Walking around the pit row prior to a NASCAR race, there is a familiar hum coming out of the pit stall of every team. That sound is the hum of a generator, increasingly being powered by Honda.
What is a generator? In simple terms, a generator is a device that converts motive power into electrical power. Honda Generators power some of the biggest teams in NASCAR — Stewart-Hass, Ganassi Racing, Petty Motorsports and Kyle Busch Motorsports — and roughly 75 percent of all teams use Honda.
Some of the most iconic racetracks also use the generators from Honda. Talladega, Bristol, Kentucky, Sonoma and Dover all use them for everything from powering the timing and start/finish line activities to portable lighting, emergency equipment and other track functions where wired power isn’t available.
How Do NASCAR Teams Use a Generator?
The generator is the large box next to each car on the starting grid prior to a race. And its primary purpose is to heat up the car’s fluids before the race, prior to the car even being started. The generator has a cord that hooks up to the car via a cable that runs directly to the oil tank. Tiny probes in the tank generate heat and begin to warm the oil.
In about 20 minutes, the oil is warm and ready for the demands and high speeds needed by a NASCAR driver. The entire engine and cooling system are heated; this means the block and heads and all internals and everything else attached to them. This includes the radiator and lines, injection, oil pan and oil pump.
Preheating the engine reduces start-up wear, saves teams from burning gallons of precious fuel waiting for the engine to come up to desired temperature and allows an engine to produce maximum horsepower as soon as it hits the track. It’s been said that firing a cold engine puts more wear on it than an entire race.
“The last thing we do prior to the start of the race is to warm the engine oil to 200 degrees Fahrenheit with the generator while the car is lined up on the grid,” said John Smetlzer, former engine tuner for Jeff Gordon. There are many other things they use them for in the garage areas too, like powering tools and anything else that needs electricity.
How Do NASCAR Fans Utilize a Generator at the Racetrack?
It’s all about the tailgate. Honda Generators are also a favorite amongst race fans.
“We use the generator for everything at our campsite,” said Mimi as she stood next to her husband Jim, Wisconsin natives who drive their RV to the Bristol Night Race every year and camp for a week. “Our TVs, air conditioner — everything you see is being powered by a generator. The beer just wouldn’t be as cold without it. And, it’s extremely quiet, unlike a few we’ve had in the past.”
All Honda Generators are powered by Honda 4-stroke engines that make these generators among the world’s quietest. Honda generators for typical residential use average 68-72 decibels (dB) (at rated load at 7m, average of four sides), with the Super Quiet series operating at noise levels as low as 49 dB, roughly the noise level in a private office.
Few professional sports allow the kind of fan access that NASCAR does. That level of access goes right down to fans using the exact same kind of equipment that their favorite drivers do.