How Fast Are the Drivers In a Race Actually Going?

If you’ve had the opportunity to attend a race in person, you’ve experienced the ground-shaking power of a pack of 700-plus horsepower machines hurtling past at what feels like an incredible rate of speed. So, how fast are they really going?  There’s only one way to answer that question, and it will require you to draw on your basic math skills.

It’s a simple calculation, really: distance divided by time equals speed in miles-per-hour. For example, let’s use a one mile track, like Dover International Speedway, and let’s assume a specific car completes a lap (one mile) in 25 seconds. Since an hour contains 3600 seconds, you need to factor in the proportion of an hour that 25 seconds represents, which mathematically is expressed as 3600/25, or 144. So the equation becomes D/T=S, where 1*(3600/25)=144 mph. The math is a little more complicated when the track size is not a simple one mile, as in the case of Talladega, a track 2.66 miles long. Here, it would work out like this for a 45-second lap: 2.66*(3600/45)=212.8 mph. (By the way, 212.809 is actually the NASCAR Sprint Cup record at Talladega that “Awesome” Bill Elliott set in 1987, and it still stands today.)

The good news is that you don’t need to know the math. There are apps available for download to your phone that can do it for you…you just need to input the variables (like track length and lap time) to get mph. Just set up the constants and use the stop watch app feature and you’re good to go. You can find them on iTunes and Google Play, for example, or a simple internet search for “apps for calculating lap speeds” will give you a list to choose from.


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