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Racing Terms

 | Racing Terms A |  Racing Terms B |  Racing Terms C |  Racing Terms D | 
 | Racing Terms E |  Racing Terms F |  Racing Terms G |  Racing Terms H | 
 | Racing Terms I |  Racing Terms K |  Racing Terms L |  Racing Terms M | 
 | Racing Terms N |  Racing Terms O |  Racing Terms P |  Racing Terms Q | 
 | Racing Terms R |  Racing Terms S |  Racing Terms T |  Racing Terms U | 
 | Racing Terms V |  Racing Terms W |  Racing Terms Z | 

Auto Racing is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Millions of fans enjoy it each year in person and on television. Like any sport, auto racing has its own jargon, its own language, its own idiomatic phrases used by fans, sports writers and sports announcers.

The purpose of this information is to provide you with some of these terms in a collection that is anything but complete. The definitions here are our attempt to provide you the racing enthusiast with a starting point. Our intention is to help you understand some of the terms that make up this great sport. In time, we will add to the list as new ways of expressing the excitement of the sport are born.



Racing Terms A
AERO
Commonly used abbreviation when referring to the all-important science of aerodynamics.
AERODYNAMICS
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 downforce.
AIR WRENCH
This tool uses compressed air to quickly remove wheel nuts on contact. A crew member proficient with the air wrench can save a team valuable seconds on a Pit Pass. Also referred to as an air gun or impact gun.
ADDING SPOILER
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 downforce and gives more grip on the race track.
ANGLE OF ATTACK
The angle of an Indy car style wing. The angle is varied by track to produce optimal downforce and minimize drag.
ANTIROLL BAR
A bar linking suspension parts which can be adjusted to alter handling characteristics to compensate for tire wear and varying fuel loads.
APEX
The point in a corner where a car is closest to the inside edge of the track. Drivers try to "hit" the apex to take the straightest line and maintain maximum speed. See also early apex and late apex.
ARMCO
Steel material forming barriers designed to prevent vehicles from leaving race tracks similar to highway applications.
ATMO ENGINES
Engines which use natural (or atmospheric) air flow as opposed to forced induction. NASCAR, Formula One and NHRA Pro Stock cars use "atmo" engines while Indy and NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car engines have  forced induction.

Racing Terms B

BACK OUT
When a driver takes his foot off the gas pedal (all the way or part way), he "backs out" or "lifts off."
BALACLAVA
Fire resistant headgear worn under helmets.
BITE
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.
BLACK BOX
Unlike those which store recording devices in airplanes, a race car's black box contains high tech electrical systems which control most engine functions. More technically referred to as the Engine Electronic Controls, the Engine Control Unit or the Engine Management System.
BLISTER
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.
BLOCKING
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.
BLOW UP
Irreparable engine failure which ends a racer’s day.
BOOST
The amount of pressure generated by a turbocharger or supercharger as it forces the air/fuel mixture into a forced induction engine.
BOW TIE
Nickname attributed to Chevrolet based on the likeness of its logo.
BRICKYARD
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.
BURN OFF
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.

Racing Terms C

CAMBER
The angle that wheels are tilted inward or outward from verticle. If the top of the wheel is tilted inward, the camber is negative.
CART
Acronym for Championship Auto Racing Teams Inc., the sanctioning organization for the PPG CART World Series.
CENTER OF PRESSURE
The point on a Indy car underwing which receives the greatest amount of airflow pressure. This measurement is critical to setting front to rear balance, especially on superspeedways.
CHASSIS
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.
CHECKERED FLAG
The black and white checkerboard style flag which signifies the end of a race.
CHICANE
An "S" like track configuration generally designed on a fast portion of a track to slow cars. Also referred to as "esses" or a "switchback."
CHUNKING
A softer compound rain tire will shed pieces of rubber if a track becomes too dry.
CIRCUIT
Any race track. Also refers to the entire slate of races on a season schedule.
CIRCULATING
Driving around a track with a damaged and/or slow car to accumulate laps and, more importantly, points and prize money.
CLEAN AIR
Air without turbulence created in the wake of other race cars. Clean air is found at the very front of the field.
CLIPPING
Minor contact between race cars. Also often refers to hitting precisely, or "clipping," the apex of a turn.
CLOSED-WHEEL CARS
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.
COCKPIT
The area where the driver sits in a race car.
COLD PITS
There is no racing activity on the track and the pits are open to people other than team members and racing officials.
COMBINATIONS
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.
COMPOUND
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.
CONSTRUCTORS' CHAMPIONSHIP
The equivalent of a Manufacturers' Championship. A championship award for the cars' builders.
CORNER WORKER
Volunteers who staff corners to notify drivers of any dangerous situations in the area.
COSWORTH
Engine manufacturing company which has cooperatively developed racing motors with Ford for many years. Named after co-founders Mike Costain and Keith Duckworth.
CROSS-THREAD
Stripping of the wheel stud threads when crew members hurriedly refasten lug nuts. This can be more devastating in Indy car racing as each wheel has only one center nut/thread combination which, if damaged, necessitates a Pit Pass before more severe consequences take place.

Racing Terms D

DARLINGTON STRIPE
A NASCAR term for getting the right hand side of the car close to the outside wall and rubbing the sheet metal and paint.
DEAL
An idiomatic phrase used in the NASCAR racing community to describe any number of events. Examples could include: "It was just one of them deals", " it was simply a racing deal", or "I not sure what his deal was".
DNF
Did not finish.
DNS
Did not start.
DNQ
Did not qualify.
DIALING IN
This refers to the driver and crew making setup adjustments to achieve the car's optimum handling characteristics.
DIRT TRACKING
Driving hard into a corner on a paved track causing the rear end to swing out wide as if on a dirt surface.
DIRTY AIR
The turbulence created in the wake of other race cars.
DOWNFORCE
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.
DRAFT
Airflow creates a low-pressure air pocket (or draft) behind moving objects. Most notably in NASCAR, drivers try to follow opponents closely enough to enter their draft and produce a "towing" effect. That's right, the car creating the draft actually pulls the pursuing driver who can ease off the throttle and save gas.
DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP
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.
DRIVING AWAY
This is when a driver is pulling away from the field with little challenge from anyone else in the race.

DRY WEIGHT
A car's weight without any liquids such as gas and oil.

DROOP LIMITER
An electronic device which controls suspension travel, assuring conformity to mandated limits.

DROP THE HAMMER
Means a driver puts the petal to the metal.

DRY LINE
A clear (or dry) line which develops after rain because of more frequent use.

 

Racing Terms E

EEC
The Electronic Engine Control unit or colloquially referred to as the Black Box.
ECU
Engine Control Unit or Black Box.
EARLY APEX
A driver turns into a corner early.
ECONOMY RUN
Driving slower to conserve fuel. Some series cars can actually manipulate air/fuel levels (less fuel, more air) to run "lean" and conserve fuel.
END PLATE
The verticle end piece of a wing.
ENGINE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Another term for the Black Box.

Racing Terms F

F1
Abbreviation for Formula One.
FIA
Federation Internationale de l'Automobile. This is the governing body for most auto racing around the world.
FILL THE MIRRORS
A driver is pressuring another driver so feverishly that the rear-view mirror is filled their pursuer.
FIRE SUIT
Fire-resistant clothing which is required apparel for drivers as well as crew members and anyone else in the pits during a race.
FLAGMAN
The person standing on the tower above the Start/Finish Line who controls the race with a series of flags.
FLAT SPOT
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.
FLAT-OUT
Refers to using 100% of the race car and not holding back on the ability of the car in a race (i.e. as in running flat-out).
FRESH RUBBER
A new set of tires acquired during a Pit Pass.
FUEL CELL
The gas tank for race cars. Most racing fuel cells were borrowed from military applications for extra protection in crashes.
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.
FULL-TIME RIDE OR SEAT
A full-time job for a driver. "He has a full-time ride (or seat) next year."

 
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