Endurance racing & stock cars: Do they have anything in common?

By J.A. Ackley
May 12, 2024 | Carolina Motorsports Park, Lucky Dog Racing League, Project Endurance Race Miata | Posted in Columns | Never miss an article

Photography by J.A. Ackley

What does endurance and oval-track racing have in common? More than you realize. And both can learn something from each other.

Prior to joining Grassroots Motorsports earlier this year, I had been intimately involved in oval-track racing for more than two decades. A little more than a week ago, I covered my first full endurance racing event–the Lucky Dog Racing League event at Carolina Motorsports Park.

As the races went on, I experienced several instances of déjà vu. The world of long-distance road racing certainly has a lot in common with the short tracks I cut my teeth at.

Both Follow an Old Adage


To finish first, you must first finish.

Cliché? Very much so.

Accurate? Absolutely.

Road racers often say oval-trackers overbuild their cars. Well, try racing door handle to door handle, lap after lap, on a tight quarter-mile.

Contact is inevitable. Oval-track car builders construct their cars to last. But, how is that any different for endurance racers?

While road racing discourages contact, two 7-hour races test the durability of a machine. Instead of a fellow competitor rattling a car, the constant braking, accelerating, cornering, and maybe the riding a curb or two do it instead.

Unlike stock cars, which often hardly have anything stock, many of the cars at the Lucky Dog event were relatively true to their showroom roots. It impresses me that they go the distance. The parts on these cars weren’t designed for racing–they were designed for fetching groceries. However, several teams had their weekends come to a close early when parts failed.

Things need to stay cool, lubed and, most importantly, together. That applies whether you’re going seven hours on a 2-plus-mile road course or 100 laps on an oval less than a half-mile.

In the Pits


The Lucky Dog Racing League required teams at CMP to stay in their pit for seven minutes for a fuel stop. Surprisingly, seven minutes go fairly quickly. Within that span, you start asking questions.

How’s the setup for refueling?

Is the next driver ready to hop in once fueling finishes?

Are necessary spare parts, tires and tools in the stall? Are they organized so you can quickly grab them in a scramble to make a repair or setup adjustment?

Surprisingly, I saw very few “war wagons.” While popular in NASCAR, you also find them at many Saturday-night short tracks. These pit boxes carry everything a team needs to make fast repairs. They do not need to be NASCAR fancy, but a well-organized toolbox can cut valuable time in the pits so a racer can spend more time logging laps and gaining positions. That’s no different for an oval-tracker or an endurance racer.

[10 Endurance Race Essentials (That They Probably Didn’t Mention in Driver School)]

The Racer Spirit


If you’re going to be successful in anything, you got to love the grind. Behind every minute of glory are hours of hard work. A great representation of that came between Saturday’s and Sunday’s races. Several teams thrashed throughout the evening and in the dark to fix their cars.

I love that never-quit attitude.

Is it determination or being delusional?

Well, it depends on your perspective.

Either way, an example of that spirit came with our V6-powered Miata endurance racer. Our Saturday ended when the car lost the ability to transfer power to the wheels. Immediately, the team went to work.

Tom Suddard and Steve Sanguinetti started disassembling the drivetrain while Tim Suddard and Wayne Presley sought parts.

The long, frustrating operation of taking out the transmission to remove a suspected failed clutch resulted in finding that it was perfectly okay.

Instead, in the back we found an axle had been stripped.

Game over for the weekend.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t for naught.

The team may have spent hours to finally determine the root of the problem, but we could still smile.

We were fast.

We enjoyed our time together and making new friends at the track.

And, we reminded ourselves we really want to race.

That’s the racer spirit, and that transcends whatever discipline you compete in, whether it’s on an oval or on a road course.

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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
10/5/22 11:50 a.m.

Really cool to have this sort of insight into both worlds, especially since I'm not well-versed in the world of circle-track racing.

Thanks, J.A.

MotorsportsGordon Dork
10/6/22 12:11 a.m.

Well a friend of mine who came from dirt racing and racing dirt late models here in Edmonton and now works in Toronto for a big car club just won a lucky dog endurance race this past weekend in calabogie.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
10/6/22 8:39 p.m.

I kind of enjoy it when people say circle track drivers can't drive.  I once got to see Michael Waltrip show up to do a legends car race on a road course.  It turns out fast drivers are fast....  he won by a lot.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
10/6/22 8:40 p.m.

On an oval you spend almost every second challenging the friction circle of optimal traction.  You get lots of skill that way quickly.

livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand Reader
1/8/23 3:25 p.m.

There are a few people alive that were at the same event I was where I got to run an autocross against Lynn St.James in a Ford Probe at the Roanoke Civic Center. I had never driven one before and I have no idea how much seat time she had before the event, but I suspect she had some. She kicked major ass that day including mine of course. She knew how to find the edge of the friction circle and hang on for dear life. As I recall it was a figure 8 course so it was mostly skidpad kind of driving...but she sent everyone packing. Not ashamed to get beaten by her. :) Trans Am driver put on a postage stamp auto cross course and still kicked butt. It goes to show that if you can drive it almost doesn't matter where you are, the talent shows.

j_tso Dork
1/8/23 3:28 p.m.

There's going to be a stock car at Le Mans this year so we're going to find out.

Tyler H
Tyler H GRM+ Memberand UberDork
1/8/23 4:27 p.m.

In my experience, good drivers are good drivers, regardless of their specialty.

I hear NASCAR is the featured marque at The Mitty this year.  

MotorsportsGordon Dork
1/9/23 12:40 p.m.
MotorsportsGordon said:

Well a friend of mine who came from dirt racing and racing dirt late models here in Edmonton and now works in Toronto for a big car club just won a lucky dog endurance race this past weekend in calabogie.

She just recently won a big global female racing competition and will have a couple of starts in gt4 car in British gt

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) UberDork
1/9/23 11:38 p.m.
j_tso said:

There's going to be a stock car at Le Mans this year so we're going to find out.

It won't be the first time.  They added the chicanes because American stock car based endurance race was just too fast on the Mulsanne.  It's amazing what  you can do with stock car technology when weight and downforce restrictions go away. 

DavyZ Reader
5/12/24 10:17 p.m.

I'm glad this one was bumped up again to read--very cool stuff here.  I really liked this topic!

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