NASCAR Is Testing Mufflers for Its Big-City Races

NASCAR will see if it can make its cars quieter without harming the crucial piece of the spectator experience: dozens of thundering V8s.
NASCAR's Clash at the Coliseum in 2022
Getty Images

NASCAR will test a raft of potential updates this weekend for its troubled Next Gen stock car. Among them will be the addition of exhaust mufflers, which NASCAR is considering using for races in big cities like Chicago and Los Angeles.

NASCAR announced the test Wednesday, stating it had invited six Cup Series teams to partake in a trial at Phoenix Raceway. In addition to aero tweaks, and changes to reduce rubber buildup in wheel wells, cars at the test will be fitted with mufflers to quiet them down. NASCAR anticipates these will reduce their volume by six to 10 decibels, or by as much as half.

NASCAR is considering using the mufflers at two of its biggest city races on the 2023 Cup Series calendar, the Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, California, and its new street race in Chicago, Illinois. On these relatively enclosed circuits, the cars’ exhaust could be amplified beyond tolerable limits, even with ear protection. NASCAR acknowledges that sound is a crucial component of the spectator experience though, and its Vice President of Vehicle Performance Dr. Eric Jacuzzi emphasized that the changes won’t stifle the exhaust noise too much.

Jacuzzi said he knows it’s important not to mask the V8 engines’ character, adding that spectators will still need hearing protection with the mufflers installed. Otherwise, the cars’ drivetrains won’t get any other mechanical changes for the street races, with a retune being the only other likely change.

“It’s a little less harsh,” Jacuzzi said of the muffled exhaust sound. “It’s still going to be loud, and you should still wear ear protection, all those things, but it’s just going to knock some of that edge off. It’s not quite as aggressive, but it’ll sound the same.”

NASCAR stock car on-track at Phoenix Raceway. Alejandro Alvarez via NASCAR

Again, NASCAR says it’s only considering mufflers for these two specific city races, not for the rest of the calendar. Nobody’s cracking down on loud race cars, and NASCAR isn’t becoming whatever “woke” is. It just knows that it’s good business not to make such a ruckus that locals don’t want you back, especially when it comes to building a fanbase in two of the biggest cities in the United States. After all, more fans of stock car racing is good for everyone involved, no matter where they’re from.

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