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Why Do Race Cars Go In Circles?

Why Do Race Cars Drive In Circles?

May is racing season in Indy, but you can race anyday the Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience is open! At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pedal Car Racetrack Experience and Church Brothers Collision Repair Drag Strip, you can pedal fast to get the rewarding checkered-flag wave! 

Before we all take a turn in the Winner’s Circle, we’re curious about just that—turns! Why do race cars go in circles? We looked across the Atlantic for the answer. The German Way explains:

OVALS, NOT CIRCLES

It’s important to notice that the race tracks you’re accustomed to seeing are actually ovals, not circles. If the tracks were completely circular, the drivers would constantly be turning. It’s harder to build speed when you’re turning, so the stretches of track on the long side of the oval are there to let drivers put the pedal to the metal. You’ll often see drivers taking wide turns along the outside of the track to maintain that speed they built up.

WHY COUNTER-CLOCKWISE?

One of the main reasons racers drive counter-clockwise is for safety. Since we sit on the left side of our vehicles in the United States, driving counter-clockwise keeps the driver closer to the inside of the track. In case two cars collide along the outer wall of the track, the drivers are in less danger of being pressed against the wall and being injured. The car takes damage, but the driver is much safer. Being on the left also gives the driver a greater field of vision during turns, which is helpful for avoiding accidents altogether.

OVALS VS. CIRCUITS

Not all race tracks are ovals! Some races, like the popular Formula One, are held on winding circuits instead. These types of races are particularly popular in Europe, but IndyCar and NASCAR have made oval-track racing the dominant form of racing in the United States. Since a single lap on the oval track would be over very quickly, drivers go around the track many times during the race. The oval track lets spectators get a good view for the entire race, which makes sure the seats are packed at every big race.

Looking for more Never Stop Asking "Why?" questions? Catch up on all of the past "Whys" on the blog! Then, get the family in gear to visit the Racing Experience at the Riley Children's Health Sports Legends Experience!