How many cars are in a NASCAR race? All the facts and details

How many cars are in a NASCAR race? All the facts and details

Ciku Njuguna
updated at November 2, 2023 at 3:05 PM

In 2016, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing remodelled its business model. This move involved changes to the series schedule, the number of chartered teams and the number of cars in a full field. Most notably, the competition was left with a smaller field size, with only 36 teams out of the original 43. Dig in here for a comprehensive look at how many cars are in a NASCAR race.

How many cars are in a NASCAR race?
The #51 Nurtec Ford, #15 Jungle Law Ford and #5 cars drive during the NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood 400 at Kansas Speedway on September 10, 2023 in Kansas City, Kansas. Photo by Jay Biggerstaff.
Source: Getty Images

How many cars can race in NASCAR? Since the early 1950s, the number of fielded cars has been slimmed down owing to several reasons. This article dives into the specifics of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing's charter system and how many cars are in the NASCAR 2023 race.

How many cars does a typical NASCAR team have?

Over the history of NASCAR history, car numbers have varied for various reasons, such as improving competitiveness and safety. Today, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing has set limits for teams, restricting their car numbers to no more than four.

How many cars were there in a NASCAR race in the 1950s?

According to MotorRacingSport, over 80 vehicles competed in the Southern 500 in 1950. However, consistent trimming reduced the car numbers to 43 in the early 2000s until 2012.

Why is there only 40 cars in NASCAR now?
Cars take the pace lap in the 1970 Daytona 500 led by the winged Chrysler Corp cars (front) in February 1970, Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group.
Source: Getty Images

Additionally, efforts by the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing to reduce car numbers were partly made to stop start-and-park drivers. The 'start-and-park' phenomenon guaranteed drivers profit by starting and pulling out of the race after a few laps without completing the race.

How many cars could race in NASCAR in 2016?

In 2016, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing chairman Brian France, announced a remodel of the program that guaranteed 36 spots for charter teams. In an interview with the company's Chief Operating Officer, Brent Dewar restated details of the new system, saying,

"A field for us is 36 cars, not 40."

How many cars are in the NASCAR race today?

At the time of writing, there are 17 teams in America's major racing program, the Cup Series. For each annual National racing series, every unit is limited to four cars from a manufacturer of their choice. According to the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, all the cars in a team must bear a different number, driver and crew chief.

Why are there 43 cars in a NASCAR race?
The #1 Monster Energy Chevrolet leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on July 13, 2019, in Sparta, Kentucky. Photo by Matt Sullivan.
Source: Getty Images

However, each team can field a varying number of drivers. While teams such as Stewart-Haas Racing carry up to six drivers, including Aric Almirola, Chase Briscoe, Cole Custer, Kevin Harvick, Riley Herbst, and Ryan Preece, other teams such as Wood Brothers and JTG Daugherty Racing have only one driver each.

How many backup cars do NASCAR teams have?

Typically, each team has a backup car. In preparation for a race, crews transport their primary and spare vehicles to the race course in two-story high hauliers. However, teams can not switch vehicles mid-race. To replace a damaged or faulty car, the driver would have to forfeit their position and begin from the rear end of the race.

How many cars race in the NASCAR playoffs?

Only sixteen drivers can qualify for the Cup Series Playoffs, which takes place in four rounds. In each elimination race, four drivers are removed from the playoffs. Additionally, only twelve drivers are allowed to take part in the three-round Xfinity Series, while 10 drivers are fielded in the Craftsman Truck Series competitions.

How many cars qualify for a NASCAR race?
A general view of cars entering the pit road during the NASCAR Cup Series M&M's Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 24, 2022, in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Photo by Logan Riely.
Source: Getty Images

How many cars are in the NASCAR All-Star race?

In 2023, 22 drivers participated in the 2023 All-Star Open at the North Wilkesboro Speedway. Here is a list of the 2023 NASCAR All-Star Open drivers.

  1. Christopher Bell
  2. Ryan Blaney
  3. Alex Bowman
  4. Chase Briscoe
  5. Chris Buescher
  6. Kyle Busch
  7. William Byron
  8. Ross Chastain
  9. Austin Cindric
  10. Austin Dillon
  11. Chase Elliott
  12. Denny Hamlin
  13. Kevin Harvick
  14. Erik Jones
  15. Brad Keselowski
  16. Kyle Larson
  17. Joey Logano
  18. Tyler Reddick
  19. Daniel Suárez
  20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  21. Martin Truex Jr.
  22. Bubba Wallace
Why does NASCAR not have 43 cars?
A view of the cars rounding the corner at the start of the race during the NASCAR Busch Series Hot Wheels.Com 300 on 13th November 1999 at the Homestead - Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Photo by David Taylor /Allsport.
Source: Getty Images

The top 2 finalists of the 100-lap All-Star Open event and the fan-voted winner progressed to the May 21st All-Star Race. The All-Star event featured a 200-lap event with a break in lap 100, with the winner taking home a $1 million prize.

How many cars were in the NASCAR race in Chicago in 2023?

The 2023 NASCAR Chicago line-up featured 38 drivers. The Cup Series, also known as the Grant Park 220, was a street course race that took drivers through a 12-turn, 2.2-mile course across major Chicago roads.

Wrapping up

The sheer speed of NASCAR vehicles may make it difficult for fans to know how many cars are in a NASCAR race. The number of cars and teams fluctuates, which keeps everyone on their toes. Sports Brief's deep dive makes it easier for fans to understand the numbers.

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In 2023, initial rumours of Dodge's return to NASCAR filled fans with hope. Find out why the top-ranking car manufacturer is not racing in the program.

Ciku Njuguna photo
Ciku Njuguna
Ciku Njuguna is a journalist with 3 year’s experience in content creation based in Kenya. She currently covers sports personnel as well as team biographies.