Racing Jargon

Note: I need your help!  I’m putting together a Beginner’s Guidebook for newbies and am often asked what a race term or saying means so I did some research and came up with this list on the fly to add to the ebook.  Please look it over and tell me if I should add a term, delete one, improve on the definition, etc. to help new racers learn the ropes.  Your help is greatly appreciated!!

Racing Terms and Jargon

Apex

The part of a corner where the racing line is nearest the inside of the bend.

B-Main

See Semi-feature. Semi feature, B-main, Qualifier

A qualifying race before the main event, where non-qualified cars compete for a predetermined number of spots in the main event. Some races have a C-main where the top finisher(s) qualify for the B-main. At those events, the main event is known as the “A-main”.

Banking

  • The angle at which a track inclines towards the outside of a corner or from the lower to the higher side of a straight, also referred to as camber, more so when modest or negative,
  • a corner that inclines towards the outside or
  • an earth bank where spectators sit or stand.

Bottoming, Bottoming out

When the bottom of the chassis hits the track

Bump and run

A move in stock car racing, where a trailing car intentionally bumps the car in front in an attempt to pass

Burnout (aka: Donut)

Performed to heat the tires up for better traction. It is also used in stock car racing typically to celebrate a race win.

Catch fence

A series of chain-link fencing used to slow out of control cars down. It is common on American short tracks.

Caution or Full course yellow

When yellow flags are deployed at every flag point around a race circuit and a Safety Car or Lap Leader leads the field until a hazard is cleared.

(The Flagman will throw a yellow flag if there is a safety concern on the track for racers.)

Competition caution

A preplanned full course yellow, mandated by the sanctioning body, where drivers bring their vehicles into the pits. Frequently done to change tires because of excessive tire wear.

Control (or “Spec”)

Where the series organizers specify that all competitors in the race must use an identical part; as in control tire or control engine. (AKA: “Spec” as in Spec Tire, Spec Engine)

Cushion

In dirt or off-road racing, when dirt is kicked up from the track that lands near the wall after trucks drift through the corners. The dirt builds up after time and can slow a driver down if they slide too deep into it while sliding through the turn.

Deep braking

Applying the brakes later than normal when entering a turn.

Did Not Finish (often DNF)

A driver who did not finish the race. Some sanctioning bodies do not classify a driver in the final results if he did not finish completed a certain number of laps, for example in Formula One a driver must complete 90% of the completed laps to be classified as a finisher.

Did Not Start (often DNS)

A driver did not attempt to compete in a race, even though he may have competed in practice sessions and / or qualifying. Not the same as the DNA already mentioned.

Disqualify (often DQ or DSQ)

Where a competitor is removed from the results, usually in penalty for a technical infringement. Sometimes, but not always, interchangeable with Excluded.

Downforce

Increased force holding the car onto the track. This is created by the aerodynamics or aerodynamic aids (F1 wings, etc.) of a vehicle which causes a “reverse lift” effect. That is, creating an area of low pressure (suction) under the car and/or under the wing(s) or other aids fixed to the car, the higher pressure above forcing the tires harder to the ground, effectively increasing the static friction. This allows it to travel faster through a corner, at the cost of having a reduced overall top speed, since drag is proportionate to lift and downforce is caused by lift.

Drifting

Drifting is a form of motorsport in which drivers intentionally provoke constant oversteering slides while preserving vehicle control and a high exit speed. In motor racing, drifting is a cornering technique (also called a four-wheel drift) where a car takes a high-speed corner held at an angle on the track without major steering inputs, balancing natural understeer with power oversteer.

Drivers’ meeting

A meeting where drivers and officials meet before a race to discuss the upcoming event. Also referred to as Drivers’ briefing or Driver and Crew Chief meeting, as in some series, the driver and his crew chief must attend.

Dry line

On a drying circuit, the racing line that becomes dry first as the cars displace water from it.

Fastest lap

Fastest time in which a lap was completed by a driver during a race. Sometimes rewarded with bonus championship points.

Field

The competing cars in an event.

Formation lap

The lap cars make before forming up on the grid for the start.

Green-White-Checker finish

When a full-course caution comes out right before the end of a race, the race is extended beyond its scheduled distance. Depending on sanctioning body, there may be either one or multiple attempts at a restart, between one and five laps, before the race is declared officially over. NASCAR’s national series will have a maximum of three attempts if the penultimate lap only under caution, while some short track races have unlimited attempts at a span between one and five consecutive green-flag laps.

Grid

The starting formation of a race, generally in rows of two for cars and three or four for bikes.

Heat

A shorter race which decides the participants of the main race and sometimes starting order as well, usually there are more heats in which only a part of the drivers from the entry list take part. Can also mean part of the main race, when it consists of two or more parts. (ie: when we break a class into groups for the heats which are later combined for the feature)

Impact wrench

A tool specifically designed for rapidly winding off and on wheel nuts, allowing the changing of wheels and tires to be performed faster during pit stops. Also known as an impactor, air wrench, air gun, rattle gun, torque gun.

Invert

  • The portion of the field which is started by reverse qualifying speed. With an invert of five, the fifth-fastest qualifier starts first and the fastest qualifier starts fifth. The rest of the field starts by their qualifying speed (sixth fastest starts sixth). The invert is often not announced before qualifying or a dice/die roll happens after qualifying.
  • The second heat is inverted from the first heat’s starting positions.

Jump Start (or “Jumping the start”)

In a standing start, when a vehicle moves from its grid slot before the start of a race is signaled. In a rolling start, when a car passes before they cross the start-finish line or the restart line. When this is done, a penalty is usually imposed.

Ladder Series (or “Ladder System”)

Generally refers to a category or series of lesser importance which in most cases will race at the same race meeting as a senior category. Cars will be generally similar in characteristic to drive but will be smaller, less powerful and/or slower. Competitors will generally be younger emerging drivers who are climbing an apprenticeship ‘ladder’ towards entry into the senior series.

Loose

Cornering behavior where the rear wheels do not track behind the front wheels but instead move out toward the outside of the turn. Opposite of understeer. (aka: oversteer.)

Marbles

Pieces of rubber from tires that accumulate on the racing surface outside of the racing line that are slipper.

Meth (or Methanol, Alcohol)

Refers to the type of gas used in some classes (ie: Animal, Gold Plate, etc.)

Official (aka: Steward)

The adjudicator or referee at a race event who interprets incidents and decides whether penalties or fines should be issued.

Open wheel car

A specific type of racing car in which the wheels are not enclosed by bodywork of the car, e.g.: Formula One & Sprint Cars.

Pace car

See safety car.

Parade lap

A lap before a motorsport race begins where the drivers go around the track at a slow speed, also known as a formation lap. (In dirt racing we see this a lot with a 4-wide “salute” to the fans before the Feature races start.)

Parc fermé or Impound

An area which cars enter after they have qualified for the race, where they are not allowed to be worked upon by mechanics unless on strict supervision by the stewards. Some motorsports series other than Formula One refer to this as the Impound. (NTK and similar road course sprint kart tracks still call it Parc ferme – we just call it Impound.)

Photo finish

A finish in which two or more cars are so close that in times past a photograph of the finishers crossing the finish line would need to be studied to determine the finishing order. While the practice has been mostly superseded by modern electronic timing systems, the location of the transponder in a vehicle is not located near the nose of the vehicle, so stewards often use video replays to detect where the nose (of a car) or wheel (of a motorcycle) crosses the finish line first.

Pit board

A board that is held up from the pit wall to the side of the finishing straight when a driver goes past, to confirm their position in the race and the amount of laps remaining.[31] Before the introduction of radio communication, also used to instruct drivers to pit for fuel and/or tires, or to comply with rules violations.

Pit Stop

Stopping in the pit lane for repairs, refueling, and/or new tires.

Pole Position

The first grid position, placed closest to the starting line. Usually reserved for the competitor who has recorded the fastest lap during qualifying or best number in a “pill draw”. A competitor who starts a race there is said to be “on the pole.

Pill Draw (also “re-draw” applies to this)

A method of drawing a number from a container without looking at them to determine the starting order of the first heat or qualifier, also used for variation of events to mix up the front drivers for a feature (ie: top 6 will re-draw for position).

Pre-qualifying

A preliminary qualifying session held prior to a regular qualifying session in order to reduce the number of competitors taking part in the regular session, usually for safety reasons.

Push

See understeer.

Put on the trailer

When a driver has either lost [got “put on the trailer”] or won [he put the other driver on the trailer]. Named because losing drivers pull their vehicle home on a trailer.

Qualifying

The process of deciding the starting order of a race. See also pre-qualifying.

Race Director

A Race Director may be designated for the entire duration of a Championship or Series. If so, it is understood that, during the practices and races for that Championship or Series, the Clerk of the Course and safety operations are under the ultimate authority of the Race Director.

Racing Line

The fastest path around a track.

Rainout

When a race is delayed or cancelled due to rain, or the threat of rain.

Restart

The race is started again after a caution or other condition that stopped the race. In the case of a restart from a caution period on an oval track and most road courses, this is accomplished by the green flag/light being displayed, and cars simply accelerating back to race speeds.

Reverse grid racing (also see re-draw)

When the starting order of a race is reversed, so that the driver on pole position, starts last. Occasionally reverse grid is limited to only part of the grid, for example, just the top ten positions may be reversed. Often used to increase the entertainment value of a race.

Roll cage

Originally created as a safety device in more recent times it has been used to connect suspension, chassis, and engine to substantially increase the torsional rigidity of a race car.

Rolling start

A starting method where moving cars start a race after the starter displays a green flag.

Run-off area (also referred to as Work Area)

Areas off the track put aside for vehicles to leave the track in case of emergency without accident.

Slidejob pass

Especially in dirt oval racing, a passing car dives low into a corner, deliberately oversteers in front of the vehicle being passed in an attempt to slow their momentum. The vehicle being passed often attempts to pass back by steering low coming out of the corner down the following straightaway.

Setup

The set of adjustments made to the vehicle in order to optimize its behavior.

Stagger

The difference in circumference between the left and right tires. It is used to make a racing car turn easier on oval tracks

Start and park (a NASCAR term mostly)

A team or driver who starts a race and only runs a small number of laps to avoid using up resources (tires, parts, pit crew, etc…).

T-bone

A collision in which the front of a car crashes into the side of another car, forming a “T” shape. This is one of the more dangerous types of crash due to the relative vulnerability of side impacts where there is much less deformable structure on the side of a car to protect the driver. Also, to crash into another car in such a fashion; the victim is “T-boned”.

Tear-off

Thin plastic sheets that drivers stack up over their visor or windshield for visibility. Drivers tear one off after it becomes dirty.

Tight aka: Understeer

Cornering behavior where the front wheels do not follow the steered course but instead push out toward the outside of the turn. Known as push in NASCAR and other stock car racing. Opposite of oversteer.

Victory lane

Also ‘Winner’s Circle,’ because of early motorsport’s roots at horse racing tracks, the American term for the place where the winner of a race goes to celebrate victory after winning an event.

Victory Lap

A lap, after the conclusion of the race, where the winning racer drives at reduced speed around the track to celebrate his or her victory. (Note: when they do it in the opposite direction that is referred to as a Dale Earnhardt lap.)

Understeer or push

Cornering behavior where the front wheels do not follow the steered course but instead push out toward the outside of the turn. Known as push in NASCAR and other stock car racing. Opposite of oversteer.

Wing

Aerodynamic device on many racing cars. The principle is the same as an aircraft wing except in motor racing applications the wing is inverted to create downforce instead of lift, pressing the car onto the road surface to increase traction.

**The above terms came from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_motorsport_terms (editor’s notes are in parentheses).

More Terms from KAM Officials and Drivers:

Staging Area also known as being “On Deck”

The area in front of (or on the side of) the grid or gate opening to the track where karts/race cars wait for their class to be called to line-up.

In the Shoot

Referrers to karts/cars being in their grid line-up at the gate ready to go onto the track for their race event.


If you have a term or race jargon expression that you think I should add to the list PLEASE LET ME KNOW!!  Fill out the form below and send it to me or leave a comment.

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