Racing for Dummies ... from a dummy!

CRASH CAMERON

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

When I first became intrigued with this race-car thing, I was a capital-D dummy concerning the details. I just loved the noise and speed.

A decade-and-a-half later, I've graduated to simply being a dummy.

Let me guide you through the steps:

OPEN-WHEEL CARS

Essentially it means 'no roof.'

Used to be recognizable by the guy with the leather helmet and goggles whose face flapped in the wind like your pooch sticking his head out the window. (See Mickey Rooney in The Big Wheel, 1949.)

Now these guys are tucked so low, their faces should all be painted on the top of their helmets.

The Formula One cars - the multi-million dollar, jet-set Europe-based racing series famously known for its Grand Prix race in Monte Carlo - are also open-wheelers. (Multimillion-dollar supermodel girlfriends not included in the initial cost of operation.)

STOCK CARS

You'll see the difference when the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series hits the track.

The hippies in the '60s painted school buses in a multitude of psychedelic colours. Meanwhile, the good ol' boys of racing splattered their rides with a multitude of decals.

These were once hot-rodded versions of "stock" cars straight off the assembly lines. Stock cars are now fibreglass shells that look like dayglo taxicabs. Or billboards with big engines.

PIT STOPS

They are more than just drive-thru lube centres on extra-espresso.

In today's top-level racing, every THOUSANDTHS of a second counts.

A pound difference of tire pressure, a millimetre tweak of a wing, every ounce of fuel - all of these can affect the car, for better or worse.

If you are wired up to listen to the headsets you will know very soon by the driver's voice which one it is.

BRAKES

Rarely, if ever, used for actual stopping.

Each and every tap of the brakes determines how quickly a driver gets through a corner, or whether he or she can get around another car to make a pass.

Putting your hand on a brake rotor to see how they are holding up during a race would be the equivalent of sticking your hand in the kettle to see if the water is boiling.

OVAL

What drag racers lovingly refer to as "dizzy racing."

Round and round they go.

Some ovals are little bullrings where the cars smash-and-grind their way around and the driver looks like a wuss if his car doesn't have someone else's paint job scraped onto it.

Some ovals are massive "superspeedways" like Daytona, where the cars build up speed by swirling around the steep-banked surface like the water at the top of your toilet bowl after you've flushed.

The most famous "oval" of all is Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Only thing is, it isn't an oval - it's a rectangle.

ROAD COURSE

Turn right, turn left. Go fast on the long stretches, go delicately into the corners.

The traditional road courses weave through woods where fans camp amongst the trees and stumbled to their favourite corners to watch the cars whiz by and then walk back to their coolers until the cars came back around again.

Now, in order to stage the ideal road course race, you find a half-abandoned airport and put up grandstands so fans can see everything - as long as the planes don't fly too low.

STREET RACE

Organizers map out a section of streets through a downtown core, which is easy to do in most cities since there are no humans in the area after 5 o'clock.

Fans can relate to the driving experience - to a degree: Imagine hitting those potholes at a 100 miles per hour in a light-as-a-feather, 700-horsepower car that sits an inch off the ground. Without shock absorbers.


Videos

Photos