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Jeff Gordon
Mario Andretti

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Automobile Racing

Automobile Racing, sport in which drivers race specially designed automobiles over tracks or courses of differing lengths, designs, and constructions. The competition tests the skills of the drivers, the speed capabilities of the vehicles, and the endurance of both. Originally consisting of occasional challenges among wealthy individuals in the United States and continental Europe, automobile racing has evolved into an international year-round professional sport that is one of the most popular spectator attractions in the world.

There are three basic types of race courses in automobile racing: (1) the oval track, (2) the road course, and (3) the straight-line course. Oval tracks, which can be dirt, asphalt, or concrete, range in length from 0.16 to 2.5 mi (0.27 to 4 km). Some oval tracks, longer than 1 mi (1.6 km) and highly banked (angled toward the ground), are called superspeedways. Road courses have either of two forms: courses that are created by temporarily closing city streets, and courses specially designed to duplicate the twists and turns of country roads but used only for racing. Road courses of both types are generally 1.5 to 4 mi (2.4 to 6.4 km) long in the United States, sometimes longer in other countries. Straight-line courses consist of a simple strip of asphalt or concrete used for drag races between two vehicles. Straight-line courses are generally 0.25 mi (0.4 km) long, but they can be 0.125 mi (0.2 km) long as well.

There are five basic components of an automobile racing team: (1) the ownership, (2) the team manager, (3) the driver, (4) the support crew, and (5) the sponsors. The ownership of the car is in charge of the team but usually employs a manager to run operations on a day-to-day basis. The driver is always an independent contractor. Drivers usually compete in a variety of different cars for different owners throughout their careers. The support crew maintains the car before, during, and after races. The driver and support crew work together during races to handle needed repairs, tire changes, and fuel refills (done during brief service breaks known as pit stops). Finally, sponsors, usually corporations, provide money to the racing team in exchange for promotional ties. The most obvious examples of this relationship are company and product logos, which are commonly seen on the outside of vehicles during races.

Although there are many categories of automobile racing—and many types and levels of competition within each category—the major forms of the sport differ in the United States and abroad. In most parts of the world, the premier race series are those for Formula One (F1) vehicles and for sports cars. These competitions receive less attention in the United States, where the most important race series are those for Indianapolis (Indy) cars and for stock cars. Some drivers and teams move between American and overseas forms of racing, but this is uncommon.

The coordinating committee for automobile racing in the United States is the Automobile Competition Committee for the United States (ACCUS), which serves as the U.S. representative on the Fédération International de l'Automobile (FIA; International Automobile Federation), the worldwide governing body of the sport. ACCUS coordinates activities between FIA and six major sanctioning bodies for automobile racing in the United States—addressing rules, regulations, automotive specifications, safety, and related matters. The eight organizational members of ACCUS are Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), Indy Racing League (IRL), Grand American Road Racing Association (GRAND-AM), Professional Sports Car Racing (PSC), the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), and the United States Auto Club (USAC).

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