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Racing Flag Colors and Their Meaning During the Race

Steve has a computer science degree and enjoys motorcycles, whiskey, and poker (not necessarily in that order).

All forms of racing use flags to signal the riders.

All forms of racing use flags to signal the riders.

Race Flag Meanings: What Do the Colors and Designs Mean?

In all forms of car and motorcycle racing, the track crew uses flags to signal the riders of track and corner conditions. Every organization is different and uses a variation of the flags to convey their own meaning, but for the most part, many flags are the same.

With modern-day radio communication, many of the flags are more ceremonial, but they continue to be used, assuming that racers are watching and paying attention to the track workers.

The following table outlines the basic racing flags.

Basic Racing Flags and Their Messages

ColorMeaningExpected Rider Behavior


Give way to faster riders

Move off the racing line and allow faster riders to pass


Race start/all clear

Start the race/keep racing


Final lap

Race only one more lap


End of the race

Race is over


Problem with rider's equipment or behavior

Pull off the racing line ASAP, and then exit the track safely

Black with orange circle


Pull in the pits to serve a penalty

Checkered and white rolled and crossed

Race is halfway complete

Race the next half of the race


Race is stopped

Signal, Slow down, Spread out


Safety concern

Watch out for an on track incident

White with red plus

Ambulance/safety car

Either the ambulance or safety car is rolling or parked on track

Racing Flag Meanings

  • Green Flag: Most times, it only signals the start of the race. Some race orgs will leave it displayed in a corner to show that everything is clear, but the lack of the green flag in this situation has no meaning.
  • Yellow Flag: A rider has crashed, and parts of their vehicle or body are on the racing surface or in the crash zone. Proceed with heightened caution. Some organizations do not allow passing from the showing of the yellow flag to the incident. This can lead to ambiguity if there are multiple incidents on the track. Some race organizations use two yellow flags to symbolize "full course caution" instead of a yellow flag for only a single corner.
  • Blue Flag: "There's a race, you're not in it" is the common mantra of the recipient of this flag. The rider is often being lapped by the leaders and should be mindful and respect them. Failure to heed the blue flag could result in being "black flagged."
  • Black Flag: There is a problem with the vehicle (smoking, losing parts, etc.), or maybe the rider forgot to strap their helmet. In NASCAR, the pit crew often leaves a tool attached to the car, like the wedge adjustment tool. Behavioral problems, like crashing into someone, can lead to being "black flagged."
  • Red Flag: The red flag signals that there is a significant problem on the track and the race needs to stop. The problem with this is that all of the riders need to see it at the same time. Consider a situation where two riders are drafting, and the first rider sees it and checks up, but the second rider is so "heads down" that he slams into the leading, checked-up rider. Thus, it is very important to continue at pace until it is safe to decelerate. This is the same for the checkered flag at the end of the race. Many riders will signal with a hand or foot prior to changing their pace. This is where the "signal, slow down, spread out" mantra originates.
  • Debris Flag: Some race organizations will use a "debris flag," which can be used to symbolize objects/bodies on course, slippery conditions (rocking), or rain (pointing to the sky).
  • White and Checkered Rolled and Crossed: Race is halfway complete.
  • White Flag: One lap remaining.
  • Checkered Flag: Race is over.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: What does the blue and white flag stand for in races?

Answer: Different organizations may have a variation of the flags. I would assume that they would use the blue with white the same way just a blue flag would be. To make it worse, some flag crews are hired by the track, so it could be specific to that crew, the track, the org, etc.

Question: What does the Scotland flag (Blue with white X) mean in racing?

Answer: Race orgs, tracks, and safety teams use different flags to.signify different things. Blue flags in the US typically mean that the leaders are approaching.

If it has a white X In it, it might be that or could be a special debris flag. Not sure where you saw it.