The track is tri-oval in shape. The banking, or the slope of the track, ranges from 31 degrees in the turns to 18 degrees on the front stretch and three degrees on the nearly level backstretch. How steep is 31 degrees? It's like a ski slope. If the banking weren't this steep, the cars would fly off the track while trying to go through the corners at maximum speeds.
The steep banks at Daytona International Speedway
are what enable the cars to travel at such high speeds.
Drivers at Daytona and similar big tracks employ a strategy called "drafting." The front car punches a hole in the air, and the trailing cars ride in the wake -- the vacuum -- of the front car. (Imagine riding down the highway and sticking your hand out the window; it is met with a hard push of air. Drop your hand behind the side-view mirror, and the push subsides; the mirror breaks the wind. Basically, your hand is "drafting" behind the mirror.)
Two or more cars drafting together can pick up speed, while a car running by itself will fall behind. So how does the trailing car pass? The trick is to gather speed in the vacuum and use that momentum to burst out and around, or slingshot past, the lead car.
Download this PDF to see a diagram of Daytona International Speedway. Then go to the next page to learn how drivers prepare themselves and their cars for the rigors of racing at Daytona.
For more information on NASCAR and on high-performance cars, check out:
- The Daytona 500 has produced some legendary finishes. We pinpoint the best of the best in The Top 10 Daytona 500s Ever.
- Ever wonder what makes a stock car go? Read How NASCAR Race Cars Work to find out.
- Driver safety is a huge concern in NASCAR. Learn what measures the series takes in this area by reading How NASCAR Safety Works.
- Muscle cars embody the NASCAR philosophy of speed and power. Here are features on more than 100 classic muscle cars, including photos and specifications for each model.