Track Etiquette & Tips
Have fun. If you're not having
fun, pick another sport.
Offer your help to other
drivers; you will eventually need help too.
When you first start, listen
more than talk; you always learn much more
that way. If you get the chance, socialize
with the other drivers; I never miss a chance
to do this and I always learn something. Part
of racing, for me, IS the socializing; it's
great to meet with people who love racing like
Go to other tracks; learning to
drive on shorter/ longer/ better/ worse/
higher banked/flatter tracks will always make
you a better driver at your own track. It's
called seat time.
Attend EVERY pit meeting. The
flags are mostly the same at every track, but
each flagman runs his track differently. And
don't argue with the flagman, at least not
until after the races. Remember, he/she is THE
boss both on the track and in the pits for the
Cars, not people, have the
right of way in the pits. However, there is a
very good reason other than getting black
flagged for not speeding in the pits: you just
might kill someone.
If someone blows a motor/tranny/rearend
or is in a bad wreck--leave them alone; they
do NOT want to make chit chat with you about
what they think caused the problem; let them
regain their cool. If you are the one who blew
your motor etc., don't act like an idiot;
there are people including children watching
and you should should impress them with your
restraint not with screaming, swearing,
beating the car, throwing stuff around or
getting into a fight. (I've seen all of the
above.) Stay in your car until you cool down,
or walk it off. Whatever works. You're an
adult; act like one.
If you don't have all the
safety apparel you need -- GET IT. If you do
have it all -- WEAR IT. Don't leave your
gloves in the tow vehicle because they're
uncomfortable to wear. Wear them until you get
used to them. What do you think you use to
unlatch your seatbelts and safety net but your
hands? If your car is on fire and your fingers
are melting, you won't be able to get out at
all. Practice getting out of your car after
you're belted in tight. Then try it with your
eyes closed and holding your breath. See how
easy it is? Thought so.
When you belt yourself into
your car, do it as tight as you can; then
tighten those belts a little more. When you
have a caution, tighten them again: they do
loosen up. If you are in an accident, replace
them. The cost of rewebbing is way cheaper
than being flung out of your belts into the
steering wheel because they're stretched real
bad--or even out of the car if they tear on
Be prompt into the lineup and
know where you are in the lineup. It is NOT
the pit steward's job to chase you down. Do
you want to race or not? Some tracks have
rules where you lose your place in the lineup
if you are not there by a pre-determined time;
that means you will be put at the back of the
pack. Some tracks don't let you race at all if
you delay the start.
If the flagman indicates the
green will be out after three laps, show him
you are paying attention and hold up three
fingers. If he indicates one lap, hold up one.
(No, not THAT one!)
If you are in pole position,
stay at a steady speed--and don't go too slow.
If you are uncomfortable in pole, ask to be
put to the back of the pack until you ARE
comfortable. This is assuming that the fastest
cars start at the back.) No-one will think
less of you; you may actually gain respect as
a thinking driver.
Drive smooth; the smoother you
drive while holding to a good line, the faster
you will be. Drive like you have an egg
between your foot and the gas pedal. If you
are lucky enough to follow a fast car, follow
his line. His setup may be better than yours,
but you will get a good idea as to WHERE on
the track your car should be. That's another
reason why it's sometimes best to ask to start
at the back. You can see at first hand the way
the fast cars maneuver in traffic. Again, this
is assuming that the fastest cars start at the
On a start or restart, be right
up to the bumper of the car ahead of you.
Racers get cranky when they have to follow a
car that leaves 4 or 5 (or more!) car lengths
between them and the car in front. Why would
you want to put yourself 1/4 a lap down before
you start? Get right up there! If you're
behind a friend and you're not sure how close
you are, tell them in advance that you want to
bump them (lightly) to find out how close you
can get. Or do it in the line up. When I first
started, I thought I was snugged right up to
the bumper in front of me; I was actually
nowhere near it (like two car lengths back).
This is a common problem for beginners.
If you are under a red flag,
don't pull up right behind the car in front of
you because both your car and you are inhaling
the exhaust (read: already used air) of the
car in front of you. Instead, angle slightly
out of the lineup and take four or five deep
breaths when the red flag is finally pulled;
it clears your head in case you did inhale any
If you want to learn to finish
first, first you have to learn to finish. This
means making your car reliable at the shop;
then all you have to work on is your handling
and driving at the track. Your first goal
should be finishing every race.
Get good THEN get fast; try not
to overdrive the car. If you get loose on
exit, correct only once; overcorrecting can
put you in the wall or another car. If you are
assy this means you ARE overdriving the car.
Work on your setup. And sometimes less gas
means less spin and that means going faster.
This is what the pros mean when they say that
sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.
If you do crash or leave the
track, STAY IN YOUR CAR until it is safe to
leave it. This means the race is stopped. DO
NOT undo your belts; DO NOT take off your
helmet. If you went off the track there, so
can someone else. You do not want to be half
out of your car and have someone else hit you.
If you are okay, drop your safety net; this
tells everyone around you that you are fine.
Look as far ahead on the track
as possible. If you are coming out of corner
two, focus deep into three. Looking at the
cars right in front of you or beside you
usually makes for erratic driving because you
tend to oversteer. The
exception to this is that before you are
turning into a corner, look over your left
shoulder. If you don't see a car then it's
okay to turn in. The rule is, if someone's
bumper is up to the lead edge of your door
(where it would hinge), you give him room to
run his line. If you don't, you may cause both
of you to spin out. I've actually seen this
happen to the cars running 1 and 2; they both
ended up last. And one of them was rightfully
Watch the flagman. If you miss
a red flag and rear end someone at 60 mph who
is stopped --well, you figure it out. Also, if
you are slowing down or stopping, raise your
right hand and even wave it back and forth to
let the car behind you know. And this is the
ONLY time you should mirror drive.
NEVER take out the leaders;
they have worked hard to be in that
position--sometimes it takes them years--and
you do NOT want them mad at you. This means
hold your line, don't mirror drive (oh, yes,
we can tell) and don't race the car behind
you. The absolutely worst thing you can do is
take out the leader when you are being lapped.
Actually, never take ANYONE out. Blocking,
checkerboarding, turning your wheels into
someone else and mirror driving are NOT
Try to keep your temper. When
the adrenalin is flowing, this may be hard.
Work on it. Just because someone bumped you,
it doesn't mean it was on purpose. Unless it
is repetitive, assume it was unintentional or
even partly your fault.
Everyone makes mistakes, even
the old pros, so learn to forgive yourself.
And for Pete's sake--learn how to apologize.
"I'm sorry. I screwed up," goes a long way to
smoothing ruffled feathers, especially if you
show you learned from your mistake and you
DON'T DO IT AGAIN. Also, if someone apologizes
to you, accept it graciously. Maybe they
really DIDN'T mean to hit you!
Buy some books and read them.
There's a lot of knowledge in them there
Listen, especially to the fast
guys; they'll be the first to admit that they
are also still learning. That's part of the
fun of racing--you're learning all the time.
And the fast guys are the ones to learn from;
they've got their cars figured out and most
won't feel threatened by someone just
learning. They are flattered when asked for
advice and if they've been racing for a long
time they have either had the same problem or
know someone who has. BUT, if they're busy
working on their car, leave them alone. This
is not the time to be asking about your
problems; you might not like the response.
Wait until the races are over to ask for
Only make one change to your
car at a time. If you make two, you will not
know which one fixed the problem--and one
might have fixed it while the other made it
If you can, get someone to
videotape your racing; see what you are doing
wrong--and what you are doing right. When you
hear these words from several drivers you
respect, " I felt comfortable racing side by
side with you for x number of laps," you'll
know you're starting to get it right. There is
only one better feeling than racing hard next
to someone you respect and running clean-- and
that's beating them!
There's nothing worse than
coming up hard on someone who has a real rep
for dirty driving. Everyone knows who they
are. When they go to other tracks, their
reputations precede them. If they are involved
in a multi-car pileup, they usually get the
blame even when, for once, it is not their
fault. A good reputation is hard to earn; a
bad one almost impossible to live down. Racers
have VERY long memories. If you get a bad rep,
no one cuts you any slack. And chances are
excellent you will eventually make someone mad
enough to put you in the wall. So why would
you want to be a dirty driver?
About cheating. Why? If you win
fair and square you have something to be proud
of: you know your work, setup and driving are
at their very best. If your driving is not
good enough, take lessons; there are lots of
driving schools. If you win while cheating,
you don't know if it was the cheating that
beat everyone else. Those of us who never
cheat have only contempt for those who do--
and does it ever feel good when we beat them!
And we do.
Which brings us back to--have
fun! If you're not having fun, pick another
there are other areas you'd like to see us
cover, or you'd like to provide your
insight, ideas and share your experiences, we
invite you to do so on our forum or by
e-mailing us here at firstname.lastname@example.org