A Beginner’s Guide to American Racing

A Beginner’s Guide to American Racing

The land of the free offers many racing experiences under its star-spangled banner. We highlight three of the most intriguing ones.

Photo credit: pxhere/pixabay

No matter the place or time, the American racing scene has some of the most diverse cultures worldwide. From oval racing to dirt, nothing is left undiscovered. Of course there are many more components of American racing that we weren’t able to cover here. But these three are by far the most engaging.


An excellent place to start exploring American racing culture is the biggest racing scene in the US. The stock-car-based races are often held on oval tracks. There are three different types of ovals that are divided by the length of their respective track.

  • Short track – Under a mile-long circuit (Bristol Motor Speedway).
  • Speedway – Between one and two mile-long circuit. The expression is sometimes used for every oval track (Darlington/Homestead).
  • Superspeedway – Everything over two miles (Daytona/Talladega).

Sometimes, NASCAR also finds its way onto road courses like Circuit of the Americas, or so-called “Rovals” – part road course, part oval. One example of this is Charlotte Roval.

The Cup Series is NASCAR’s prime league. It is comparable to F1, while the second-highest league, the Xfinity Series, is much like F2.

A NASCAR from the Cup Series
A NASCAR from the Cup Series, the highest league of the sport. Photo credit: Ken Lane

People who enjoy overtakes and constant struggles for position find this type of racing especially fascinating. The extreme speed of most NASCAR races leaves no room for mistakes. Sometimes only centimeters (or inches for that matter) separate the wall from the driver.

We spoke with iRacing caster, producer, and racing enthusiast Justin Prince about the thrill of oval racing. He told us:

Think about it this way: On dirt or pavement oval, you miss your mark by a couple of inches, you are potentially getting free trained or smacked into the wall. There is just a tiny margin of error. On the pro level especially. You will need to be near picture-perfect to be able to compete at the highest levels.

The esports part of NASCAR holds a rich field of competition. The most relevant league is the that includes a prize pool of $300,000. The series also includes multiple intriguing personalities, like Keegan Leahy and Ray Alfalla, who make every round a treat to watch.

Justin Prince offers an explanation of why eNASCAR is so appealing:

One thing I would tell anyone who never watched eNASCAR is: You never know what’s going to happen. Some of the service’s best racing takes place in this series, which is one of the main reasons. Because the racers know every race could be their last. They can’t effort to have a bad night because the competition is so strong.

But there are also series like the NASCAR Heat Pro League that holds their races on the official NASCAR Heat game, on both Xbox and PlayStation. All in all, it is great to see competitors fight for money in their preferred racing series, such as NASCAR. Mainly because most people can’t raise the funds to sustain their dream in real life.


IndyCar is often called the US equivalent to F1. While similarities do exist, there are fundamental differences between both. The main reason for this comparison is the irrelevancy of F1 in large parts of America.

Just from observing the cars, many parts look relatively similar. Yet, the IndyCar series has a standardized model of car which each team uses. The Dallara DW12 has been present in the series since 2012.

Fernando Alonso's McLaren in 2017
Fernando Alonso’s McLaren in 2017. It is the Dallara DW12. Photo Credit: Zach Catanzareti

That way each team starts from the same foundation. The extremely light build of the car allows for highly intense races as top speeds of close to 300 kmh (186 mph) can lead to dangerous battles. T

Similar to NASCAR, IndyCar hosts races on ovals and road courses. Together with street circuits, each make up about 33% of the race calendar each season. Oval races can be especially nail-biting, as the high speeds can be extremely punishing, because the drivers are in a constant struggle to get through traffic and hold position. More often than not, there is close to no space left during an overtake.

The series also holds a large percentage of women compared to other premier racing series. For the over 20 years of its existence, IndyCar featured eight women in total.

The biggest IndyCar event every year is Indy 500. At this event, the teams race a total of 500 miles around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The first iteration of Indy 500 took place back in 1911. IndyCars have raced the event since 1983. Every year millions of people watch it on TV, and a total of 400,000 live viewers makes it the biggest single-day race event worldwide.

Indy500 is the American equivalent to Formula 1. Photo credit: bnpositive/Flickr

The esports side of IndyCar is relatively underdeveloped. Earlier this year, there were multiple showcases of IndyCar esports, though.

But ever since the real-life sport returned, there have hardly been any events in competitive IndyCar esports. Besides the annual virtual Indy 500, there is no relevant series that is based on IndyCar. In the future, it would be great to see more people venture into the world of these fast little demons virtually, so the possibility of an esports series would rise.

Dirt Racing

Put on your worst pair of shorts, and let’s hop onto the US’s dirt tracks. What is a far fetch for many Europeans is very much present in American racing culture. In fact, it is the single most common form of motor racing in the United States, with hundreds of local racetracks nationwide.

There are many sorts of dirt racing. Most of them revolve around clay or dirt surfaced oval tracks. These tracks are small and thus full of overtakes and excitement. The cars used in such races vary. Some of the most popular races include so-called sprint cars.

A sprint car with its characteristic wings
A sprint car with its characteristic wings. Photo credit: Dirttrackfacts.

These vehicles boast a wing on top of their chassis most of the time (the only exceptions are ‘non-winged sprint cars’), which the driver can control. The wing is a feature that helps the cars generate a lot of downforce or more speed, depending on what the driver chooses to do at a certain moment.

Racing with sprint cars is often wild and unpredictable. Some of the highlights can be observed in the World of Outlaws series, which features the most prominent sprint car races.

Other common guests on dirt tracks are Late Models, Legend Cars and modified cars. All of them are featured in their own class and each type holds its own individual appeal.

Unlike IndyCar, the dirt racing scene includes multiple interesting esports series. Mainly on iRacing, leagues like the 2020 World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Championship Series and the iRacing World of Outlaws NOS Energy Sprint Car World Championship attract thousands of curious eyes.

So many that iRacing plans on releasing a new dirt racing series at the start of next year.

Justin Prince also casts for those series and told us what he thought after commentating his first dirt race: “What I found particularly great was the excitement and the intensity. There is always back and forth racing, as well as unique storylines.”

Earlier this year, we spoke with Chase Raudman, who casts different dirt racing series for iRacing alongside Justin, and he agreed: “I love dirt racing. It is the rawest motorsports experience you can get. There is nothing quite like it. Maybe I’m not that much of a pavement guy, but I just enjoy the dirt stuff so much.”

So no matter how foreign it looks to many, dirt racing holds a lot of fantastic racing potential in the future, and we at OverTake will be sure to follow it.

Do you want to know more about American racing? Tell us on Twitter at @overtake_gg!