Help and Tips for the First Timer
Drag Racing Tips – Originally from Jeffrey Tyler, updated by Rob Cheek, updated by Tom Pierce for SSHS4.
- If you don’t know, ask! Everyone at the track knows what it is like to be a first timer. After all, nobody was born there, and we’re actually a pretty friendly bunch.
- When you are ready to try your luck, most tracks have “test & tune” nights, or “street nights” where it is open for anyone to make as many passes as they want. This is a great time for newbies to get out and try it without being under pressure.
- At the gate, pay your entry fee (or show your nametag), sign the track release and the GaSSit release and get your “tech card”.
- Find a pit spot. The pits get full later, so don’t hog up a ton of spaces. Remove everything from your car (any loose items), and fill out your tech card.
- When the announcer calls for tech inspection to be open, listen, and go where you are told. (Tech at SSHS is near the end of the return road, under the big Sunoco sign – after the first rush is through, we will move to the base of the timing tower).
- Usually, even a relatively highly modified late model car can pass tech easily. If you’re running a 13.99 or quicker, you’ll need to have a driveshaft loop and a helmet with you. If you are doing better than a 11.99, things get substantially more complicated (roll cage, firesuit, extinguisher, etc). The tech inspector will write your cars number on your side and front windows where it will be visible to the tower.
- When the announcer calls for staging lanes to be open, pull into your proper lanes. (During the morning test ‘n’ tune, we will use all 8 staging lanes, and run them all at the same time).
- Once you are in the lanes, stay with your car.
- When it’s time for the cars in your staging lane to pull forward and be positioned to race, a track official at the front of the lanes will direct you. It is very important to pay attention! Watch the track officials at all times for proper direction.
- After you have been paired up out of the staging lanes and pull up under the timing tower, be ready to go. You will move forward and stop before the water box until the car in front of you has completed his burnout. (There will be 3 cars in your lane – you at the head of the staging lane, a car in front of you doing a burnout, and a car in front of him staged and ready to go). The track official at the water box will check to make sure your windows are rolled up, A/C off, and seatbelts are on.
- Go around the water box if you are running street tires. Do a short burnout to get the dirt off of your tires and heat them up a bit. Hold the brake with your left foot, and goose it with your right for a couple of seconds. You don’t want to get near the water on stock tires. Also, don’t do your burnout in the water, as it tends to throw water all over everyone and everything within 50 yards of the starting line! The car in line behind you will be very annoyed, especially if he’s in the Car Show later that afternoon.
- When you are told to, pull your car toward the staging beams. They are not located next to the starting lights (christmas tree), but about a car length before! Watch other racers to find where they are located. When you get close, the top set of lights (pre-stage) will come on. Now, slowly creep forward until the next set come on (staged).
- Take your time! Nobody will rush you! The starter knows the regulars, and he will realize you are a new face. It is considered a courtesy to wait until your opponent has pre-staged before you stage.
- Find the yellow light just above the green, and concentrate on it! Go when this last yellow comes on! If you wait till the green, you will get a terrible reaction time! The interval between timing lights is 1/2 second. Your reaction time is measured from when the last yellow light comes on, so a reaction time of .500 is perfect.
- If you feel things get out of hand (massive wheelspin or whatever), just back off for that run! There’ll be plenty others! Also, if it’s your very first time down the track, you might not want to give it 100% the first time. The track is a lot slicker than most roads, so be aware and be careful.
- Stay in your lane at all costs. As you get close to the finish line (several car lengths ahead of the Mustang), keep it on the floor! The first set of beams you see set up are to start the MPH timers, and the second set records your elapsed time. Find out exactly where the end of the quarter mile is!
- The track turn off’s are on the left, and there are 2 of them – one just past where the ambulance is usually parked, and another at the end of the track. The car in the left lane has right-of-way (the car in the lane that has the track turn offs has right of way). Note: not many people know of this rule, so be extra careful. Do not turn in front of another car! At the Texas Motorplex last year, a guy in a street car was racing a 10 second car. The 10 second car had trouble on the line, and the street car got to the finish line first, but the 10 second car was now on the way. The street car went for the first turn off, and turned in front of the other car that hit him running around 120 miles per hour. Be careful out there.
- Proceed up the return road (bear to the right instead of going straight), and stop to get your ET slip. Now is not the time to read it, wait till you are in your pit. There are a lot of people (kids) walking around not paying attention, so go slow!
In most professional forms of drag racing, the first one to the finish line wins. However, in bracket racing, that isn’t always how it works out. For SSHS5, there will be 4 brackets (or classes – see above). Since each of these categories contains a wide range ofETs, you are handicapped based on a time that you predict you will run. This is called your “dial in”. The person who runs closest to their dial-in without going faster wins the race. If you go faster than your dial-in, you “break out” and automatically lose the race.
For example, if your Impala runs a consistent 14.70 and the Camaro you are racing dials in at 14.20, you would get a .50 second head start. The tower will set the starting lights with the difference in dial-ins, and the slower car will leave first. If you both got to the finish line at exactly your dial-in, the race is a tie. In practice, this never happens due to differences in reaction times and vehicle performance.
The staging lights also measure how long it takes you to leave your staged position. This is called your reaction time. On test-n-tune nights, it isn’t a big deal, but in bracket racing it is very important. You must be consistent in your launch (via reaction time) and your car must be consistent in the quarter mile (via dial-in).
Your reaction time is usually expressed as a number indicating how long you leave after the last amber light comes on. A perfect time would be .500, which is exactly when the green light comes on. If you get under .500, you “red light” and lose the race. If you take longer than .500, you will take longer to get to the finish line, which can lose the race.
The key to winning in bracket racing is a low reaction time and a consistent performance by your car. Every millisecond difference from your dial-in and a perfect .500 reaction time hurts you. If you run faster than your dial-in, you automatically lose, so if you feel you are running too fast (as often happens as the night gets cooler), you might want to slow down just as you are approaching the finish line so that you don’t go over your dial-in. You might also want to do this if you are fairly sure that your opponent has broke out. You can change your dial in between runs.
Eliminate variables between runs. Keep your car in the same configuration, do you burnout and stage the same way, shift at the same points, and do everything else as consistently as possible to win a bracket race. Compensate for changing track conditions using your dial-in (you can change it after each race). Also remember that slower cars are often more consistent, so you don’t need to try to eek every last HP out of the car for a bracket race. Have fun!
- Don’t start your burnout until directed by an official. He’ll usually give you some sort of hand signal. Also make sure you are all the way on the track and facing directly forwards.
- Don’t do burnouts in the water, period. Don’t do burnouts with treaded street tires. Water gets into the treads and tracks all the way to the starting line. This makes the drivers with slicks very angry. Heating up a street tire is useless because of the hard rubber that street tires are made of. It won’t help your 1/4 mile times.
- Don’t do a John Force-style burnout (i.e. spinning the tires through and past the starting line, forcing you to back up) unless you don’t have any front brakes and/or you are John Force.
- If you are bracket racing, don’t lock up your brakes at the end of the track in an attempt to not “break out”. Locking them up at this speed could be very dangerous. This isn’t an issue for test-n-tune nights, but be sure you leave plenty of room to brake at the end of the track without doing a massive ABS stop.
- Some tracks employ a courtesy rule. This means that the first car into the staging beams should light only the pre-stage light. When the second car is pre-staged, then either of you can move up slightly into the staging lights.
- Make sure your numbers and dial-in (if applicable) are visible from the tower.
- Make sure you get in the right staging lane, and make sure that you don’t attempt to run in a class where your car would not be appropriate (e.g. you probably shouldn’t end up racing a junior dragster in your Impala). Ask if you are unsure.