Racing 101, Part Five: A Primer For Racing Writers and Editors

Adam AmickSenior Writer IJuly 3, 2008

This article is designed to be informative and used as a guide. A guide to help all the great contributors to the racing sections of Bleacher Report make a few adjustments to their pieces, so we’re all on the same page. It is not intended to insult, rather to make sure you as a writer, editor, or even just a casual reader, are aware of some common mistakes made (not necessarily just here, but elsewhere in the media), and how to avoid or correct them. 

It is also not to imply that I am better than anyone else. I make mistakes, and my articles require editing at times when I overlook things. Formatting, grammar, and style aside, I hope this will help clear up some common issues I have identified, in order to improve the overall quality of work on the site. 

First: There is no “Hendricks” Motorsports, or team owner named Rick Hendricks, in NASCAR. His name is Rick Hendrick, and the team is called Hendrick Motorsports (HMS). HMS is a proper acronym to use once this has been stated in an article, similar to Richard Childress Racing (RCR) or Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR). 

Just because Jimmy Spencer, Kenny Wallace, Kyle Petty and others are on TV, doesn’t mean they say everything right. Drop the “s”, and you will be correct with the Hendrick name. 

Second: “Nascar” is not acceptable. NASCAR is an acronym. It stands for National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (for those who may not have known). Now whether we as racing fans believe there’s anything “Stock” left in NASCAR is irrelevant. The fact is that you capitalize all letters in an acronym. 

Similarly, CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams), IRL (Indy Racing League), and NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) are all capitals. Mind you, the first time you reference them in a piece, it would be advisable to spell the acronym out, capitalizing the first letter of the words as required, and indicate the forthcoming acronym in (parenthesis) though this may not be necessary. This is not required for NASCAR, since NASCAR is above all (or so they seem to believe). 

For example: The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will race at Daytona this weekend in the Coke Zero 400. Last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS), Jeff Burton was able to close the gap on NSCS points-leader Kyle Busch. 

Third: When you are writing specifically about drivers or races in the IndyCar Series, say so. That is the official name for the open-wheel series that includes the Indianapolis 500 as its premier event. The Indy Racing League (IRL) was the name of the series prior to 2003, due to legal issues with CART following the split of the two series in 1996. Now, the Indy Racing League is the governing body for the IndyCar Series, in which drivers like Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, and Danica Patrick participate. 

The IRL is to the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights what NASCAR is to the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Craftsman Truck Series. So please make sure you are referencing the organizations properly. Also, note that “IndyCar Series” is correctly capitalized. 

Fourth: When writing an article and mentioning drivers’ names, such as Gordon, Patrick, and Hamilton, you should use their full name in at least the first mention. This is a proper reference, will prevent confusion, and help those who may be less familiar with the subjects of your article become better informed about whom you are writing. So in a piece you may address the popularity of Jeff Gordon, Danica Patrick, and Lewis Hamilton in their given forms of racing. 

If by chance you were writing a story involving both Jeff Gordon and Robby Gordon (no relation, for those who may not know) following the first usage of their full name you can shorten to J. Gordon and R. Gordon for sake of brevity. 

Fifth: I’ve realized recently that when tagging an article about Auto Racing, it should not also be tagged as “Motorsports”. The Motorsports tag would be correctly used on the series of articles about the Red Bull Air Races, or Monster Truck events, or perhaps some down-home Louisiana-style Mud Bogging. Likewise, Snowmobile or Supercross racing would be a Motorsport. Saving this tag will help keep articles tied to the proper pages. 

Sixth: If your piece is about a single driver, say Tony Stewart for example, using his nickname “Smoke” is acceptable. If you make reference to a number of drivers, you may want to clarify with Tony “Smoke” Stewart so there is no confusion. Be certain that it is a commonly used nickname for the driver; otherwise humor the reader with the explanation that it is YOUR nickname for that person. 

For example: I wonder if Sam “Crash Test Dummy” Hornish, Jr. is going to survive the year with the number of cars he’s wrecked. 

Kyle Busch is known as “Shrub” (referring to the fact that he is the younger brother of Kurt Busch) and more recently as “Rowdy” (since he drives the #51 in the Truck Series, and 51 was Rowdy Burns’ number in the movie Days of Thunder), but both are acceptable. 

Helio “Spider-Man” Castroneves is also a given (for his climbing of the fence after winning a race… No, Tony Stewart didn’t do it first). Readers might not get the nickname “Flipper” when referring to Carl Edwards, unless they’re familiar with his tradition of performing a back flip off the side of his car following a race win. But “The King” is synonymous with Richard Petty and is a household name all fans of stock car racing should be familiar with.

Finally: Please take a look and see if you are about to write the fifth recap of yesterday's race. It seems the racing pages are becoming the "Department of Redundancy Department" each Sunday and Monday (and Wednesday for the late-bloomer) with a number of pieces that essentially say the same thing. "Kyle Busch Wins Again!" Really? I hadn't noticed in the other four articles that were written.

If someone else beats you to the punch, then either write faster, comment on their piece, or put a different spin on events. Make your story unique. If you have opinions about how so-and-so ran, or how the officials screwed that guy, then focus your piece on that, and have your headline reflect it.

In my opinion there needs to be only one in-depth recap of a given race. There are going to be some obvious similarities: The race name, location, date, and finishing order are a given, yet may need to be stated to build toward your point.

Hopefully these points will help raise the overall quality of work, at least in the Auto Racing section of Bleacher Report, reduce editing requirements, and prevent readers from getting frustrated in seeing multiple articles with the same headline and story.