying as well as the starting lineup of the previous race.

Essentially, 1-20 from the race are put into a random draw to start in the positions of 21-40, and vice versa.

For a session to count, all cars are required to complete their laps. If they fail to do this, well, qualifying times are scrapped, and order will be determined by owner points.

Exceptions to the Rules

In 2020, NASCAR was forced to shake things up when it came to qualifying due to the global pandemic.

The rules around qualifying were chopped and changed to facilitate a safer environment for all present.

The qualifying criteria came down to the following.

  • Finishing position from most recently completed race (50%)
  • Owner points position (35%)
  • Fastest lap from the most recently completed race (15%)

The percentages you see next to each criterion relate to the weighting and averaging used by NASCAR to determine qualifying.

There are other exceptions to the rules that NASCAR can introduce. It pays to keep ahead of these changes and amendments, especially when developing strategies for betting on the races.

NASCAR Flags and What They Mean

No, we’re not talking about the flags being waved at NASCAR by fans.

In this section, we are going to run through the various flags you could see used by stewards to send signals to drivers participating in a race.

Let’s take a look.

  • Green Flag – Go! This flag is used to signal the start (or restart) of the race.
  • Green and White Checkered Flag – Used to signal the end of one of the stages of a race.
  • Yellow Flag – Caution! The flag used when a wreck or hazard on the track requires drivers to slow down and follow the pace car.
  • Red Flag – Stop! This flag is waved to demand drivers to come to a standstill. Used when accidents or weather demands the race to come to a complete stop.
  • White Flag – Used to signal the last lap of the race
  • Checkered Flag – Winner! The flag used to announce the race is over and that the leading driver has passed the finish line.
  • Black Flag – You will see this flag waved when a driver is directed to the pit following a penalty or to correct an issue.
  • Black Flag with White Cross – Should a driver refuse to answer the black flag within three laps, this flag will be used. As it would be seen as a severe infraction, you can understand why the use of this flag is rare.
  • Blue Flag with Yellow Stripe – This one warns slower drivers to beware of the approach of faster vehicles. If a driver sees this flag, they must give way to faster cars or run the risk of copping a black flag.
  • Blue Flag – A flag used on road courses to signal parts of the track where slow drivers or stopped cars might prevent a hazard. The yellow flag is typically used in these circumstances meaning this flag is rare.
What each NASCAR flag means

NASCAR Glossary and Terms to Know

Knowing the lingua franca used in NASCAR is going to help you understand the ins and outs of the sport.

Especially when watching the races, or discussing the latest odds for the Cup Series with your more experienced buddies!

  • Air DamA part of the car located under the front grill designed to aid with downforce, thus enabling better handling.
  • Air PressureThe pressure of a car’s tires.
  • BankingUsed to describe the slope of that falls at a corner or curve of a track.
  • CamberDescribed in degrees, camber is used to describe the inner or outer tilt of a tire from vertical.
  • ChassisThe shell of a NASCAR vehicle, including roll bar and floorboards.
  • Dirty AirThis term to describe the back flowing air from the lead car. Often used in the context of a driver’s handling ability.
  • DownforceDenotes the air pressure on the car which promotes traction. Positive traction leads to better grip and speed at corners.
  • DraftingA catch term for a variety of techniques where a car gets close to the one in front, thus eliminating dirty air. The second car uses the airflow from the car in front to gain momentum for a pass.
  • DragA word used to describe how good or how poor a car is at moving through the air, thus generating resistance for higher speeds.
  • FirewallThat metal plate located between the engine and the driver for the purposes of added protection from explosions.
  • GrooveThe word used for the best route to navigate a track.
  • Happy HourThe final practice session held before a race.
  • LockA NASCAR betting term typically used to describe a driver that looks a certainty to win a race, stage, qualify for the Playoffs, etc.
  • LooseIf your car is loose, that ain’t a good thing. The slang term used to describe the motion when the back end of the car lifts over the front end when taking corners.
  • Pit RoadThe area used by teams to refuel, change tires, and make other necessary adjustments.
  • PoleThe front car on the grid. Typically, the fastest or driver that has qualified first.
  • Sleeper BetA NASCAR sleeper bet is typically a wager on a driver in a race. For example, one that has attractive betting odds despite having a solid chance of winning the race.
  • TemplateThe shape of the NASCAR vehicle. The template can be inspected before and/or after a race to ensure compliance with rules and regulations.
  • TightA word to describe the process of front wheels losing grip before the back wheels when going through a turn.
  • Victory LaneThe ceremonious area of a track reserved for the winning driver in a race.

Ready to Bet on NASCAR Races?

NASCAR racing is an incredible spectacle. Some might say that’s it just a bunch of cars going round in circles, but that’s a huge simplification.

Sure, the sport is not for everyone. But it’s hard to imagine that most people wouldn’t feel at least some excitement watching a NASCAR race.

Watching NASCAR races is more enjoyable if you properly understand what’s going on. Hopefully we’ve done our job in explaining this all to you.

If you’re considering betting on NASCAR races, the information we’ve provided should help you for sure. It’s never a good idea to bet on things you don’t fully understand.

When you’re ready to start placing your bets, we recommend using the following online betting sites.