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Checkered Flags and Their Origins

Posted: 10-29-12 | Parker Flags

One of the most ubiquitous of race flags is the checkered flag. Known far and wide to be associated with racing, have you ever wondered what the checkered flag stands for?

The Checkered flag, also spelled chequered flag, is shown at the start/finish line to designate that the session has been completed. Upon seeing the checkered flag drivers are made aware that they need to slow down to a safe speed and return to their garage.

The number of boxes, size and length-width proportions of the checkers vary from flag to flag as there is no standard set forth, as long as the flag is checkered. Often times, if a race has a sponsor, you will see that sponsor’s logo on the flag. In Indy Car races, two checkered flags are waved, whereas in NASCAR and F1 series races, a single flag is used.

Traditionally, NASCAR will have an individual version of a checkered flag sewn for Victory Lane, embroidered with the name and date of the race on it. Teams often keep these flags in their garages as mementos of the race that they won.

So how did this sport end up giving such significance to checkered flags? The true origins are unknown; however, there is some speculation as to how this came about. One theory is that during horse races in America’s Midwest, large public meals would follow the race. In order to indicate to the racers that the meal was ready and the race should end, a large checkered tablecloth was waved.

One likely theory as to how checkered flags came to hold such significance in the world of racing is that the high-contrast of the flags would be more conspicuous against the background of a crowd.

That’s all on checkered flag for today. If you’re in need of any checkered flags of your own, be sure to check out Parker Flags wide array of racing flags and custom flags, and be sure to check back here soon in order to find out more about flags.

Question: Where have you seen racing flags used outside of race events?