How NASCAR Racing Grooves Work

Multiple Grooves
Daytona International Speedway has multiple racing grooves -- three, in fact.
Daytona International Speedway has multiple racing grooves -- three, in fact.
Brian Cleary/RacingOne/­Getty Images

­By now, you know that some tracks on the NASCAR circuit have multiple grooves. Whether or not a track has more than one groove depends on how wide the turns are. When a track has more than one groove, that means the turns are a great place for passing. If a car can get around another car on a turn, it can then cut in front of the car it just passed to take the lead position when the track straightens out. While using multiple grooves for passing on the turns makes for exciting races, it can also be very dangerous. Turns are always pressure-filled points on any NASCAR track. A little bump or nudge from another car in a turn can end a driver's race day in a split-second.

When a NASCAR track has two grooves, the one on the outside is referred to as the upper groove, and the one on the inside is called the lower groove. When a track has three grooves, the upper and lower grooves keep their names and the middle groove is called -- you guessed it -- the middle groove.

When it comes to race strategy, the conventional wisdom is for drivers to take and hold the inside groove. That means they have a shorter distance to cover. It also means that most passing takes place in either the middle or upper grooves. If a track has only a single groove, cars will battle for position on the long straight sections of the track and fall into line for the turns. Each track on the NASCAR circuit offers its own, unique style of racing. NASCAR aficionados may debate over which tracks offer the best grooves for racing excitement; but now that you know the basics of NASCAR racing grooves, you can join in the debate, too.

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  • Bonsor, Kevin and Nice, Karim. "How NASCAR Safety Works: Track Banking." Feb. 23, 2001. (Nov. 26, 2008)
  • Briggs, Josh. "How NASCAR Tire Technology Works." 25, 2008. (Nov. 26, 2008)
  • NASCAR Glossary. "Groove." (Nov. 26, 2008)