If you ever drive on track, knowing the flags is one of your largest responsibilities. They are the sole method of communication between you and track officials. They are used for general communication as well as commands during an emergency. Knowing and understanding these flags must be second nature to you.
These general definitions (Italicized) have been taken right from the current NASA rulebook for HPDE. There are some additional combinations for racing that wheel to wheel racers need to know as well. Flag definitions are generally standard across US Trackday HPDE events, but if you are running with a new club always make sure you check and understand their flag rules.
14: Green Flag
Session is open.
In HPDE you will not see this very often, this flag is usually displayed if the morning session begins with a double-yellow lap, the starter will wave the green flag to signify the ending of the yellow opening lap. Note: You will not always get a green flag, often you will simply be entering a green track. If you pass a manned corner station displaying no flag, you can assume green conditions.
13: Yellow Flag – Motionless
Slow down. Danger ahead. ABSOLUTELY NO PASSING is permitted, until completely past the incident, or until past next manned flag station that is not displaying any Yellow Flag(s), whichever comes first.
There may be one (1) yellow flag covering more than one incident. There may be several yellow flags before reaching the emergency area. The requirements are still the same, “SLOW DOWN, NO PASSING.”
A standing yellow flag generally means “don’t be an idiot” so proceed with caution and don’t pass. You do not want to get caught up in an incident with another car. It my also be wise to assume the car behind you has not seen the yellow flag, so remain predictable within reason.
12: Yellow Flag – Waving
Great danger, slow down. Be prepared to stop. ABSOLUTELY NO PASSING is permitted, until completely past the incident, or until past the next manned flag station that is not displaying any Yellow Flag(s), whichever comes first. Note: There may be one (1) yellow flag covering more than one incident.
Waving yellow flags are the more serious yellow. As soon as you see a waving yellow flag, expect the need to take some sort of evasive maneuvers once you go around that corner. Take note of the corner worker’s body language and ferocity of the flag waving. If They are jumping 6 feet into the air and waving the flag like they’re trying to fly, expect IMMEDIATE danger and slow even more than you think you need. But remember, It is still wise to assume the car behind you has not seen the yellow flag, so remain predictable.
11: Double Yellow Flags
Full course yellow condition exists. Be prepared to encounter a Pace Car and/or emergency vehicles. Drivers should not significantly slow down. Be prepared to encounter a slow moving pack and other local flag conditions.
Always obey the local flag conditions (e.g. waving yellow). ABSOLUTELY NO PASSING is permitted, until the Pace Car (if on track) has pulled off AND the driver has passed the next manned flag station that is not displaying any Yellow Flag(s).
You may not see this much in HPDE except for the first lap or two of the morning session.
10: Black Flag – Open
Track Officials want to talk to you. Complete current lap and pull into the pits for consultation.
Make sure you do NOT ignore this flag. Often stations will have a number board and will also display your car number. The longer you wait to come in, the longer (and louder) they will typically yell.
Some common reasons for getting black flags in HPDE: You passed someone in a no-passing zone, you went 4 off and didn’t come in on your own, your driver window is closed, your hood appears open, etc.
9: Black Flag – Furled
Warning. You are driving in an unsafe manner or you did something wrong. If you continue to do so, an open black flag will be shown to you.
This is another flag you will not often see in HPDE. Typically drivers are just black flagged immediately and told to stop rather than receive a warning. But, the flag is in the rule book, so it’s good to know.
8: Black Flag All – Waving
All manned flag stations will display waving black flags during this condition. Some flag stations might display a sign with the word “ALL.” All cars proceed slowly to the hot pits. No passing.
Proceed to the pits in a safe manner, but DO SO QUICKLY. Black flags in HPDE often come out as officials are trying to clear the track to respond to an incident. Excessively slow cars (to like 30mph) will take longer than necessary to clear the track and will delay any recovery efforts unnecessarily.
7: Checkered Flag
Session is over. Complete current lap cautiously and exit via pit lane or otherwise designated end-of-session track exit point. Passing rules remain the same during the checkered flag lap as during the session.
Make sure you also proceed at a reasonable pace on your “cool down lap”. The longer you take to clear the track, the longer the next session needs to wait before their turn. Note that NASA and some other clubs still allow passing with a point-by AFTER the checker, so you should still be allowing faster cars to pass if they wish.
6: Red Flag
Emergency. Come to an immediate and controlled stop on the side of the track in a safe location.
A Red Flag is the most serious command flaggers can give. The rule states to come to an immediate stop on the side of the track surface. An Immediate stop is of extreme importance, however make sure you do not create more incidents as you stop. Check your mirrors before throwing out the anchor. Give the cars behind you a moment to react to the flag. Also, do not stop immediately around a blind curve or over a hill. If you need to proceed another 50-100 yards or so to stop safely, please do so.
Pull to the side, but stay on the pavement, not off in the grass where you may get stuck or start a new fire. When you stop, also make sure you have easy line of sight with a corner worker so they can issue new commands. Red is typically followed with a black or yellow and black, telling you to proceed to the pits.
5: Blue Flag
(with diagonal yellow stripe) Another vehicle is following very closely and may attempt a pass. The driver receiving the Blue Flag should consider giving a passing signal.
Also known as “The Invisible Flag” this flag is a “Suggestion” not a command. However if you are creating traffic issues you may earn a black flag (And a deserved flogging in the download meeting).
4: Debris Flag
(yellow and red stripes) Caution. To be displayed motionless. Oil or debris may be present on the track surface or a slippery condition may be present. This flag will be taken down after several laps, but that does not mean that the condition has resolved, just that the driver should now be taking it into account.
this often means an apex cone or dirt was dragged onto the track, or a car dropped something like a fender-liner. More serious events would be slippery oil or coolant on track. Proceed with caution until you figure out what is out there.
3: White Flag
Emergency vehicle or slow moving vehicle is on course.
In HPDE this is most often displayed while a disabled vehicle is limping to the pits. Expect quick closing speeds and take care when passing these vehicles.
2: Emergency Vehicle Flag
(white flag with a red cross) There is an emergency vehicle on course. Pass with extreme caution.
This flag is not often used in HPDE as Emergency Vehicles typcally wait for the track to be cleared with a black flag before they enter. Either way, make sure you know the flag, but also make sure you clear the track quickly under black flag-all conditions.
1: Mechanical Black Flag
(with orange ball in center)
(a.k.a. meatball flag) There appears to be something mechanically wrong with your car. Proceed to the pits at reduced speed.
More often than not, this flag means you have a half-closed door or are dragging something like a splitter. Occasionally cars are “meatballed” because they are dropping fluid. If you get the Meatball flag and are not sure why, proceed to the pits OFF LINE to minimize a chance of dumping slippery fluid on the racing line.
Hopefully this makes it clear what flags you need to know.
If you’re looking for more tips and info about participating in HPDE and Racing…
Cover photo by Windshadow Studios