What Do The Flags in NASCAR Mean?

Although in today’s NASCAR world even though there are in car and in helmet communications system At race tracks flags are still used to convey information to drivers. In fact flags are still vital for both communication and safety during a NASCAR Race. There are numerous colored flags in NASCAR and some are rarely seen than others, although we all know the black and white checkered flag do you know what the white flag means?

We take a look at the different flags and their meanings below. The number may surprise you!

Flags used in NASCAR have different meanings. Red suspends the session, yellow means drive under caution, green resumes racing, white means the last lap and blue means leaders are approaching lapped drivers. A black flag means a driver is disqualified and a black and white checkered flag signals the end of the race.

We mentioned seven colored flags used in NASCAR above, but would it surprise you to know there are in fact 12 colored flags that could be used in a NASCAR race. Without looking below could you name them. If you want to you can print the table and the notes out below as we all know that NASCAR fan who thinks they know everything, (if you don’t know that fan, it’s probably you).

What each NASCAR Flag Means can catch even the biggest NASCAR fan out! After you read this, its wont catch you out though 🙂

What Do The Flags in NASCAR Mean?

To make it quicker for you we have the colors and the quick explanation, for the sake of quiz answers etc, in the table below. However below that we go into more detail on these flags, including a little history where we know it.

Flag Colour/TypeWhat Does the Flag Color Mean in NASCAR
GreenUsed to start race, or to continue the race as normal
YellowRace under caution / debris / pace car
RedRace Suspended / Stopped
BlackDriver Disqualified / must leave the track
WhiteOne lap remaining / final lap
Black and White CheckeredRace finished
Green CheckeredStage finished
Blue with Yellow Diagonal StripesRace leaders coming up to lapped drivers
BlueProblems ( hard to see ahead)
Yellow With Red StripesDebris on the track on road courses
Red With Yellow StripePit lane and pits are closed
2 Red and Black FlagsEnd of qualifying or practice.
Black Flag with White CrossDriver has ignored the black flag, and is no longer being scored for their laps ( very rare!)

What Do Yellow Flags Mean in NASCAR?

Yellow Flags instruct the drivers to slow down on the track. This is usually caused when a crash happens or debris is on the track. Usually a pace car will come onto the track and slow and control the speed of the drivers.

When this happens it often bunches up the pack again,

What Do Green Flags Mean in NASCAR?

Most of us will think a green flag is used to start a NASCAR race and we are correct! However, what we don’t know is that the green flag also has 3 more uses in a NASCAR race. These are:

  • Starts Qualifying Sessions
  • Racing can continue at full speed
  • Transition from a race under caution to full speed

Basically Green flags means everyone is good to go, just like a traffic light. Although, when you see a traffic light it doesn’t mean put your foot down.

What Do Red Flags Mean in NASCAR?

Just like the traffic lights Red means stop. If the red flags come out during a NASCAR race then drivers must either stop in place or to the pit lane if the track requires extensive cleaning. Even if the cars are in the pits teams must not do any work, to make it fair for those that are not, and to make sure the race restarts with everyone in the same condition as before the stop.

It is rare to see a red flag, but it does usually mean there has been sizable crash or incident and to continue would be dangerous to the drivers teams or spectators. Rd flag conditions will continue as long as there is a danger. Once it is passed it is likely the race will continue under a yellow flag for a lap or two before the green flag is shown.

If drivers are stopped on the track you may notice the drivers park up at an angle pointing downwards. This is to keep air moving over the car and cooling it down, and to get a rolling start. Even on red flags drivers will be thinking ahead.

What Do Blue Flags Mean in NASCAR?

This flag is only seen on NASCAR Road courses where there may be problems further down the track that drivers are unaware of. Although it can’t tell the drivers waht the problem may be it gives them ahead up that somethign is coming up. It doesnt single a change in racing conditions, jsut that there is a potenial hazard ahead.

These days teams can communicate what the problem may be to their drivers on the radio, to give them even more information.

What Does a Black Flag Mean in NASCAR?

Like other motorsports a black flag is an unwelcome site for a driver. However in NASCAR it does not indicate automatic disqualification from the race like forumla 1 for example. . It does indicate a infraction, offense or rule break. On rare occasion it may be shown to a driver who is racing to slow, for waht ever reason, and may cause a hazard to others.

It is also known as a consultation flag as the driver will return to the pitlane and discuss the consequences with a race official from NASCAR. At that point the penalty will be applied. This could be anything from a drive through penalty, a pit stop for repairs Opens in a new tab.to a disqualification from the race.

What Does a Black Flag With a White Cross Mean in NASCAR?

This is perhaps the rarest of flags you will see at a NASCAR event, in fact the last example we can find was at the Pocono 400 in 2018 when Bubba Wallace was shown the black flag with crossed white lines for not pitting on his black flag. (which he was shown for entering the pitland too fast)

The official rules state that a driver has to pit within 5 laps of a black flag. If they do not then this flag will be used and will almost certainly result in a disqualification.

What Does a White Flag Mean In NASCAR?

In NASCAR a White flag is shown on the final lap. It shows the field the leading care has entered the final lap of the race. If anything happens during the last lap that warrants a yellow flag then the race is stopped immediately.

What Does a Black and White Checkered Flag Mean in NASCAR?

I think we all know this one, at the end of the race this is waved and the car that passes under it first is declared the race winner. Less common knowledge, at least for me, is that this flag is also used at the ending of each drivers run in qualifying.

Legend has it that the finishing flag is black and white checks as in the dirt racing days all the dust in the air made it difficult to see when the finish was coming up. Black and White checkered flags apparently were the best for visibility and the tradition continues today.

What Does the Green Checkered Flag Mean in NASCAR?

This one simply means that a stage of the race in concluded.

What Does the Blue Flag with Yellow Diagonal Stripe Mean in NASCAR?

The blue flag with yellow diagonal stripes is waved at back markers or soon to be lapped cars to let them know that the leader or leading cars are close behind and will be overtaking. as they are racing for the lead the backmarkers are expected to let them pass without hindrance.

What Does the Yellow and Red Striped Flag Mean in NASCAR?

The yellow flag with vertical stripes is only seen on road course and alerts drivers that there is debris on the track and to be aware while racing. Racing on road courses mean drivers are unable to see what is ahead and more information will be relayed to them through the radio from the teams.

What Does the Red Flag with a Yellow Stripe Mean in NASCAR?

The red flag with a yellow stripe will be found at the pit entrance. It informs drivers that the pit lane is closed. It will be removed once the pace care has control of the race.

Located at entrance to pit road, indicates pits are closed. Flag is withdrawn when all cars on-track line up behind the pace car under caution/yellow flag conditions, indicating pits are reopened.

What Do Red and Black Flags Mean in NASCAR?

If you blink you will miss these, as the red and black flags together signal the end of the the qualifying or practice time allowed.

Rare Flags in NASCAR

We mentioned the black flag with the white corss above as being one of the rarest flags you will see at a NASCAR race, but there are a couple more that are not often seen. these are:

  • Two Checkered Flags: These are optional to tell drivers and teams that the race is halfway through. I am not sure what happens if a driver only sees one and slows down though!
  • Green – White – Checkered Flags: This combination of flags takes a little more explaining. In the final two laps of a NASCAR race if the race goes under the yellow flag (caution) the race will continue and try to go back to green flag conditions. if the race can go back to full speed ( green flag) then NASCAR will have two more laps to finish the race under race conditions.
    • At that point a green flag will be waved, then the white flag on one lap, and then of course the checkered flag at the end. This can be tried up to three times to try to finish the race under racing conditions.

What Do The Flags in NASCAR Mean?

Can NASCAR Drivers See the Flags on the Racetrack?

Travelling at 200 miles per hour means you are covering the length of a football field in about a second. Add to that 30 other cars inches away and drivers can be forgiven for perhaps not noticing what is happening at the side of the track right away.

However the use of flags and the message they convey are vital for the safety of the drivers and others. Especially if its a black flag for repairs, red or yellow flag for cautions of race suspensions. So how does NASCAR make absolutely sure that the message gets through to the drivers, who lets face it have their hands full.

  • Teams have spottersOpens in a new tab. around the track, usually up high that can inform the pit and the team of any upcoming hazzards, and flag warnings. this information can then be radioed to the drivers.
  • The flags are obviously waved as drivers go by at sections along the track.
  • Information will be relayed to the teams in pit land who can then give not only the information on the flag to the drivers but also plan a course of action, and give further details to the driver.

Final Thoughts

Flags have formed a vital role in NASCAR for decades, they are used to inform drivers of the race stages, events on track and more importantly any hazards or dangers that may occur. They are designed to give that information instantly and effectley.

Some are more commonly seen that others, green flags and the checkered flags for example will be seen at every race, however each of the different coloured NASCAR flags serves an important purpose. Race communication has improved, and continues to do so, but it hasn’t taken over the role of the track side flags yet, and we cant see them being replaced any time soon.


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