So You Want to be a Racer? Track Etiquette & Tips
by Caryl k92
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 I do.
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 is THE boss both on the track and in the pits for the day.
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. Practise 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 you.
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 manoever in traffic. Again, this is assuming that the fastest cars start at the back.
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 exhaust fumes.
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 pissed.
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 racing.
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 words.
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 advice.
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 worse.
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 sport!