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Drag racing 101

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Drag racing 101

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Old 07-06-2006, 11:38 PM
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Default Drag racing 101

IT has come to my attention that a lot of people here who haven’t been to the track may not know a lot about actual drag racing at a track. It seems that some people think that if they go to a track with their car that may only run 15-17 seconds, that they will spend their evening trying in vain to beat cars that are much faster, and that is not the case. Another concern from some people is that drag racing at a track is like the television show “pinks”…remember, pinks is a very poor representation of drag racing, and the show is very, very stupid. I love drag racing, and seeing as how I have been getting some questions lately, and I have seen some misinformation, I thought that I would put together some information for those who have thought about going to the track, and have not due to either lack of knowledge of concerns about doing poorly/not knowing what to do.

While I am by no means a professional, I have made my way into a few mentions in national dragster magazine, as well as a few Mopar magazines for my racing activities. I have been racing at the track for about 10 years now, and although my activity has slowed of late due to moving to a new area, I have made well over 1000 passes down the quarter mile, in cars ranging from my old white dodge which is currently in the low 12s, to the BMW which ran low 16s, the stratus which runs low 16s/high 15s, and a friends 4 cylinder bottled Sebring which ran high 14s. The drag strip can be a hell of a lot of fun, and is nothing to be “scared” of, regardless of how fast or slow your car, truck, or bike may be. Here is the only thing from a magazine that I have about myself, its not much, but like I said, Im not a pro...I was just happy to see my car in there.

There are two basic types of drag racing events, test and tune, and bracket racing (on track schedules this may be called “race day” or “Regular racing”). If you are new to the drag racing scene, I strongly recommend making a few trips to test and tune to get an idea of what is going on, and get some experience.

Items needed to go racing:
• A car, truck, or bike. Make sure that your car is relatively “safe”. Most tracks will not allow vehicles to run with broken or cracked windshields. Make certain that you have the proper number of lug nuts, a good secure battery tie down, a radiator overflow reservoir, and seat belts. Make sure that you don’t have badly worn out tires, as they may fail tech inspection.

• If you think that your car will run in the 13 second range (13.99 or faster) you will need a helmet. Snell rating M2000 is the current requirement, but some tracks are lenient with this, so long as you have a helmet. Make sure that your helmet is a full sided helmet; motor cycle “skull caps” which do not cover the ears will not work. You do not have to have a full face shield, or a shield at all if you’re running the average street car. I believe that as long as you are running a full bodied car, you do not need a full face helmet until you are in the 9s. However, I have been to a track that requires a helmet for EVERYONE, so check ahead of time. Most sites have a webpage.

• Long pants and at least a t-shirt. Shorts and sleeveless shirts (tank tops, beaters, etc) are not permitted. I usually wear shorts, but take breakaways or sweats to slide over them.

• A Pen to fill out your tech car

• Cash Money! Many tracks don’t take credit cards.

• Friends. I always recommend going to the track with at least one person. You never know what you might need help with, and in case you aren’t one to mingle with strangers, it is good to have someone to help if you need assistance with anything. Usually if you are really in trouble or have problems, other racers will help out, but it never hurts to have someone there whom you know.

• No more than a quarter tank of gas. Gasoline weighs, on average, 6.52 pounds per gallon, so less weight will make the car faster.

• You can usually take in your own drinks, but no glass containers.

• A tire pressure gauge. I was at the track last week, and I may have been the ONLY person who had one, and I was only there to watch…I wasn’t racing. Tire pressure can play a key role in your car getting traction, and you don’t want to be hounding people all day or night for a gauge. They are very cheap, leave one in your car all the time.

• Cell phone. Breaking is a part of racing, and in the event that you are one of the unfortunate ones whose car can not leave the track under its own power, make sure that you, or someone you know, has a cell phone.

• Shoe polished, as pictured below. It is what the track official will use to write your car number on your windshield, and they are usually messy. Once you know where they want the number, you can ask for your number and do it yourself. I have permanent decals on the windshield of several of my cars, but that is a bit much for a lot of people. Either way, I always have shoe polish to put on my own numbers.

A breakdown of the racing itself.
Before beginning the act of drag racing, typically you will be called to the staging lanes. When you get to the track, try to locate the staging lanes prior to the racing beginning; they are usually right around the starting line. Once called to those lanes, go with your class (if you are driving a street cars with street legal tires, you will typically want ‘street class’…if you’re running slicks, check with the track for class restrictions on tires. Do not wander away from your car!! I have no idea as to how many times I have seen the lanes plugged up by someone who has wandered away from their car, blocking the lanes. This will anger your fellow racers, and in some cases, get you thrown out of the track. Once you are directed by the staging judge to pull your car to the track pull to the “Water box”. If you are running a pure street tires, you want to pull around the water, as doing a massive burnout only makes the tires greasy, but you will still want to spin them a little to remove any track debris. If you have drag radials or slicks, you will want to pull into the water box, and stop with your drive wheels at the front edge of the water, closest to the starting line. Once you begin your burnout (when the burning box attendant gives you the go-ahead) make sure that when you have completed your burnout, you let the tires spin with the car rolling forward until you are out of the water. Last weekend I watched some kid pull into the box several times, and do huge burnouts, only to completely get off the throttle in the water, and roll through the water to the line, thus cooling the tires and making them very slippery. Once you have cleaned your tires off, slowly approach the starting line...and remember, you DO NOT stage at the Christmas tree…the staging beams are 42 feet before the tree.

The typical 1/4 mile drag strip has 9 laser beams crossing the track which are how the timing system measures each vehicles travel down the track.

A. This is the pre-stage beam. It has NOTHING to do with the timing system, but it is there to tell you that you are 7 inches from the starting line. When your tires break this beam, the top set of small yellow bulbs on the Christmas tree come light up. Also, some people seem to think that when you “stage”, you do so at the Christmas tree, this is not the case. The tree is actually 42 feet from the staging beams. When you stage, it is the opinion of many experienced drivers that you want to BARELY be into the second beam, so once you are into the pre-stage beam, ease up very gently. Remember, you are now 7 inches from the stage beam, ease up gently. Some people like to “deep stage”, which means that they pull completely out of the pre-stage beam before the race starts, leaving only the second set of bulbs lit, but I do not recommend that.

B. This is the stage beam, or basically, the starting line. When your tires break this beam, the second set of small yellow bulbs on the Christmas tree come light up. Your reaction time is based on the actual time when the green light comes on, to the point where this beak is able to reconnect. There are two types of lighting systems right now, the old normal style tree, or the new style which uses LEDs instead of normal light bulbs. The LED tree uses .000 as a perfect light and the old style uses .500. A “perfect light” means that at the exact instance that the green comes on, you are out of that staging beam. The reason for the .500 measurement, is that in a sportsman tree, meaning that each individual amber bulbs lights on its own, each bulb is a half second from the next. So, when the first bulb lights, it will be .5 seconds until the next, and from the last amber to the green lightning, it is also a half second, so if you are off the starting line EXACTLY as the green lights, you are perfect. Should you leave the staging beam before the green light comes on, you red light. So, if you have something like a .533 or .033 light, that means that you left the staging area .033 of a second after the green light came on. Typically, any .5XX or .0XX light is considered to be pretty good, with the lower numbers of course being better. .6XX or .1XX lights are considered to be average, and .7XX or .2XX are fairly bad. I will admit that in all of my runs, I have never had a .500 or .000 light, and I’ve only seen maybe 15 or 20, and I’ve probably seen 10s of thousands of runs. Something to keep in mind…the reaction time has NO BEARING on your ¼ mile time. You could sit here for 15 minutes once the green lights up, and a 12.00 second car will still run 12.00 seconds provided proper traction and such. A better reaction time does not improve your ET.

C. This is the 60 foot mark. This point is the best way to tell how well you are launching compared to your total ET and MPH.

D. This is the 330 foot mark. This is less important for many, but the faster you go, the more helpful the extra measurement times will be to determine how well your car is performing at different points on the track.

E. This is the 660 foot (8th mile) MPH laser, and is the 594 foot mark. The timing system will time how long it takes you to get from this beam to the next to determine your 660 foot MPH.

F. This is the 660 foot (8th mile) marker. If you are at an 8th mile track, this is the finish line.

G. This is the 1000 foot mark. Again, this is a more useful number for performance comparisons as you get quicker. I understand that some tracks are 1000 feet long, but I’ve never, ever seen one.

H. This is the 1320 foot (quarter mile) MPH laser, and is the 1254 foot mark. Like with the 594 foot mark, the timing system will time how long it takes you to get from this beam to the next to determine your 1320 foot MPH.

I. This is the 1320 foot marker, and is the finish line. Once you break this beam, the computer has determined your ¼ mile MPH, your ET, and the winner.

After the finish line, most tracks provide from ¼ to ½ of a mile to slow your car down. In this area there will be at least one and as many as four openings along the track to turn off of the track. These lead to the “return road”. On your first run at a given track, as you cross the line, pay attention to how many return road exits they provide, as some will have several, and some only have one at the very end. Regardless of how many there are, there is no need to slam on the brakes and risk losing control due to locking the brakes. Once on the return road, do not fly down the road. Most tracks have a 5 or 10mph pit speed, and that also applies on the return road. Typically, along the return road, there will be a small booth with someone standing next to, or in it, and that is where you get your timeslips. Once you have gotten your slip, you then proceed to your place in the pits, or at some tracks, they have street class return to the staging lanes. They will announce things like this prior to the racing starting, so pay attention to any PA announcements.

The above information should give any new driver enough information to be prepared for an enjoyable evening of test and tune, which means that there is no “winner” and no payouts, just heads up racing to see what your car is capable of for future reference. However, some test and tune nights will have a “Gamblers race”, which will be addressed later. If you have a slower car (16s or higher), there is a chance that you are going to get beat by a lot of people, but there is almost always someone slower. The cars are typically broken into classes such as “street tire” and “slicks”, or they break them up by time classes, such as:

• Street-12.00 and slower, usually require street tires or drag radials, and exhaust/no open headers. No time controlling electronics.

• Mod or Pro-Usually something like 10.00-13.00, they allow any tire type and exhaust systems, but are mostly cars running slicks, and open exhaust. Since this class is usually all cars in the 13s or better, everyone in this class usually has to wear a helmet. No time controlling electronics.

• Super or SuperPro-Usually something like 7.00-10.99, usually all running slicks and open exhaust, and this class DOES permit time controlling electronics. These guys have to wear helmets, fire suits, etc. They have far more rules than to the street cars, but I wont go into all of that.

Don’t worry about winning or losing, just worry about having a good time and getting the best times that you can out of your vehicle, as well as some solid track experience.


Bracket Racing
Also called regular racing, race day, etc, this is the day where actual runs take place for money and/o trophies. While on this day times do matter, it is not a day for drivers of slower cars to fear, thanks to a system of handicapping. The day will begin like test and tune, and you should take all of the same items. The first few runs will be test runs, just like on Test and tune day, but you will usually only get 1-3 of them, so you will want to make the most of them. When racing on a bracket racing day, I recommend not “tinkering” with the car to improve times, unless you are confident with what your car can run. If I am going to make two time runs on race day, I’m going to run the car the same way, both times, but I know where I want my tire pressure and such before I get there. The way it works, is that you will get 2 time runs, and in those time runs, you want to establish what you car can run. Best case scenario is that your car runs the same thing on all 2 time runs. Say that your car runs 12.55 on both runs, then you have a good idea of what you want your “dial-in” to be. The dial-in is the number that you will place on your windshield to indicate what your car is capable to running, and that is how the handicapping system works. Say that you dial-in at 12.55, and your first round opponent dials-in at 14.55, once you are both pre-staged and staged, your opponents first amber will light 2 seconds before yours, so basically at the instant that his green light comes on, your first amber will light, thus giving him or her a 2 second head start. Once your lights start, its just like a regular time run.

Before your runs, take notice of things such as the wind and temperature. Is it hot? Cold? Very hot? Is there a head wind? A tail wind? This stuff all matters, and should be considered when running. IF you make two time runs before eliminations and you run both of them into a strong head wind, mid day sun, 95 degrees and high humidity, and run 12.55 on both runs, when it comes time for eliminations and the temperature has dropped to say, 70 degrees, the head wind is gone, and the humidity has broken, there is a good chance that if you get good traction, or at least similar traction to the 12.55 runs, you will run under your time, and that is called “breaking out”. If your opponent runs a 14.60 on a 14.55 dial-in, and you run a 12.5499, and beat him or her to the line, you8 are disqualified for running under your dial-in, or breaking out. If both cars run under their dial-in, it is called a “double breakout”, and the car which broke out less, wins, so if you run a 12.549 on a 12.55 dial-in, and your opponent runs a 14.50 on a 14.55 dial-in, you would win because your opponent broke out by 0.05, while you only broke out by 0.001. Because of this, you will often see cars hitting their brakes before the finish line, and while discouraged (as some feel that it is a sign that you are dialing-in slow) many drivers will do it just to try to ensure that they are not breaking out. You can usually not see the reaction times during elimination runs, so if your opponent has a good head start, and has a terrible reaction time, if you pull a good reaction time, and have an honest dial in, you will win, but if conditions have changed a bit, you may run under, and to be safe, I will often tap the brakes as I cross the line if I am beating the other car badly. However, some tracks have rules against hitting the brakes. Once you get off the track, and to the timeslip booth, your slip will have an arrow between the two columns with <<<WIN>>> (the arrows will only point to the winning side). Usually at racing events, winners are to return to the pits, but in some cases, they want you to return to the lanes, again, pay attention to the PA Announcer, her or she will announce that. One common misconception of bracket racing for newbies is that you aren’t allowed to change your dial-in from round to round, but that is not true. You can change your dial-in as often as you like.

As you gain more experience at the track, both at test and tune and at bracket racing events, you will find little things that just come with experience, but the above review should cover most, if not all, of the major ins and outs of a day or night at the track.


If there are any questions, feel free to post them up, or PM me if you don’t want to ask on the forum, and for other experienced racers, if Ive missed anything major, please PM me and let me know!
 
  #2  
Old 08-19-2008, 04:08 PM
BrienB
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I've never been on the track but this was very usefull.. thanks :P
 
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Old 01-06-2009, 06:48 PM
mini
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thanks for the info. I look forward to going to the track this summer. so when the first light comes on you have to inch forward for the next to start? only part that confused me.
 
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:14 PM
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yes...when you do your burnout and pull up a bit, you will first light the top two staging lights. you then want to edge forward slight bits at a time and the bottom lights will light up when you break the second beam.
 
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Old 01-09-2009, 01:26 PM
92oilburner
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Dude.....are you smokin' crack, or is this a joke thread?
 
  #6  
Old 04-12-2009, 11:01 AM
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Default if I may add another hint... or two...

If you are running your standard street tire on the front and drag radials/slicks, pull around the water box, and back into the box. This keeps the water from going into the treads of the front tire and up in the wheel well and making the track wet or cool as you approach the line and stage. Just that little amount of water might make or break you.

Also, if your new at drag racing, leave as the last yellow light starts to go out. This will allow your eye/brain/foot/chassis to react. You can adjust this to leaving just as the light comes on, or anywhere in between. Most stock chassis aren't going to react immediately to the throttle. If you wait for the green to actually light, even a nice chassis might give you a .750-.900 RT.

Again, this little bit might mean the difference of a win or just another fun day at the track as a spectator!

Great thread... why would it be a joke?

All racing is good racing. First round to last round. Just have fun!

PS. pics aren't showing
 
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Old 04-13-2009, 08:51 AM
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i think that he called it a joke because all of the images went away...making it harder to understand...ill try to find my pictures on my old comp.
 
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Old 05-16-2009, 10:00 PM
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Default i need some help bad

hey im kinda interested in something i have an 03 srt4 and i have this wire harness thats just dangling and i has a set of wires that look like miniature plug wires anyone know what that is exactly?
 
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Old 05-18-2009, 06:24 PM
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and you think that a thread titled "drag racing 101" is an appropriate place to ask this question?
 
  #10  
Old 10-28-2009, 04:05 PM
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Default Laser beam height

This is good info. Do you know how high off the ground the laser beams are?
 

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