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Explaining racing terms

Roger Diez

I’m often gratified and surprised when people I know, and even total strangers, come up to me and tell me they read this column.

Some of them are people I wouldn’t have thought would know a racecar from an aardvark, which got me thinking that maybe what I write here is a bit too esoteric for some. Therefore, I have undertaken as a public service to provide the following compendium of racing terminology that will (it is hoped) enlighten some neophyte race fans.

Motor Racing: A contest of speed between two or more motorized vehicles, which became inevitable the moment the second motorized vehicle was produced.

Race Drivers: Individuals of single-minded purpose who would run over their own mothers to win a race, but only on the last lap.

Racing Mechanics: Analogous to interior linemen in football. They do all the work but get none of the glory, and they never get the Bud Girls.

Fans: There are three basic types: Type1 — the serious race fan, adorned with scanners, binoculars, statistics, and incredible concentration. Type 2 — the hero worshippers, festooned with their driver’s hats, t-shirts, coolers, sunglasses, and other assorted kitsch. Type 3 — the race partygoer, who is usually so drunk that he has no idea whether he’s at Talladega or Mardi Gras.

Sponsors: The objects of awe, reverence, and unrelenting pursuit by race teams. Bagging a good sponsor is equivalent to a Zulu hunting party bringing home an elephant, which will feed the tribe for a month.

Racing Journalists: A group of cynical, sarcastic, and frequently bilious curmudgeons who cluster in air-conditioned press rooms at racetracks, feeding on the free buffet and watching the race on closed-circuit TV while waiting for the drivers to be herded into press briefings so the journalists don’t have to venture into the garage area.

Television: The medium through which most fans observe racing, not to mention hours of scintillating commercial breaks during which most of the exciting racing happens.

TV Commentators: Either wonderfully knowledgeable, incisive purveyors of truth and beauty or a bunch of self-deluded ignoramuses, depending on what they happen to be saying about your favorite driver.

NASCAR: What 99 percent of the public thinks of when the term “racing” is mentioned.

NHRA/IHRA: 5000 horsepower, 5 seconds of action at a time. Racing for ADD sufferers.

CART/IRL/Formula 1: Funny-looking open wheeled cars with only half the fields that NASCAR puts on the track, and maybe a 10th of the Neilson share.

World of Outlaws/Sprint Cars: Even funnier-looking open wheeled cars, but the flips and crashes are really cool!

OK, that’s it for now. There will be a quiz in next week’s column. All of you who pass will be eligible to attend my graduate racing course. Please bring cash with you to cover the registration fees.

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy has made a career of being a redneck. His “You may be a redneck. . . ” jokes have become part of our national psyche. Well, it’s high time racers got the same kind of recognition. Thanks to my web surfing, I’ve come across a few modest examples of racer jokes. These are just a dozen of the hundreds I’ve run across. Got one of your own? I’d like to hear it.

You may be a racer if:

— You feel compelled on a road trip to beat your previous best time.

— More than one racer supply house recognizes your voice and greets you by name when you call.

— You have car parts in your cubicle at work.

— After your answer to “What did you do this weekend?” the next question is always: “And you do this for fun, right?”

— You refer to the corner down the street from your house as “Turn One.”

— The local police and state highway patrol have a picture of your car taped to their dashboard.

— You own five cars and only one of them is street legal.

— You’ve started looking for sponsors for your daily commute.

— Your criteria for selecting a significant other includes auto repair skills, air tools optional.

— You plan your wedding around the race schedule.

— You’re registered for wedding gifts at Summit Racing and Racer Wholesale.

— After you tell your wife where you’d like to go on your vacation she answers: “Why? Is there a race there?”

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist.