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
- Commonly used abbreviation
when referring to the all-important science of 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.
- 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.
- 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
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."
- Fire resistant headgear
worn under helmets.
- 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.
- 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
- BLOW UP
- Irreparable engine
failure which ends a racers day.
- 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.
- 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
- The angle that wheels
are tilted inward or outward from verticle. 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.
- CENTER OF
- 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.
- 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 black and white
checkerboard style flag which signifies the end of a race.
- 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."
- 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.
- CLEAN AIR
- 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.
- 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 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.
- The equivalent of
a Manufacturers' Championship. A championship award for the cars'
- CORNER WORKER
- 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
- 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
- A NASCAR term for
getting the right hand side of the car close to the outside wall
and rubbing the sheet metal and paint.
- 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".
- Did not finish.
- Did not start.
- 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.
- The downward force
generated as air flows around a moving object. Indy series vehicles
use wings while NASCAR vehicles use rearend spoilers to create
- 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.
- 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'
- DRIVING AWAY
- This is when a driver
is pulling away from the field with little challenge from anyone
else in the race.
weight without any liquids such as gas and oil.
device which controls suspension travel, assuring conformity to
a driver puts the petal to the metal.
(or dry) line which develops after rain because of more frequent
Engine Control unit or colloquially referred to as the Black Box.
- Engine Control
Unit or Black Box.
- A driver turns
into a corner early.
- Driving slower
to conserve fuel. Some series cars can actually manipulate
air/fuel levels (less fuel, more air) to run "lean" and conserve
- END PLATE
- The verticle
end piece of a wing.
- Another term
for the Black Box.
Racing Terms F
for Formula One.
- Federation Internationale
de l'Automobile. This is the governing body for most auto
racing around the world.
- A driver is pressuring
another driver so feverishly that the rear-view mirror is
filled their pursuer.
clothing which is required apparel for drivers as well as
crew members and anyone else in the pits during a race.
- 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.
- 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).
- A new set of
tires acquired during a Pit Pass.
- The gas tank
for race cars. Most racing fuel cells were borrowed from military
applications for extra protection in crashes.
- 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
RIDE OR SEAT
- A full-time job
for a driver. "He has a full-time ride (or seat) next year."