Glossary of Racing Terms
If you’re gonna sim-race, then you better know the lingo.
Here are definitions of both legitimate words, slang words and phrases commonly used in sim-racing. Don’t wonder about the meaning of these words ever again.
Commonly used abbreviation when referring to the all-important science of aerodynamics.
When following another vehicle closely, the airflow off the lead vehicle does not travel across the following one(s) in a normal manner. Therefore, down-force on the front of the trailing vehicle(s) is decreased and it does not turn in the corners as well, resulting in an “aero push.” This condition is more apparent on the exit of the turns.
The science of understanding different forces acting on a moving element in gasses such as air. The application of this study to racing is credited with much of the sport’s recent progress as teams learn more about drag, air turbulence, and down-force.
This is a term used to describe the changing of the direction of a spoiler or wing on a race car. Usually adjusting the angle of the spoiler creates down-force and gives more grip on the race track.
A metal strip that hangs beneath the front grill of a stock car, often just inches from the ground. The air dam helps provide aerodynamic down-force at the front of the car.
With the advent of radial tires with stiffer sidewalls, changing air pressure in the tires is used as another setup tool that is akin to adjusting spring rates in the vehicle’s suspension. An increase in air pressure raises the “spring rate” in the tire itself and changes the vehicle’s handling characteristics. If his race vehicle was “tight” coming off a corner, a driver might request a slight air pressure increase in the right rear tire to “loosen it up.”
ANGLE OF ATTACK
The angle of an Indy car style wing. The angle is varied by track to produce optimal down-force and minimize drag.
A lateral torsion bar used to resist or counteract the swaying force of the car body through the turns.
The geometric inside center point of a corner. In racing, a driver will often use a “late apex,” turning into the corner a little later than normal in order to straighten out the last part of the corner. This allows the driver to accelerate earlier and harder, gaining maximum speed down the next straight.
The paved portion of a racetrack that separates the racing surface from the infield. It is usually flat in comparison to the racing surface.
A car running off the pace near the rear of the field.
To slow down; often said of a driver who is attempting to pass and realizes he can’t make it, so he backs off to try again later.
When a driver takes his foot off the gas pedal (all the way or part way), he “backs out” or “lifts off.”
When a car doesn’t tend to over-steer or under-steer, but goes around the racetrack as if its on rails, it’s said to be in balance. See Neutral
On oval tracks, the corners are often tilted inward to provide faster speeds. On some road courses, certain turns may actually be banked outward, a very difficult type of corner known as “off-camber.”
A turn that’s inclined so the outside area is higher than the inside area.
A shallow turn.
Raised sections of asphalt or cement which runs along the inside and/or outside of a turn, usually painted colors to offset it from the track. Primarily used at apexes and track-out points as a driver’s aid.
The signal for a driver to come into the pits, usually to allow officials to inspect it to determine whether it can run safely after an accident. It may also mean that officials have already decided the car is to slow or too dangerous to continue running, as when it has a serious oil leak that makes the track slippery.
This flag is displayed by corner workers around the track to signal to a driver that a faster car is either approaching (steady flag) or attempting a pass (waved flag). The driver being flagged has no obligation to do anything other than be alert, maintain the racing line and avoid intentionally obstructing the faster car.
Brakes. Used in the expression “jumped on the binders.”
The amount of traction that a race car has at the rear wheels. Adjustments can be made to the car that puts more “bite” into the rear tires by adding weight or wedge to the car.
A turn in which the driver cannot see the apex or track-out until it is reached. Sometimes due to elevation changes, but can also be due to visual obstructions such as Armco, tire walls, or other barriers.
BLIP THE THROTTLE
To tap the accelerator pedal when downshifting in order to match the revolutions of the engine to the revolutions of the transmission to keep the drive wheels rotating smoothly.
Excessive heat can make a tire literally blister and shed rubber. Drivers can detect the problem by the resulting vibrations and risk more serious damage if they choose not to pit.
Racing term for changing position on the track to prevent drivers behind from passing. Blocking is accepted if a car is defending position in the running order but considered unsportsmanlike if lapped cars hold up more competitive teams.
Irreparable engine failure which ends a racer’s day.
A slang term for Supercharger.
1. An engine that has completely failed. 2. Slang term for a supercharged engine.
A miscue by a driver.
The amount of pressure generated by a turbocharger or supercharger as it forces the air/fuel mixture into a forced induction engine.
Nickname attributed to Chevrolet based on the likeness of its logo.
A lack of focus that can lead to making a mistake during a race.
In most cars, including street cars, pressing on the brake pedal applies a little more force to the front brakes than the rear. This is designed to take advantage of the fact that under braking, weight transfers to the front of the car. With lots of weight on the front tires, the brakes can be applied very hard without completely stopping the wheels from rotating (“locking the wheels”). At the same time, the rear of the car tends to get lighter, so the rear brakes must be engaged less than the fronts to avoid locking the rear wheels and possibly losing control. In a race car, brake bias is adjustable by the driver to compensate for changing conditions, such as on a wet track where there is less weight transfer to the front of the car under braking, or to adjust for a changing center of gravity as fuel is burned off.
Loss of braking effectiveness, usually caused by overheating. Brakes transform motion into heat. The heat in the rotors of a car can reach 5,000 degrees F. When the fluid in the brake system exceeds its boiling point due to hard use, bubbles can form in the brake lines and calipers. Since these bubbles can be squeezed smaller by pressure from the brake pedal, the pedal tends to “go soft” and may even go to the floorboard without the brakes working properly.
Nickname given to the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) which, although paved now, used to have a brick surface. The track hosts the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.
Burning fuel during the course of a race. As fuel is burned, the car becomes lighter and its handling characteristics change, challenging the driver and crew to make adjustments to achieve balance.
An advanced driving technique used to allow a car to both steer and brake. It is accomplished by pulsing the brake pedal to alternate between wheel lock-up and wheel rotation. This method is not as effective as threshold braking.
The angle that wheels are tilted inward or outward from vertical. If the top of the wheel is tilted inward, the camber is negative.
Acronym for Championship Auto Racing Teams Inc., the sanctioning organization for the PPG CART World Series.
Another measure of chassis tuning related to the front wheels. The front wheels are attached to the suspension at the top and bottom of the wheel assembly. The top attachment is typically set a little farther back than the lower attachment, creating caster. The more caster used, the more the wheel resists turning forces, providing stability. Too much caster makes it very difficult to steer, and causes the tire camber to change significantly as the wheel is turned. Not enough caster results in the front end “wandering,” or trying to turn on its own.
CENTER OF PRESSURE
The point on a Indy car under-wing which receives the greatest amount of airflow pressure. This measurement is critical to setting front to rear balance, especially on superspeedways.
The basic structure of a race car to which all other components are attached. Indy cars have carbon-fiber monocoque “tubs” while a NASCAR stock car has a steel tube frame chassis.
The up-and-down movement caused when a car travels around corners at high speeds. The side of the car facing the turn becomes lighter while the extra weight goes toward the outside of the turn.
Expression when the leader drives away from the rest of the field and will seem impossible to catch.
The black and white checkerboard style flag which signifies the end of a race.
A man-made corner set up to reduce speed at a certain point on a road track. Also referred to as “esses”.”
A softer compound rain tire will shed pieces of rubber if a track becomes too dry.
Any race track. Also refers to the entire slate of races on a season schedule.
Driving around a track with a damaged and/or slow car to accumulate laps and, more importantly, points and prize money.
Air without turbulence created in the wake of other race cars. Clean air is found at the very front of the field.
Minor contact between race cars. Also often refers to hitting precisely, or “clipping,” the apex of a turn.
The suspension, wheels and tires are mostly covered by the body. Production-based race vehicles such as NASCAR stock cars are examples of closed-wheel cars as opposed to open-wheel “formula” cars.
The area where the driver sits in a race car.
When a car is caught in an incident that they did not cause. If a car spins and is struck by a second car to a stop, the second car is said to be collected.
Combinations of engine, gearing, suspension, aerodynamic parts, and wheel and tire settings which teams forecast will work under varying conditions and tracks. These combinations (also known as set-ups) are recorded and used as baseline when teams arrive at a track.
The rubber blend for tires. In some series, teams can choose their tire compound based on the track and weather conditions. A softer compound tire provides better traction but wears out much faster than a harder compound tire which doesn’t provide as much grip.
See Type 3 Corner.
CONSTANT RADIUS CORNER
A corner in which the turning radius is constant.
The small portion of the tire that makes contact with the racing surface. This is one of the more important elements of a driver’s success, different modifications to the car’s body and tires can help the driver get a good contact patch.
Volunteers who staff corners to notify drivers of any dangerous situations in the area.
Engine manufacturing company which has cooperatively developed racing motors with Ford for many years. Named after co-founders Mike Costain and Keith Duckworth.
Turning the front wheels in the direction of a slide to prevent the car from spinning out of control.
A NASCAR term for getting the right hand side of the car close to the outside wall and rubbing the sheet metal and paint.
Acronym for “Data Acquisition Geek,” a computer expert who maintains a team’s Data Acquisition system and analyzes the data.
Teams use sophisticated sensors, transmitters, computers and software to provide information on what the car and the driver are doing. Everything from engine stress to the driver’s heartbeat can be monitored. The information is analyzed to improve handling, performance and even driver technique. Data can be acquired by connecting a computer to the car or by wireless telemetry. In sim-racing, this data is recorded during a race and is accessible to be analyzed, sometime with additional software, much like in real racing.
The trunk lid of a stock car.
DECREASING RADIUS CORNER
Where a turn becomes tighter before it’s exit, requiring progressively more steering input.
Close, exciting driving between 2 or more racers. Positions are exchanged frequently.
Did not finish.
Did not start.
Did not qualify.
This refers to the driver and crew making setup adjustments to achieve the car’s optimum handling characteristics.
A track that is not paved, with dirt, clay, or a mixture of the two.
Driving hard into a corner on a paved track causing the rear end to swing out wide as if on a dirt surface.
The turbulence created in the air flow behind a race car.
The downward force generated as air flows around a moving object. Indy series vehicles use wings while NASCAR vehicles use rearend spoilers to create downforce.
Shifting from a higher to a lower gear, used in road racing to slow a car without any significant change in engine speed.
Disqualified from the event. Usually for safety reasons, the car not meeting certain standards, or for negative behavior.
The aerodynamic effect that allows two or more cars traveling nose-to-tail to run faster than a single car. When one car follows another closely, the one in front cuts through the air, providing a cleaner path of air and less resistance for the car in back.
A term used in auto racing that relates to anything that causes wind resistance or affects the aerodynamics of air flow over the race car.
DRIFT or DRIFTING
A controlled, four-wheel slide through a turn, to get a car line up for a straightaway with a minimum of steering.
Points are awarded at each race based on finishing position. The driver accumulating the most points by the end of the season wins the drivers’ championship. A similar award system is used by most major series for a manufacturers’ championship.
The wheels that provide propulsion to a vehicle. The front wheels in front-wheel-drive cars and the rear in rear-wheel-drive cars.
This is when a driver is pulling away from the field with little challenge from anyone else in the race.
A car’s weight without any liquids such as gas and oil.
DROP THE HAMMER
Means a driver puts the petal to the metal.
A clear (or dry) line which develops after rain because of more frequent use.
A driver turns into a corner early.
Driving slower to conserve fuel.
The vertical end piece of a wing.
A series of acute left- and right-hand turns on a road course, one turn immediately following another.
Abbreviation for Formula One.
The driver that had the fastest lap during qualifying.
Federation Internationale de l’Automobile. This is the governing body for most auto racing around the world.
The group of cars that starts a race or the total number of cars in attendance.
FILL THE MIRRORS
A driver is pressuring another driver so feverishly that the rear-view mirror is filled their pursuer.
Movement of the rear end of a car from side to side. Also a verb, as in, “His car is really fishtailing as it comes out of the turn.”
The person standing on the tower above the Start/Finish Line who controls the race with a series of flags.
When drivers lock up brakes, they expose one area of their tires to excessive wear causing flat spots to develop. Flat spots lead to vibrations which may require a tire stop.
At top speed; with the accelerator to the floor.
When air is forced into an engine to increase horsepower, such as with supercharging and turbocharging.
Formula cars must fit within a specific set of design rules or “formula.” The formulas are usually quite complex, but basic issues include minimum weight, engine displacement, vehicle dimensions, wing sizes and placement, ground-effects tunnel size and configuration, tire and wheel size, and safety considerations.
A new set of tires acquired during a Pit Pass.
FULL TANK PRACTICE
Ordinarily, teams fill their fuel tanks for the last practice before a race to test handling characteristics. Before then, they practice and qualify with limited fuel to decrease weight and gain speed.
The garage area at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Large steel can used to fill the tank of NASCAR racers during a pit stop. A car usually holds two 10 gallon cans of fuel.
The person on a NASCAR pit crew that uses a small catch can to catch the overflow of gas from a rear pipe as the tank is filled on a pit stop.
The person on a pit crew with the job of filling the car with fuel from either a can (NASCAR venue) or from a filler hose (IRL, CART or F1).
A berm with exaggerated raised portions, often rough enough to deter drivers from driving over them.
Drivers use this to describe a mechanical part that fails.
GOES UP THROUGH THE GEARS
Refers to a driver up-shifting from the lowest to the highest gear.
A driver out brakes an opponent on the inside of a turn and makes a pass.
This French term meaning grand prize is widely used to refer to a race. At one time in racing, it was used exclusively for a series’ grand finale, usually the most important race.
The green flag is used by the starter to signal drivers that the race is under way, either at the start of the event or at the conclusion of a full-course yellow flag condition. Green flags are used by corner workers on road courses to let drivers know that they have passed beyond a yellow flag area and may resume passing.
A track that has little or no rubber on it from previous races. A green track is a bad condition that allows little or no traction for a race car.
The upper area of the race car that extends from the base of the windshield in the front, the tops of the doors on the sides, and the base of the rear window in the back. Includes all of the A, B and C pillars, the entire glass area and the car’s roof.
The starting order of cars, as determined by qualifying position.
The unseen “line” that provides the fastest way around a racecourse or racing circuit. The groove is not a fixed point or “trajectory” as it may change during a race. The groove may depend on such factors as temperature and moisture, as well as oil, water and rubber deposited on the track during a race – all of which impact race conditions to various degrees.
Aerodynamically designed parts which are fitted to the lower areas of a car to create additional down-force. Many production car owners add ground effects more for style than function.
A vertical extension to the back edge of an Indy car wing invented by racing legend Dan Gurney to generate more down-force, especially at higher angles of attack. This device is usually made of metal, aluminum or carbon fiber and is also known as a wickerbill or a return.
A competition in which cars are driven around a twisting course, executing certain specified maneuvers, against the clock.
A sharp, 180-turn which exits in the opposite direction a driver enters.
The driver has the pedal to the metal or has “dropped the hammer” full throttle.
A driving technique in which the accelerator is operated with the right heel and the brake pedal with the toes of the right foot. This allows the driver to ‘blip’ the throttle to bring up the engine revolutions to match the transmission revolutions, keeping the drive wheel rotating at a constant speed.
A drag racing term for beating an opponent off the starting line and winning a race despite having a slower elapsed time. Other racers use this term to describe a good start or restart.
HOLDING UP TRAFFIC
When a slower race car causes cars running faster on the track to slow and does not heed the “move over flag” of the race officials.
A car that is performing great because all parts are “hooked up” or working well together.
The estimated power needed to lift 33,000 lbs. one foot per minute roughly equated with a horse’s strength.
A car(s) is running at or near racing speed on the course.
A car(s) is/are on the track. Only crew members and racing officials are allowed into the pits for safety reasons.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Also referred to as the Brickyard.
The International Motor Sports Association. The North American road racing sanctioning body featuring prototype GTS sports car series.
INCREASING RADIUS CORNER
A corner in which the radius increases as you progress through it. Vehicle speed can usually be increased sooner through these types of corners.
The enclosed portion of a track which includes team garages on most oval tracks. During race weekends, this area is usually filled with large transporters, merchandise trailers, and driver and fan motorhomes.
INSIDE GROOVE OR LINE
On an oval track, this is the innermost racing line which is usually separated from the infield by a distinctly flat surface called an apron. On road courses, the inside groove refers to the line closest to the curbs or walls forming the inner portion of turns.
Dale Earnhardt’s nick name because of his driving style, which some might call reckless.
IN THE FENCE
A phrase used to describe the wreck of a race car involving several cars or only one car.
JUMP THE START
To start before the signal is given; usually in drag racing but sometimes in other forms of racing. “He jumped the start”.
A driver is distracted (or kept busy) by another driver who is relentlessly pursuing.
KICK A LEG OUT OF BED
An engine breaks a connecting rod which penetrates the engine block and ends a driver’s day. Announcers describe this as the engine “blowing up.”
The unofficial title given retired racer Richard Petty. Petty has a career high of seven NASCAR driving championships and a record setting 200 separate victories on the track.
1. Turbo lag. The time it takes a turbocharger to “boost” an engine’s power from the moment the driver pushes the throttle.
2. In online racing, the delay in receiving updated speed and position data to your computer resulting in competitors’ cars being in a different place than they are appearing on your screen. Excessive lag may result in disconnecting from a race.
A crash on the racetrack in sim racing caused when one player’s computer lags in getting the car’s speed and position information to the other players in the race. As a result, the other players get false information about where that car is in relation to the rest of the cars on the track. When the information is eventually updated, that player’s car may unfortunately in other cars way.
One complete circuit around the track. As a verb, when the leaders pass the cars at the back of the field, thus putting the second driver more than a lap behind, he is said to have lapped him.
Any race car that is running one or more laps down to the leader of the race.
The number of laps a car is running behind the leader of the race. It can range from only one lap to several hundred.
1.In drag racing it refers to getting a car in motion from the starting line.
2.A car can be propelled or launched into the air (all four wheels are off the ground) by hitting a severe bump or another car.
Turning into a corner late and missing the optimum apex point.
The race leader’s lap. If the leader laps you for the first time, you are no longer on the lead lap.
LE MANS START
A type of start in which the drivers, at the starting signal, run to their cars, start the engines, and begin racing.
Most commonly used when an engine fails or “blows up.” Announcers also use this term for other parts of a car that fail.
To raise or lift your foot of the gas pedal. Commonly used when drivers have to “lift” after an unsuccessful pass attempt to slow down and get back into the racing line.
Just like production cars, racers can lock up the brakes and even “flat spot” their tires at race speeds.
Commonly refers to a car’s gas pedal because of the design. Also used to describe a brake pedal when brakes wear out because the driver has to push the pedal harder and further to slow down.
LOOKS TO PASS
A driver ponders a pass. The driver will actually move over, look at the possible passing area and make a decision to go or not.
A car has more grip in the front than the rear end and tends to “fish tail.” Drivers often report whether the car is “loose” or “tight” so the crew can make Pit Pass adjustments. Please see oversteer.
Area above the racing line that contains chucks of rubber, stones and other materials that can harm the car or tires and cause a driver to lose control.
Usually refers to the accelerator pedal.
LOW DRAG SETUP
Adjusting a car’s aerodynamic features to minimize drag which also reduces downforce. This setup achieves better performance on straightaways at the expense of reduced cornering ability.
See “low groove or line.”
MAKING UP TIME
A driver is catching up to or gaining ground an opponent.
Rocks and debris that collect off the racing line. If a driver enters the marbles at an excessive speed, his car will lose grip and drive perilously into awaiting hazards as if a person walked across a bed of marbles.
Revving a car to its maximum RPM levels.
MILLION DOLLAR BILL
A name given Bill Elliott after his win of the Winston Million in 1985. He was the first driver to meet the required three out of four wins on the major speedways of NASCAR. Only one other driver has done this to date and that was Jeff Gordon in 1997.
When a driver is using the race car in a prudent and wise fashion and not demanding more of the car than it can perform.
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. The sanctioning body for the Winston Cup, Craftsman Truck and Busch Grand National series among others.
Term used for a new engine because it fills the space between the chassis and transmission.
To bump lightly against another car, usually from behind and often on purpose, as a warning or a bit of psychology. Very common in NASCAR racing.
A term drivers use when referring to how their car is handling. When a car is neither loose nor pushing (tight).
Nitrous Oxide gas. Injected to cool the air/fuel mixture, making it more dense thus increasing power.
Descriptive of an engine that isn’t supercharged nor turbocharged. See supercharger.
OFF CAMBER TURN
A turn in which the slope of the track angles away from the direction of the turn. Opposite of banking.
Driving off the best racing line. Drivers will go off line to attempt a pass or to move out of the way of faster cars.
ON THE THROTTLE
A driver has the accelerator pedal pushed all the way down.
Formula One and Indy car style race cars which are designed to have the suspension, wheels and tires exposed, no fenders.
Turning the steering wheel in the opposite direction of the turn until it won’t turn anymore. Basically, it’s maximum countersteer and usually precedes a spin or going off the track.
A driver gains time and position on an opponent by applying the brakes later and deeper into a corner.
The outside racing line. Sometimes a car will handle and perform better on the outside/inside line and a driver opts not to use the optimum groove.
An oval-shaped track such as Atlanta Motor Speedway.
A condition when the front of a car has more grip than the rear. This is the same as a car being “loose.”
A term commonly used by announcers meaning a pass.
The car which leads the field to set the pace before starts and restarts after cautions.
The enclosed portion (or infield) of a race track.
The warm-up lap before a race. Drivers use this lap to warm up their engines and often zig-zag to warm up tires.
After a big crash which takes out a lot of cars, the track looks like a parking lot.
Usually refers to road courses which require a lot of turning and hence, great physical strength.
Debris built up on tires from rubber bits and small stones.
When a race car on the inside squeezes an outside car by the outside wall, This will cause the outside car to slow down and follow.
A board used by crews inform drivers of lap times, lap until pit and other various information. The board is used along with team radios to keep in constant communication.
See Pit Row
Nickname for a racing groupie.
PIT ROW or PIT ROAD
The area designated for teams to set up temporary garages during races accessible to (“pit out”) and from (“pit in”) the track. Each team is allotted one pit area (or space) per car. Drivers pit so crews can refuel, change tires and make any other repairs or adjustments. Simply called the pits most often.
An integral part of most racing series where drivers stop in pit row so their crews can change tires, refuel, and make repairs or other adjustments.
Short for pit row or a dejected driver. Also see hot pits for cold pits.
In some series (e.g. CART and Formula One), you must finish a certain place or higher to receive points towards the championship. Conversely, NASCAR awards points to any driver who starts a race.
The overall competition to win the Drivers’ or Manufacturers’ Championship at the end of the season.
The favored position when the race begins. The pole position is located on the inside of the front row. The driver with the fastest qualifying time is awarded the pole position and the cars are lined up from the pole in order of the fastest to the slowest qualifying lap times.
In Indy-style racing, this valve is connected to the plenum exiting the turbocharger. Many racing groups supplies these valves in order to restrict the pressure generated by the turbocharger.
Commonly used term for engines.
PROVISIONAL STARTING SPOT
Special performance-based exemptions for drivers who do not initially qualify for a race. A driver awarded a provisional spot must start at the back of the starting grid.
The rear end of a car has more grip than the front. This condition makes a car harder to turn into a corner. Commonly known as understeer.
PUSHING AND SHOVING
Race cars making contact.
QUALIFIERS OR QUALLIES
Softer compound tires designed for qualifying only because they provide excellent traction but only for a very short amount of time.
During designated sessions, teams must meet established lap times to qualify for (or enter) a race based on a predetermined number of spots available.
Race tires as opposed to qualifying tires.
Heavy duty duct tape used to temporarily repair hanging body parts which might hinder aerodynamic features and decrease performance. Most commonly used on stock cars (e.g. NASCAR Winston Cup) which use more paneling than Indy-style cars and are accustomed to more contact.
Softer compound with better tread for wet-weather conditions. In dry conditions, these softer tires wear faster than harder compound tires with less tread.
In shock absorbers, a rebound adjustment is a change to the dampening of the shock on the expansion stroke. Without rebound dampening, the car would tend to bounce as it passes over bumps on the track. Rebound adjustments can also affect how the weight of the car shifts around during braking, acceleration and cornering.
When displayed at the start/finish line, a red flag signifies an immediate halt of the session due to a dangerous condition such as a flooded track or a car blocking the track. Corner workers around the track will display black flags when this happens, and all cars are required to stop racing and slowly return to the pits. The lap in progress is discarded, and the field reverts to the order of the previous lap when racing resumes. If the race has run more that 50 percent of the laps, the chief steward has the option to declare a complete race if track conditions are not expected to improve. If a race has run less than 50 percent, it will be concluded on another date.
RED AND YELLOW FLAG
This striped flag is displayed by corner workers to signify debris (oil, sand, water or some other substance) on the track.
In sim racing, when a majority of the racers choose to restart, usually after a bad accident which puts most of the cars out of the race.
A stainless steel plate used between the carburetor and the intake manifold to limit the amount of fuel and air reaching the engine. It is used to slow down the race cars on certain high speed NASCAR tracks like Daytona Speedway.
A vertical flap attached to a Indy car wing for increased downforce. Please see Gurney Flap.
To gun an engine. As a noun, “revs” is short for “revolutions per minute.”
Modern engines are controlled by electronic “mapping” software that controls things such as fuel consumption and ignition timing. Rev limiting is used for two purposes: to keep the engine from exceeding its maximum rotational speed and exploding into bits of very expensive shrapnel, and to adhere to speed limit rules in the pit lane. Maximum rev limits are set by the engine manufacturer, while the pit lane rev limiter is controlled by a pushbutton on the steering wheel.
The distance from the bottom of the chassis to the ground when the car is at full speed. This is regulated at a distance of two inches off the ground. The lower the ride height, the lower the center of gravity which improves handling. Lower ride height may also mean less suspension travel which can cause loss of control when driving over bumps.
RIDING THE RAILS
Taking the outside line around a turn.
A race track with multiple left and right hand turns. Generally refers to permanent, purpose-built racing facilities. Can also refer to temporary street courses built on big city streets which were popularized in the 1980’s.
Large, sturdy bars designed to protect a driver’s head if the car rolls over. Very functional in race cars but used more for style in production cars. Most production and race cars use anti-roll (or sway) bars as part of the suspension to prevent the excessive rolling in corners.
The race begins after the pace car leaves the track while the cars are moving. Formula One opts for a standing start where the cars start from a standstill.
A slang term in NASCAR used to describe an oval track.
Racing announcers use this describe cars that make contact but don’t crash. Also called “pushing and shoving.”
A car is handling so well, a driver can use any racing line (or drive anywhere.) Sometimes, handling problems lead to a preferred line where the car handles better.
A car is running with little fuel. Teams qualify with a light load to achieve maximum speed.
SAVING THE CAR/TIRES
Driving a car somewhat moderately to conserve the cars mechanical parts and lessen tire wear. This allows a driver to be more aggressive during the all-important final laps.
Tires that have been run a few laps in practice to heat them up. This make them adhere better under race conditions. Term used in NASCAR racing.
The best kind of racing tire because they’ve had a few laps of wear to normalize the surface. Term used in CART, IRL and F1.
Time sitting behind the wheel, competing in a race, qualifying, etc.
The combination of settings for a car’s engine, aerodynamic features and tires/wheels. Teams make continual adjustments to a car’s setup during pit stops based on driver input.
Documents with recorded setups from different tracks under varying weather conditions. Teams use this baseline to adjust setups when they arrive at a track.
First test with a brand-new car, suspension setup or engine.
The best engine r.p.m. at which to shift gears. Some production and race cars have lights to indicate when a driver should shift gears.
A device used in a vehicles’ suspension to control the oscillation of the spring, using hydraulic oil or gas in a sealed cylinder. Also referred to as a damper because it “dampens” the springs’ natural bump and rebound movements.
Two or more drivers race to the end for victory.
British term for crash or accident.
Turning a car off to avoid mechanical damage or an accident. Often times, drivers shut down so a mechanical problem doesn’t lead to more severe and expensive consequences. Drag racers often shut their cars down when they get out of control.
See Cadence Braking.
A circular rubber device added to the front springs of a stock car to stiffen the spring ratio and make the car handle better. Often these are added or removed during pit stops.
Tires with no tread designed for dry weather conditions.
Usually an oval track with an unusual amount of oil and other fluids on it making it difficult to drive.
Passing a car by first drafting to conserve power, then suddenly moving out of the slipstream and using the reserve power.
The cavity of low-pressure area created by a moving object. In racing, drivers use this slip stream to draft another vehicle.
SPIN or SPIN-OUT
To lose control so that the car revolves around its vertical axis.
An air deflector that diminishes the tendency of a car to lift off the track at high speed, thus improving the adhesion of the tires to the road.
STAGGER (OPEN WHEEL)
On ovals, teams may use a different size tire (or stagger) on the outside wheel to improve the car’s handling ability.
STAGGER (CLOSED WHEEL)
The amount of flex in the side wall of a tire in racing. Race teams can use the stagger of the tire to stiffen the spring ratio of the car by adding air to the tire and thereby change how the car handles.
In Formula One racing, the field starts from a gridded standstill (standing) start unlike rolling starts in most other types of racing.
Slang term used for tire traction.
Brand-new tires with the manufacturer’s label (or sticker) still on the surface. Teams generally use sticker tires during qualifying, then use scrubbed tires in a race. See scuffs or scrubbed tires.
A penalty which requires a driver to stop at their team’s pit for a timed penalty before reentering the race. This penalty can be assessed for anything from speeding in the pits to contact with an opponent. This is usually signaled by a Black Flag.
A high-powered fan that forces air into the engine, increasing power. See also turbocharger.
A 1 to 2+-mile oval track.
See Anti-roll bar. Also called Anti-Sway-Bar
A large sweeping corner on a road or street course.
A hairpin turn; British.
An acronym referring to the electronic “Shift With Out a Lift” device, which allows gear shifts without lifting off the throttle, making the shift faster.
TAKE A LOOK
A driver following closely behind another car may dart momentarily to the inside at the entry to a corner, pretending to attempt a pass in order to disrupt the concentration of the driver in front and hopefully cause a small mistake, setting up a subsequent passing attempt.
Usually refers to applying racer’s tape to the brake duct opening in full bodied cars.
Transparent plastic strips applied to helmet visors or windshield (NASCAR). As these strips accumulate debris, a driver or pit crew can tear a dirty strip off for a clear view. Drivers in open cars go through about five tear-offs a race. In NASCAR, this is a new approach to the old problem of giving the driver a clear view.
Short for tech (or technical) inspection. Each car is submitted to tech inspection so sanctioning body officials can confirm all chassis and engine parts meet series’ guidelines. A “teched” car has passed inspections.
Highly sophisticated electronics which transmit performance data back to a team’s pit.
A car or driver’s absolute upper limit, as fast as either can possibly go.
A braking technique which requires a race driver to apply brake pedal pressure as hard and late as possible without locking the tires and without affecting the racing line, turn-in, or apex.
A safety barrier usually constructed of tires which are either stacked in a specific manner or fastened together so as to provide maximum protection from solid walls or other detrimental environments (such as wooded areas).
The gas pedal.
Looking at the car from the front, the amount the tires are turned in or out. If you imagine your feet to be the two front tires of a race car, standing with your toes together would represent toe-in. Standing with your heels together would represent toe-out.
TOP END POWER
The amount a car accelerates at high speeds or in its highest gear.
Aggressive driving involving a lot of bumping and rubbing.
A braking technique which requires a driver to apply brake pedal pressure during a turn so as to reduce speed as little as possible, without losing control. Sometimes referred to as “late braking”.
1) A racing circuit regardless of shape, distance, or intended use. Can be an oval, a tri-oval, a straight line, a figure “8”, a closed road course, etc., 2) The width of a car as measured between the outside of the left and right tires.
To carry enough speed at the exit of a turn to require using the entire width of the track, sometimes referred to as “drift out”.
A race track that has a “hump” or “fifth turn” in addition to the standard four corners. Not to be confused with a triangle-shaped speedway, which has three distinct corners.
The chassis or monocoque of a Indy-style race car.
A driver follows an opponent close enough to move into (or tuck under) their draft.
TURBO OR TURBOCHARGER
A device which pressurizes air, pumps it into the engine and “boosts” a car’s performance. Essentially the condensed air increases the air/fuel mixture to create more power.
Rough air encountered by race car drivers.
As a car reaches a corner, this is the moment at which a driver actually begins to turn the wheel. The timing of this action and the car’s response to it are crucial for setting fast lap times.
To fine tune an engine or suspension or make any minor modifications that will result in a slight power or handling increase.
TYPE 1 CORNER
A corner that leads into a straight.
TYPE 2 CORNER
A corner which is preceded by a straight.
TYPE 3 CORNER
A corner that leads into another corner. Also known as a compromise corner.
When a car has more traction (or grip) in the rear than in the front.
A driver down one lap passes the leader to regain position on the lead lap.
The mass of the wheels, brakes, suspension and other components connected directly to them rather than being supported by the suspension. The mass of all components that travel up and down with the suspension. This may also include the mass of axles, bearings, bolts, and the partial weight of driveshafts.
See Air Dam
To gently steer in one direction.
In wet conditions, race cars can produce vortexes off their rear ends or wings. These vapor trails are similar to those produced by the engines of jet planes.
Top of Page
The lap before a race starts. Drivers use this parade lap to warm up their engines and tires.
Zig-zagging across the track to warm up and clean off tires, or to confuse an opponent while attempting a pass.
Tires designed to perform better in the rain.
The process of adding weight to the rear of a race car. It is done by shifting the amount of weight applied to the rear wheels by tightening the pressure on the rear springs.
A woven mesh that hangs across the driver’s side window, to prevent the driver’s head and limbs from being exposed during an accident.
A transparent fiberglass surface on the front of a car designed to aid air flow and deflect turbulent air from the driver.
Aerodynamic surfaces mounted to the back of a race cars to create downforce. Race car wings employ the opposite aerodynamic designs as airplane wings (which create lift to help an aircraft elevate) to create this downforce.
WINSTON MILLION, THE
A $1 million award given to any NASCAR Winston Cup driver who wins three of four selected races — the Daytona 500, the Winston Select 500 (Talladega), the Coca-Cola 600 (Charlotte), and the Mountain Dew Southern 500 (Darlington).
The world’s premier stock car racing series sanctioned by NASCAR. Racing legends such as Bill Elliott and Rusty Wallace have made their names in Winston Cup. Term also given to the trophy awarded to each season’s Drivers’ Champion.
When waved by the starter, this signifies the start of the last lap of the race. When waved by a corner worker, it signifies that a slow-moving vehicle is on the track.
WHITE AND RED FLAG
Used by the starter, this white flag with a diagonal red stripe indicates that an emergency or service vehicle is on the track, and extreme caution should be used.
A name given to Jeff Gordon by some of his detractors. Frankly, he is a “wonder” having won 27 races and two NASCAR driving championships by the age of 26. Gordon will likely be a wonder no matter how long he races.
The Yellow Flag signifies “caution” during a race and is usually waved to signal that an accident has taken place or debris (such as gasoline, oil or parts) remains on the track after a crash. Cars are required to slow down and not to pass while the hazard is being cleared.
A rookie NASCAR driver, so called because cars driven by rookies have yellow rear bumpers.
To sharply move back-and-forth on the track. Drivers often zig zag on warm-up laps to heat up their tires.