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,
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.
This is a term used to describe the changing of the
direction of a spoiler or wing on a racecar. Usually adjusting the
angle of the spoiler creates downforce and gives more grip on the
ANGLE OF ATTACK
The angle of an Indy car style wing. The angle is
varied by track to produce optimal downforce and minimize drag.
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.
Engines which use natural (or atmospheric) airflow
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.
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.
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 competitive teams.
Irreparable engine failure which ends a racer’s
The amount of pressure generated by a turbocharger
or supercharger as it forces the air/fuel mixture into a forced
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.
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.
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.
CENTER OF PRESSURE
The point on an Indy car underwing which receives
the greatest amount of airflow pressure. This measurement is
critical to setting front to rear balance, especially on
The basic structure of a racecar 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
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
The area where the driver sits in a race car.
There is no racing activity on the track and the
pits are open to people other than team members and racing
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' builders.
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.
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.
A NASCAR term for getting the right hand side of
the car close to the outside wall and rubbing the sheet metal and
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.
This refers to the driver and crew making setup
adjustments to achieve the car's optimum handling characteristics.
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 wake of other race
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.
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' championship.
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.
An electronic device which controls suspension travel,
assuring conformity to mandated limits.
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.
The Electronic 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 fuel.
The vertical end piece of a wing.
ENGINE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Another terms for the Black Box.
Abbreviation for Formula One.
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-resistant 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
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
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."
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
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)
Drivers use this to describe a mechanical part that
GOES UP THROUGH THE GEARS
Refers to a driver upshifting 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.
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.
Aerodynamically designed parts which are fitted to
the lower areas of a car to create additional downforce. Many
production car owners add ground effects more for style than
A vertical extension to the back edge of an Indy
car wing invented by racing legend Dan Gurney to generate more
downforce, 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 slow, 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 fire resistant head mask or balaclava.
Used to cover and protect exposed areas from flying
debris as helicopter technicians developed it to protect rotors.
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
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
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
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.
The machine used to removed wheel nuts. Also an air
wrench or air gun.
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.
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
Turbo lag. The time it takes a turbocharger to
"boost" an engine's power from the moment the driver pushes the
One time around a track. Also used as a verb when a
driver passes a car and is a full lap ahead of (or has lapped)
that opponent. A driver "laps the field" by lapping every other
car in the race.
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
A car can be propelled or launched into the air
(all four wheels are off the ground) by hitting a severe bump or
Turning into a corner late and missing the optimum
The race leader's lap. If the leader laps you for
the first time, you are no longer on the lead lap.
High tech race cars (e.g. Indy cars and Formula One
cars) have engine management systems which can adjust air/fuel
mixtures. Drivers trying to conserve fuel will "run their engines
lean" by using a decreased fuel/increased air mixture.
Most commonly used when an engine fails or "blows
up." Announcers also use this term for other parts of a car that
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
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.
LOW DRAG SETUP
Adjusting a car's aerodynamic features to minimize
drag which also reduces downforce. This setup achieves better
performance on straightaways and reduced cornering ability.
See "low groove or line."
MAKING UP TIME
A driver is catching up to or gaining ground an
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 racecar in a prudent and
wise fashion and not demanding more of the car than it can
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.
Driving off the best racing line. Drivers will go
off line to attempt a pass or to move out of the way of faster
ON THE THROTTLE
A driver has the pedal to the metal.
Formula One and Indy car style race cars which are
designed to have the suspension, wheels and tires exposed, no
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
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 racetrack.
PARADE LAP (S)
The warm-up lap before a race. Drivers use this lap
to warm up their engines and often zigzag 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
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.
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.
Nickname for a racing groupie.
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 driver qualifying fastest is awarded the first
starting position. This means the driver will start on the inside
(relative to the first turn) of the first row.
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
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.
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.
A racetrack 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 racecars but used
more for style in production cars. Most production and racecars
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.
The spray trailing cars in wet conditions similar
to the effect boats create across water.
A slang term in NASCAR used to describe an oval
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 problem 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
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
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 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.
Two or more drivers race to the end for victory.
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.
A circular rubber device added to the front springs
of a stock car to stiffin 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
Usually an oval track with an unusual amount of oil
and other fluids on it making it difficult to drive.
The cavity of low-pressure area created by a moving
object. In racing, drivers use this slip stream to draft another
STAGGER (OPEN WHEEL)
On ovals, teams may use a different size tire (or
stagger) on the outside wheel to improve the car's handling
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.
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.
A 1 to 2+-mile oval track.
A large sweeping corner on a road or street course.
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.
The gas pedal.
TOP END POWER
The amount a car accelerates at high speeds or in
its highest gear.
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.
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.
In wet conditions, racecars can produce vortexes
off their rear ends or wings. These vapor trails are similar to
those produced by the engines of jet planes.
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 thightening the presure on the rear springs.
A transparent fiberglass surface on the front of a
car designed to aid airflow and deflect turbulent air from the
Aerodynamic surfaces mounted to the back of a race
cars to create downforce. Racecar 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.
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.
To sharply move back-and-forth on the track.
Drivers often zig zag on warm-up laps to heat up their tires.