I wrote this in 2003 and just stumbled across it today. At the time I was a rookie -- but seeing a lot of rookie moves. Someday soon -- I'll rewrite it to incorporated what I've learned since, 4-speeds, and a Drag Racing 201.
Below is the original article -- with the links updated to working links
Drag Racing 101by: Dave Schultz (BK)
I write this article, because I've had opponents in the other lane improperly stage their cars to where they've pre-staged and staged before I've had a chance to pre-stage, or they pre-stage and stay there until someone from the track bangs on their window to tell them to move up.
I'm far from perfect! I used the line-lock improperly for a long time -- and had a Hell of a time trying to figure out why my RTs were all over the map, when I thought I was leaving at the same time. Fact is that we're not born with this knowledge -- and the purpose of this article is to share some of the knowledge I had to learn the hard way.
Most tracks have at least one night a week for street cars to race. My 1/4 mile track charges $15 for car and driver and $8 for each additional person. (2003 Prices - lol)
Car: If you have a street car that is safe, no matter how slow it is, you can race. Turn your AC off as soon as you get to the pit entrance -- so the condensation can dry before going to tech. Liquid on the track is a bad thing! Make sure you you have enough gas with the proper octane needed for hard acceleration to race, and get you to a gas station after the race -- but not too full (weight is the enemy). Most tracks sell racing fuel -- but most of it contains lead. Generally 104 octane will not have lead -- if available. It is possible that just a few gallons of leaded gas will cause you to fail emissions testing months later. Lead will also burn up sensors -- like O2s.
Driver: You need to have a valid Driver's License. If you're under 18 but are licensed to drive in your state, you will have to go with a parent. Ask at the gate for a minor racing waiver, and where to take it once completed. Some tracks have you give it to the tech inspector and others have you take it to the tower. Most tracks keep the card on file for the calendar year. Do not race if you've drank a beer and/or smoked a joint on the way to the track. While you may think it has relaxed you or made you "One with your vehicle" -- you are a danger to the rest of us. You need to wear a long sleeve shirt, long pants and leather shoes. If you're faster than 14 seconds -- you need an approved helmet and jacket. Check the web site of your track for details on required safety equipment.
Tech: Tires don't hook up very well at the safe street tire pressure of 28-32 pounds. They like 15-18 pounds, while slicks like 8-11 pounds. (Note: This was before Radial Slicks -- check the manufacturer's suggestion). Most tracks have an air station where you can add air to your tires for the trip home after racing. Verify it is operational before deflating your tires. It is always best to bring a portable air tank to make sure you have air.You'll want the maximum AP in the front tires for the least rolling resistance.
Take everything out of your car before racing. Tool boxes, baby seats, and any other loose junk -- including the spare tire and jack. You don't want anything bouncing around in the car. You were given a tech card at the gate. Fill it out properly and take it and your car to the tech inspection station. The inspector will look your car over for safety. How new, how well maintained, and how fast it appears will determine how much of a looking over they'll give it. If he deems your car safe to race, he'll put your number on the window and you are eligible to race when the announcer calls the class you are racing in.
Announcer & Staging Lanes: The track's loud speakers will keep you informed on when the Test & Tune people can race and when the different classes are called to race. Often there is a radio station at the track for announcements -- if you are too far from a speaker. They'll usually have a dozen staging lanes that you sit in and wait for your class to race -- so listen for the lane you are to go to. Once there, you will be instructed by track personnel when to move up. Again, you should not have turned on your air conditioner since entering the pit gate. Check that your seat belt is tight and have all of the windows rolled up. Keep the car as cool as possible by not running it when you are stopped.
Keep your driver's door open when coming through the staging lanes to keep yourself cool. Usually there is some distance kept between the car doing the burnout and the car next in line for the burnout. When it is time to move up for your burnout, a man will point at you and then circle his arms.
Each track is different on how close they want you to move up. Pay attention to the staging lane director -- as they get pissed if you either don't move up when they want you too -- or move up before they instruct you to.
Have all of you safety equipment on and windows up long before called up for the burn out. No one wants to wait for you.
Burnout: The purpose of a burnout is to clean the crap off your tires, and to heat the rubber up to be a little stickier. There are basically four types or tires. Street tires, street slicks, small slicks, and big slicks. In the order I listed those tires is the amount of weak to hard burnout you do.
STREET TIRES: You don't need much of a burnout for street tires and street slicks. Most racers with cars using those tires will drive around the water box and then back the rear tires only into the water and roll out just enough to moisten the tires. Now just past the water, lightly apply the brakes just enough (gives a little hold on the front brakes -- but won't last long) to spin the rear tires. Again you don't need to do too much more than clean the tires off with street tires. Anything harder is a waste of tires and will hurt your 60'. Ease off the gas and out of your burnout long before you come up to the staging area. The keyword was EASE. Below is a video of my brother and I racing Grand Nationals with street slicks, to give you an idea of what's happening with street cars.
YouTube - Grand National Vs. Grand National
SMALL SLICKS: If you have 10.5" wide or smaller slicks, you will want a better burnout and you really should have a line-lock to do it. A line-lock is a solenoid attached to front brake line that holds the brake pressure only to the front brakes when you take your foot off the brake pedal (while holding the button). They cost about $50. To properly do a burnout with these tires, drive through the water. I like to blip the gas to spin them while going through -- but others argue that throws water up the wheel wells that will drip down on to the slicks when staging. Do what works for you.
As soon as you get out of the water box shift to 2nd gear on a Mopar automatic, as 1st gear burnouts can cause a transmission to explode from overrun. Pump the brake pedal three times and hold it down hard, press and hold the line-lock, and release the brake pedal. The line-lock holds pressure to the front brakes only. Hammer the gas to spin the tires and then shift to third at about 5000 rpm. When the tires start to grab (you'll feel it), they're dry and hot enough to race so release the line-lock and ease out of the gas. Easing off the gas is easier on your car than just letting the sticky tires slow your engine as quick as it will if you get out of the gas quick. You want some smoke from your burnout -- but not so much as to kill all of the mosquitoes within a mile's radius. Small slicks launch better if you don't overcook them. This is a video of my son doing a burnout with small slicks.
YouTube - El Diablo Rojo - April 13, 2008 2nd Pass
LARGE SLICKS: Same procedure as the small slicks -- but it will take a little longer and throw more smoke. This is a video of my 65 Coronet with 32" tall and 14" wide slicks doing a burnout.
YouTube - Smoking out the track
The automatic transmission car in the above pass had a weak motor and was only capable of high 10s in the 1/4. So the burnout started in 2nd gear. That same car with a much more powerful engine had its burnout start in 3rd gear.
You Have to hammer the gas hard to break the slicks from the sticky pavement, and get the burnout to start. Don't try to slowly accelerate into a burnout.
After the burnout kick the car up into neutral and give it a quick rev to clear out the carb and clean off the plugs a little. Then shift it into first if a manual valve bodied transmission or Drive if it is a full automatic. On a full automatic -- you will almost always do better letting the car shift instead of you shifting.
On my stick-shift car (below) -- I start the burnout in third gear because I have enough power -- and I never shift during the burnout. You will note the clearing of the carbs after the burnout, and a small popping of the clutch before I get to the line to ensure I'm in 1st -- and not 3rd.
YouTube - Wheels Up
Pre-Stage and Stage: Now here's where you can look like a real rookie. Courtesy has both racers pre-stage before either starts to stage. Basically there is a short little box on the track 25' before the lights. It has three beams going across your lane for your front tires to break. The first is the Pre-Stage, the second is the Stage, and the third is the Leave beam. You want to slowly roll up to break the first beam with your front tire -- which will cause the two bug light bulbs at the top to light up. Stop right there until the other driver has done the same.
IMPORTANT: You will have pre-staged from your burnout aiming for the groove you see in your lane all of the way up the track. The groove is the fastest part of the track. Aim for it from the burnout as you want to pre-stage with the car straight -- so that you will launch straight. Don't make you correction in the last couple of feet because your rear tires will not be straight with the front of the car. Now slowly roll forward until you just trip the second set of bug bulbs. If you always creep to the staging beam and stop as soon as the second bulbs flicker (Called Shallow Stage) -- your RTs will be more consistent since you will always be in the same spot. Deep staging is a tactic for the more experienced -- and not allowed at some events and tracks).
It really doesn't matter who stages and pre-stages first. Some drivers like to play head games and make you wait -- but that only works if you let it work. I have all the time in the world for their games and it never rattles me. Turbo cars like to stage first -- so they have a little extra time to spool up the Turbo.
The below is a video showing the inching up a couple of cars make to have both pre-stage before the first stages.
YouTube - Grand National Vs. Grand National # 2
The Groove: You will see two dark strips going down the track. That is the groove. It is the stickiest part of the track. For the faster cars with spools -- if one slick was in the groove and the other was out of the groove -- the car would want to turn sharply. It is important to line up staight in the groove -- using as much track between the burnout and staging to be straight. (Think rifle sights vs. snub nose pistol sights -- the longer sights are more accurate). If you get out of the groove while going down the track, use the 30' width of your lane to make slight corrections back into the groove -- as opposed to hard corrections.
Launch: As soon as both racers have staged, a man will punch a button that starts the tree to count down three amber lights then a green. When foot-braking, have your left foot on the brake and bring the car up to where it likes to launch (start at 1,500 RPM and experiment up and down and compare your 60' times) as soon as both of you have staged. If you have a trans-brake -- you will most likely also have a launch chip and so will floor the car as soon as you see the first amber on the tree light, and let your chip limit the rev.
As soon as the last amber (the one right above the green) lights up -- GO! Leaving too soon will cause a Red-Light, which is an automatic loss. Leaving too late will cause you to lose, as timing is done on a "Package" of your reaction time plus your Elapsed Time. You can have a better Elapsed Time and lose if you fell asleep and had a poor Reaction Time.
Focus on your light if you and the other driver leaves on different lights. The best drivers only see their bottom amber light and don't see the others after they've staged. Keep aiming for the groove all of the way down the track and and shift at your RPM if you have a manual valve bodied transmission. Keep in it until 10' after you've crossed the finish line, and then brake for the exit that best suits your brakes without braking too hard. If you are in the far lane from the track exit -- make sure the other guy exits first or is so far behind you that you can safely cross into his lane without getting run over. Roll down your window to let some fresh air in, and stop at the time shack on the way back to your pit for your time slip. Another article will discuss how to read that.
When you get to the pits cool your car down. For street cars that means open the hood (we'll talk about cooling the intake in a car tip). For cars with electric water pumps and fans -- turn the ignition off but let the fan and water pump run until the car gets down to around 130 degrees. Charge your battery while this is going on. Remember, engine oil and transmission oil will not cool as fast as your engine coolant. Properly rest the car between passes as to not overheat these oils.
Trouble: Blowing engines, transmissions, axles is a way of life in racing. It happens to the best built stuff sooner or later. If you blow something and even think there's a chance of liquid (Coolant, oil, trans oil, rear end) getting on the track -- pull to the wall as quickly as you safely can -- and stop. If you oil down more lane than you needed to -- by driving down the center for the rest of the track, People will come to your pits and they will kill you. Oil downs are dangerous for drivers, and take a long time to clean up. 100 racers sitting in a hot race suit in a hot car will get more angry as each minute ticks off from an un-nesscessaryly long clean up out of stupidity.
Temperatures. Every car is a little different -- but what works for my cars is to try to arrive to the burnout at 150 degrees water temp. I'll generally then be at 165 at my launch. And between 190-200 at the end of the run. I turn off my fan (leave the water pump on) when I pre-stage. It is then I also turn on my recording tach. Remember to turn the fan on at the end of the run. If you think you will have a problem remembering this -- leave the fan on. You can control the tempreture to 150 while moving up in line with how long you run your motor, waterpump, and fan.
The below are two older in-car videos with different angles. I was a little slower on the shifting in those days -- so I need to get another in-car video soon -- which is less embarrassing on the shifting.
YouTube - In Car Drag Race Video #2
YouTube - In Car Drag Race Video #1
Ok -- that's Drag Racing 101. There's more to it -- but that's enough to digest for your first couple of trips to the track. So borrow Mom's Lincoln Navigator -- and bring it back to her with shoe polish on the windshield and rubber on the back quaters. Do it once -- and you'll be hooked.
Finally -- here's a video of a bunch of NSS Cars making launches.
YouTube - MoPowerStyle Ad
UnStick?................is that an automatic?
needs and update. I'm sure a few tips and tricks have been learned in 9 years.
I've been meaning to write Drag Racing 201 for some time to talk about index racing, the mathematics of split times, the distance between you and the other car at the 1000' and mph cone, weather stations, how much stripe to take, and other topics not covered 9 years ago.
I'll get to it soon
Rule #1, turn off the AC!! Yup, did that once....more than once LOL. I flipped that sucker on as soon as I made the stripe with my Belvedere and forgot to switch it off on a hot lap! Just so freakin hot here!
Drag Racing Definition: "A short race between two automobiles starting from a standstill. The winner being the car that can accelerate the fastest, OR CHEAT LIKE HELL!"
I can't claim it; definition is on a t-shirt I bought off a guy at the Winternationals in Pamona a number of years ago. He was selling t-shirts off the tailgate of his pick-up to support his [drag racing] habit.
His approach was original and I liked the shirt, so I bought one.
You mean sand bagging!? My old car ran 10.68 and my 'more in the present' car ran 19.66 (lol) but both ran the number and all I had to do was cut a light and the sand baggers were out!
I've never thought of sandbagging as cheating - just taking a perhaps unfair advantage that, more often than not, comes back to bite you in the ass. Like deep staging - is that cheating or knowing how to play the game?
Oh, and I've beaten a few sand baggers in the past.
Back then I thought that it was a humerus definition without any evil intent. Made me laugh so I bought a shirt.
Playing the rules to the allowed limit is even thought by some to be cheating or not being a gentleman about it. Never sand bagged but have deep staged when allowed and have been known to 'use the clock' when staging for every minute it was worth but only when I thought the other person deserved it lol. Back in 2000 I deep staged against my wife with a vehicle that was 2 tenths slower than hers and beat her and she's still mad about it!
I didn't realize y'all did so much drag racing in India
126.96.36.199 IP address location & more: IP address [?]: 188.8.131.52 [Whois] [Reverse IP] IP country code: IN IP address country: India IP address state: Delhi IP address city: Delhi IP address latitude: 28.6667 IP address longitude: 77.2167 ISP of this IP [?]: MTS Organization: MTS Local time in India: 2012-08-14 17:52
I'm watching -- with the finger hovering over the Ban button. We don't like spammers from India here.
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