May 17, 2024 - Sports

Race terms for new Indy 500 fans

Cars at IMS

Terms to know before you go. Photo: Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With ticket sales going strong, a good chunk of the more than 330,000 people expected to attend this year's Indianapolis 500 could be first-timers.

Why it matters: Even for repeat visitors to the track, understanding the on-track action can feel impossible amid the roaring engines and cheering fans.

What they're saying: For novices looking to make the most of their first race experience, IMS president Doug Boles says the buddy system is a boon.

  • "If you can either come with somebody who's done it before or find somebody who has been before, it can help you navigate through it. Because if race day is your first time here, it can be pretty intimidating," Boles said.

With that in mind, here are a few race terms to get familiar with so you can talk shop like a pro.

⏲️ Groove/Line: The fastest or most efficient way around the racetrack. Most drivers will use the same groove, making that portion of the track appear darker in color because of tire rubber buildup.

ğŸŽï¸ Marbles: Excess rubber build-up above the groove caused by tire wear throughout the race that can prevent the tires from making proper contact with the road.

⬇️ Downforce: The creation of downward force through aerodynamics, which keeps cars stuck to the track.

🛣️ Oversteer/understeer: Oversteer is when a car's rear wheels lose grip, and understeer is when the front wheels lose grip.

🍃 Tow/Drafting: As cars move around the track they split the air with some going over the car and some under. The lack of air behind the car creates a vacuum, and trailing cars may use it to be pulled or "towed."

Want to learn more? Study up with the NTT IndyCar glossary of terms.

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