How Stock Car Racing Techniques Work

Heel and Toe Stock Car Racing


Inside or outside the car, the action in a race happens on the curves. Curves are the most likely locations for passing, and they're where drivers have to focus most on handling. Taking a curve well means slowing down on the approach and then accelerating smoothly and promptly out of it.


Now consider this: Many stock cars have manual transmissions. Slowing down or speeding up involve shifting gears. On the street, a driver might just push in the clutch for whole turn, but on the racecourse, that's a bad idea. When the clutch is engaged, the engine is idling. Getting back up to race speed will make the car buck, because the engine suddenly has to go from idling to thousands of RPMs. Bucking damages the clutch and transmission, and it makes the car harder to control [source: Romans]. Heel-and-toe downshifting is the solution.

Heel-and-toe technique is basically an intricate seated dance that helps the driver match engine RPMs to wheel speed. You can actually try it in a typical stick-shift street car. Here's how:

  • As you approach the turn, begin to brake. Your right foot should be on the brake pedal. You may want to cheat your foot toward the accelerator (throttle) pedal.
  • Engage the clutch with your left foot.
  • Move the outside of your right heel to press on the accelerator. You still have the ball of your right foot on the brake pedal, and you're still pressing it. And you still have your left foot pressing the clutch. You've just pivoted on the ball of your right foot. The pressure of your right heel is letting you raise the engine RPMs, even though the vehicle is decelerating.
  • Because the clutch is engaged, the pressure on the accelerator doesn't actually speed up the car. Instead, it revs the engine. Watch the tachometer. In a street car, if you're downshifting one gear, you'll probably want to raise the RPMs by one or two thousand. In a race car, the numbers will be different.
  • Downshift.
  • Release the clutch [source: Romans].

­In a stock car race, all that happens in less than a second. And it might happen while someone is rear-ending you -- on purpose. Continue reading to find out about the bump draft.