Sprint Car 101: The Chassis

Jason Johnson

(WOMR file photo)

Sprint Car Chassis

The 21st century sprint car chassis has evolved over nearly  a century, from its humble beginnings of a two seater car utilizing components from a Ford Model T, to today’s lightweight, lightening quick, race car.

In that nearly one century, the basic size and configuration has changed very little.  If you were to look a some of those classic photos from the 1930’s, you would see the similarities to today’s sprint cars.

These cars are constructed form aircraft quality steel tubing, and are unlike Champ Cars and Formula One cars, which use expensive, high tech composite materials.  While the engineering principals used in sprint cars construction is simple, they are extremely strong, and can withstand high speed impacts.

The wheelbase of these sprint cars are relatively short, 83 and 90 inches.  The Champ Cars, in comparison, have a wheelbase of 120 inches. The USAC Silver Crown cars have a larger wheelbase, 102 inches, compared to the sprint cars.  However, the most common wheelbase for these sprint cars are 87 or 88 inches.

You may see a sprint car chassis described as 88/40 or 87/40, etc. An 88/40 description refers to the fact that the wheelbase (center of the front axle to the center of the rear axle) is 88 inches, and the front motor plate is 40 inches from the center of the rear axle, this is known as engine setback.

The chassis in use today are all very similar in design.  This makes for a strong bonus for all competitors, since most components are interchangeable between chassis makes.  While the high dollar race teams may not bother repairing damaged race cars, most accident damage to a sprint car can repaired rather easily.  In fact the entire front end of the chassis can be cut off and replaced.  This is known as putting on a new “front clip”.

The next segment will deal with the sprint car tires.



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