Car Racing Lingo

Lingo is a part of auto racing pleasure. You must be able to understand the jargon of car racing, and use it fluently and correctly as well. Here are brief meanings of 10 top terms which are used commonly but exclusively in auto racing and motor sports circles:

  • Banking: the car racing meaning is different from finance. A bank is the incline of a race track relative to the wall at the edge. It is especially difficult if it exceeds 31 degrees. Banks where cars turn are tougher than an incline on a straight section.

  • Down force: a tricky balance to be stuck by crews between a driver’s ability to take corners at high speed, and the ability to accelerate on straight stretches. This relates to the pressure a race car exerts on the track, principally through its tires.

  • Drafting: again, a very different meaning exists in car racing! It refers to a driver keeping a race car very close behind another to take advantage of the vacuum created by the movement of the first car. Drafting helps the driver behind to gain speed at the cost of the driver in front.

  • Firewall: computer nerds love this one! Race cars have a thick metal curtain isolating the driver from the engine area.

  • Groove: this depends on a driver’s experience of and practice on a particular race track. The driver will choose a particular line which gives the best lap time. Sometimes, this will mean staying close to the wall, while other track designs could mean that a driver will prefer to stay near the center of the apron, or as far away from the wall as possible. This is why a champion on one race track may not do as well when racing at a new site for the first time.

  • Happy hour: this could be interpreted as a reminder to serious car racing folk to stay near the track rather than a bar between events. The term refers to practice laps.

  • Interval: you may have guessed this one! It is the exact time difference between two cars for a particular reference point on a track during a lap. Your friends may guess the interval in terms of car lengths instead of in terms of seconds.

  • Marbles: you will hear drivers speak of nothing else with such hatred! The term refers to bits of tires and other grit on a turn left by other cars and blown around, causing following cars to spin out of control.

  • Pole position: the pecking order which determines who gets an advantageous position at the start of a race. It is fixed by performance in qualifying rounds.

  • Push: again, this is something a driver dreads. It refers to the front tires being out of control. This forces a driver to cut speed. You may hear this term from losing drivers often!

Auto racing is limitless! Perhaps you have some favorite terms which we have left out, or would like us to explain something you just heard for the first time. Write to us!

Back to Blog