Photo by Cameron Neveu
April 10 is National Sprint Car Day. Why? The 410 cubic-inch engine is the power plant of choice for top-tier sprint car series. The engine is an aluminum block V-8, typically based on a small-block Chevy , though many teams run Ford, Dodge, or Toyota variants. The naturally aspirated, methanol-injected engines are capable of producing over 900 horsepower at over 7000 rpm. Bolted into a car weighing 1400 pounds dripping wet, the end result is a power-to-weight ratio that tops that of a modern Formula 1 car.
Sound like a ticking time bomb? What if such a beloved 410-cubic engine decides to blow sky high? Crews are capable of changing engines in the middle of the event. Defending USAC Sprint Car Champion CJ Leary and his crew can swap engines in 14 minutes flat.
The 410 cubic-inch, alcohol-chugging motor connects to a coupler known as the “in-out box,” which connects to the driveshaft. Sans trans! The driver sits on top of the live rear axle, upright like they’re sitting at the dinner table, legs straddling the driveshaft, elbows up reefing on an oversized steering wheel. Chicken wire prevents dirt clots from smacking drivers in the head. Cameron Neveu
Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, sprint car teams experimented with wings and other aero implements for added downforce. This eventually split the family tree into two distinct branches—winged and traditional (non-winged) sprint cars. Rulebooks mandate the size of the wings—typically 24 square feet in size. Cameron Neveu
Short courses, ranging from quarter to half mile ovals, and a clay surface helps to keep sprint car speed below supersonic levels. On a large track, with a tacky surface, speeds can average well over 100 miles per hour. Cameron Neveu
“You wanted the best, you got ’em, four abreast, often imitated, never duplicated, the greatest show on dirt, the World of Outlaws.” Johnny Gibson, the World of Outlaws Sprint Car announcer starts every feature race this way as the cars parade around the track four-wide. Eat your heart out, “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines.” Cameron Neveu
Bicycling, as seen above, is caused by the right rear tire sticking better than expected. Driver Justin Grant was able to save this near-catastrophe by quickly turning right, setting the car back down on all four wheels. Cameron Neveu
A view from the back of a sprint car highlights the offset rear axle; a necessity for cornering quickly. The round tail is actually the car’s fuel cell, emblazoned with the driver’s number and protected by chrome tubing. Cameron Neveu
A slower car’s breather spews oil out of the engine and onto its hot headers, causing a smoke screen for defending USAC National Sprint Car Champion CJ Leary. Cameron Neveu
A short wheel-base, a tall gear, and big sticky Hoosiers are the proper ingredients for killer wheelies. Cameron Neveu
Sprint cars and sunsets go together like milk and cookies. Cameron Neveu
The Terre Haute Action Track is an intimidating, high-speed track in Southwest Indiana. Concrete barriers line the perimeter of the track while metal highway guardrails mark the inside of the corners. AJ Foyt, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon have all claimed victories at this historic half-mile. Cameron Neveu
Unlike Terre Haute, Gas City Speedway doesn’t have barriers. No catch fence, no problem. Cameron Neveu
Ford GT40, Porsche 917; add “sprint car” to the Gulf livery roster. Cameron Neveu
The cage stand is a staple for any non-wing victory lane celebration. Upon winning the driver usually parks the car on the front stretch of the track and straddles the roll cage while saluting the crowd. “4-10, 4-10, 4-10!” Cameron Neveu