The History of the Checkered Flag

One thing that many people don’t know about me, is my love of racing. Horse racing, NASCAR, Indy, Rally, you name it. The competition is intense, the atmosphere electric, and the crowd is noisy! Watching a race on TV doesn’t really do the trick, it has to be live!

Back in March I went to the NASCAR race in Atlanta, and took note of something I hadn’t noticed before. You guessed it… an abundance of flags! Upon entering the stadium you see flags flying high. The US flag, Georgia State flag, NASCAR flags and even sponsor flags. But there was one flag that stood out the most above others. One flag that everyone noticed and is so important, it even caught the attention of the racers. Of course, I’m talking about the checkered finish flag. Considering it’s one little flag that’s proved to be of such importance to these prestigious racers, I thought I’d look into exactly why the flag is checkered and why it stands for the finish of a race.

The most interesting theory of the origins of the checkered flag that I found dates back to the 1800’s after the date of the Louisiana Purchase. An early American past-time in the Mid-West settlement included horse racing. After the races, those in attendance would gather for lunch or dinner. Often, a table-cloth would be taken and waved in the air to signal that the food was ready, and the racing should come to and end. Lo and behold, typical tablecloths of the time happened to be checkered! Soon, that waving checkered table-cloth acted as a brand or a recognized symbol to end the races. Over time, checkered flags were created and produced specifically for this purpose, and still used today!

Now, here’s the kicker. The above theory is just a theory! The table cloth idea has been passed down over 200 years, and could very well be just a tale. The more likely reasoning for the checkered flag is the contrast of colors being something easy to see for the racers. Back in the earlier days of racing, the tracks were dirt roads. Dust and dirt would kick into the air, making it difficult to see, especially when moving at high speeds. The contrasting black and white checkered flag was easy to spot and therefore made the perfect finish line flag.

The next time I go to the races, I know I’ll be looking for that checkered finish flag to see who won. On that day, Kurt Busch won the big race, Matt Kenseth came in 2nd and Juan Pablo Montoya in 3rd. The next time you head to the race track make sure you bring your NASCAR flags to support your favorite racer.

The 7 Flags of Racing (part 2)

So last week I gave you a breakdown of the 3 most used flags in NASCAR: the green flag, the yellow (caution) flag and the checkered flag. Now, we will go over some of the lesser known flags.

The White Flag

The white flag indicates to the drivers that only one lap remains in the race. It marks the beginning of the most exciting lap in motorsports! 



The Red Flag

The Red flag indicates that the track is dangerous to continue on and all cars are stopped. These cars are either escorted to the pit stalls or are stopped at a specific location on the track. Drivers and crews are not allowed to work on their cars during a red flag. Many different situations can cause red flags to be flown, including rain, debris, fires, etc.

The Black Flag

A black flag is flown when a driver or team has done something illegal and they are being penalized. In NASCAR, this flag is most often when a car has surpassed the pit row speed limit. If a part of the car is beginning to become a hazard to the rest of the drivers, such as a bumper hanging or falling off, the black flag will summon the driver into the pits to get it fixed before being allowed to continue racing.

The Blue Flag

The Blue with yellow striped flag indicates to slower traffic that faster traffic is approaching. It does not necessarily require the drivers to let the faster cars pass though, as many might believe. During races, these are usually only shown to lapped (cars that have been passed by a full lap) car, but during testing, practice and qualifying, the flag can be waved at anyone on the track.

There you have it! All 7 NASCAR flags! I hope that this helps you understand races a little more, and at the very least give you an understanding of the flags used. If you are looking for a racing flag set, please visit our site and check out the NASCAR flags!