Is Conventional Oil Bad for Racing Engines?

Conventional oil is derived directly from crude oil, refined and combined with some amount of viscosity enhancing additives. It’s cheaper than synthetic or formulated types, and can be good for average cars. It’s always best to check your car manual, most modern cars now use 5W-20 or 5W-30 viscosity grade for regular city driving, and some also recommend 10W-30.


However, ordinary or conventional oil won’t cut on race tracks. First of all, racing engines run on higher temperatures, therefore you’ll need higher oil viscosity. Oil gets thinner with higher temperatures and high viscosity grades have more resistance to that. Low viscosity oil can’t handle the heat from high performance engines, and will increase heat friction between the moving parts of your engine – and as a racer and car owner, you wouldn’t want to be in such a situation. Oil is the blood of your engine and it should prevent parts from grinding at each other, otherwise this will damage your engine. Better to invest on the right oil grade rather than spending money on expensive engine repair.


Our aim in choosing the right oil viscosity for racing engines is to reduce friction, and provide the anti-wear that the engine parts need. Having the right oil grade can also increase horsepower at around 1-3%. Oil suppliers won’t divulge all the composition details on their motor oil, therefore it’s good to check on brand preferences, and recommendations by the engine manufacturer. Switching to new oil brands or viscosity grade is always a gamble, so consult first with those who have been working on specific engines for a long time.


Some racing engines with increasing bearing clearances use 20W-50. These are mostly used on road racing and circular tracks. Also, some engines have different oil operating temperatures. For example, World of Outlaws 410 Sprint engine has a high temperature range that can go as much as 300⁰F, and this can use 15W-50 grade. A NASCAR sprint cup engine has an oil operating temperature at 220°F, and can use 10W-30. In drag racing like NHRA Funny cars and Top Fuel dragsters, these engines use SAE 70W racing oil.

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