Before you can do this on a drag strip, you must know what it is you are really doing. This article will, hopefully, give more understanding for when you go to the race track, whether it's the first time, or the first time in a long time. Some of you may already be experienced and not need this. That's ok. My intent is to help people learn so they will have a good, SAFE experience.
When you first get to the track, you'll obviously have to stop and pay your entry fee. It can vary between test and tune or an actual race day. Next will be to find a pit space where you can unload items you've brought with you that you won't want in your car while going down the track. You may even have somebody else that has driven there with you. They may be able to park in your pit spot. It just depends on the track.
Now you have to go through tech inspection. Basically this is nothing more than a safety check-point, IF the track does what it should do. With the newer LX cars, or newer cars in general, they may do nothing more than sign your tech card, (which you must also sign.) They will give you a number, which they'll put on your card & white shoe polish the number on your windows. They keep the card which usually they send to the tower for the announcer. The number is so they know when you run, they input that into their computer.
If you have modded your car quite a bit, they may check it over more, ie: under the hood, seat belts, tires. If they follow NHRA or IHRA rules strictly, and they suspect you'll run 13.99 or quicker they may want to see your helmet which must be labeled Snell 95, or SFI 31.1. These are the minimums. They could possibly not even ask.
Ok, you've now gone through tech. DON'T go straight up to the starting line, unless you are already familiar with the race track itself. Even if you are, at least go look at the track to see what kind of condition it's in. If you're not familiar with it park your car in your pit and walk toward the finish line. It will be clearly marked in some form, but get where it is now while you are looking, instead of trying to find it at 100 mph. Read this twice YOUR LIFE, HEALTH AND YOUR CAR ARE MORE IMPORTANT than waiting till you're at speed to try to find the finish line, or find out there is something wrong with the track. Ever try to stop from over 100 mph on sand, dirt, oil or water?
When you see the finish line, there will be, (usually boxes) with lights in the middle and outside of both lanes very close to the ground. That is the finish line. If you look 66 feet toward the starting line, there will be another set of lights, just like the finish line. This is where the mph clock starts. It times you over the last 66 feet of track and the computer figures your mph.
Look from the finish line and see how much shut down room you have. Even though our cars have good brakes, How much room will you have to stop if your brakes fail (it has happened) and you have to use your emergency brake? What kind of barrier do they have to help you stop if you lose your brakes? Sand pit? Fence? River? Corn field? You need to know.
Now! Get in your car, take a deep breath and feel the adrenalin already pumping. Your car should be cooled down pretty good, your garden spray bottle filled with ice water and your tire pressure gauge with you. Head to the staging lanes, watching for cars like yours, street tires, or street driven. The announcer may even announce which lanes are for which cars. Lanes for FWD, street cars, permenant number race cars. If you're not sure...ask.
Check you water temp in the lanes. If it's up around normal, give a couple squirts from your sprayer onto the radiator, check your tire pressure. If you don't have an air tank with you don't let out any air, yet.
You're in line and pulling up. They're not pulling your lane out yet. Spray your radiator again, if you've got ice on it take it off. You and the track people don't want you dripping water on the racing surface. If you don't have an air tank, check the pressure in your drive tires (AWD do all 4) and then equalize the drive tires. If you have an air tank and you want to let air out, do it now. Then get ready, cause you're next!
The person in charge of the staging lanes will motion you on. Put your seat belt on now, (keeps you from being embarrased on the starting line, when they open your door to tell you.) Soon you'll be pulling out onto the track headed toward the bleach box. If you have slicks on your car, go ahead and pull into the water, stopping just after your back tires have gone through almost all the way. If you're still running street tires DO NOT drive into the water, GO AROUND IT. The last thing you want is water in the tread and wheel wells when you leave the starting line. I know, it's cool to do a good impressive smokey, but it's not going to do you any good. The burnout is for the sticky slicks. It cleans them & puts heat into them for better traction.
The cars in front of you are leaving the starting line. Now you can hit the throttle and right back off onto the brakes. With street tires that's all you need. You'll already have looked at other cars on the starting line while you were waiting in the staging lanes. Slowly pull your car up till you turn on the top bulb on the christmas tree. That's the pre-stage light. It lets you know you're about 12" from the starting line. If the other person has not pre-staged, wait till they do. It's a common courtesy. When you are both pre-staged start moving forward. You will see the second light come on (the staged light. That's the starting line) Because our rims are 18" and more, don't stop as soon as you see the second light come on. If you do, chances are your reaction time will suck. You have to guess how far to go before you stop. If the top bulb goes out, you've "Deep Staged". Don't worry, that just means your front tires are in front of the pre-staged lights. You can adjust on your next run.
As soon as you stop, push your brake pedal like you're trying to push it thru the floor with your left foot. Put your right foot on the gas, trust your instincts, listen to the engine, but don't look at the tach, because as soon as you staged, you focused your eyes on the 3rd large yellow light, the last one before the green. Don't take your eyes off of that light, don't look to see if your friends see you, don't look to see if the 1st 2 yellow lights have come on. Keep your eyes on that last yellow light till you see it come on. When you see that last yellow, mash the gas, let go of the brake and Katy bar the door, cause you're on your way to a 12, 13 or 14 second run over 1320 feet at speeds nearing or exceeding 100 mph.
If you are shifting the car yourself, look at the tach so you don't over-rev the engine. That will slow you down, plus if it goes high enough you could do some damage. Try different shift points, higher is not always better. I have shifted my Charger R/T as low as 5000 rpm and still ran good numbers. You'll probably cross the finish line in 3rd gear. (Remember where the finish line was when you 1st got there? Now you're seeing it go under your car) Let off the gas and start Applying your brakes easy. You'll know how much room you've got to stop, because you already checked. Most tracks have more than 1 turn off. I suggest going by the 1st one, just because it'll be easier on your brakes.
Pull off of the track and onto the return road. Now you can start to breathe again as the adrenalin eases off. There will be a small building somewhere on the return road. Pull up to it, they'll check your number on your car and give you your time slip. Drive back to your pit & get something to drink.
Now for the numbers. You're learning, the track, your car, yourself. You just made a clean safe run and got stopped ok and you're back in your pit, so it's a success! Use the numbers to judge where you're at. #1-reaction time. Some tracks start at .000 others are still at .500. There's 1/2 second between the last yellow going off & the green coming on. A perfect reaction time is .000 or .500. This is just my opinion, but I feel anything up to a .050 or .550 is a good acceptable reaction. That means your front tires "broke the starting line beam" 5 hundreths of a second after the green came on. If your time is slower than that, well, now you've got a goal to shoot for. #2 is your 60' time, how long after the green did your front tires get to the 60' lights. If it's your 1st run compare it to the next runs. I had my worst 60' time at a 2.38 with the Charger. I spun the tires big time, so I adjusted how I revved the engine on my next run and that time came down. #3 is the 330' time, #4 is the 8th mile time and speed. Some tracks have lights at 1,000 feet. If so #5 is how long it took you to get there. The last numbers are your 1/4 mile time and that last 66' gives your mph.
Use your numbers to adjust how you drive. If they are slower on a run, what did you change? Faster? Good! Why? You want to almost become a machine, do every part as consistant as you can from run to run. But only change 1 thing at a time if you make changes. If you changed 2 and ran worse-which 1 hurt?
Now, you've made your run. It's hot, your car is running slower. They will slow down in hotter weather and run faster in cooler weather. If you were out there just to have fun, or to get serious, I hope this has or will help. It's only a start, still a lot to learn, long way to go. Go out there now and do it, but most of all....HAVE FUN!!!!!!!!!!!
Great post, Larry!
very informative post larry383. sounds like the voice of experience.
Where did I read this at before?
I have one disagreement with it though... with these heavy a$$ cars, shallow staging would seem to be a better idea... and perhaps leave a light earlier on the tree to improve your reaction time... Shallow staging allows you to get these big ole cars rolling BEFORE the clock starts... Giving you a tiny bit better ET.
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I'm thinking you have a point there, I like to visualize that moment of darkness that happens when the 2nd one goes off and the 3rd one lights.with these heavy a$$ cars, shallow staging would seem to be a better idea...
The 60' time is a pretty decent indicator of how the run is going to go I think. Getting under 2 seconds is pretty impressive.
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Man, I've never been to the strip and have always wanted to. My DAUGHTER even has, but I've never had the chance. That write up will certainly give me all the help I need! Thanks!!
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I've read that exact same post somewhere before Larry... Isn't that an from a drag strip's web site?
Great info! Thanks, makes me wanna go drag race!
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I have considered and tried shallow staging with my Charger, and leaving between the 2nd and last yellow. My reaction time was a best of a .750 on a .500 light. By going in deeper and leaving as the last yellow just started to come in my reaction time dropped into the .500's.Originally Posted by GasGunR
At one time I owned a big boat '72 Chrysler Newport with a 400 2 bbl that ran 18+ in the 1/4. With it I could leave on the 2nd yellow & not red-light. I won that event with that car in 1988 racing much faster cars.
With that said, some cars will leave (react) differently due to water burnout, slick track, sticky track, rpm. Many different variables will contribute to how your specific car will leave. With more time with my Charger on the track it's possible, even probable, I could leave earlier by shallow staging. It just takes a starting point, getting consistent, then trying changes. That way you know your baseline & can go back to it if it dosen't work out.
As far as reading this somewhere else, you may have. There have been many articles written thru the years about drag racing. In the case of this article it is from my own experiences. My father 1st took me to the drag strip in the days before the christmas tree when they used flagmen to start the race. I grew up learning cars from my father, reading all the info I could get my hands on, asking questions and going to the race track. I actually began working on cars before I was old enough to drive, just like a lot of people do.
I have driven many different cars and trucks on the race track, most my own, some others cars. Every vehicle has potential to be a winner. It's mostly up to the driver. I have been a crew member, crew chief, driver and even a teacher (of a few.) For example my son owns a Beretta he wanted to race. He got to the track before my wife & I did. He was dis- heartened by his best reaction time of .800+. I watched 1 run of his, made a change & he proceeded to cut a .519 light. He went from ready to give up, to wanting more. He challenged me to beat his time. I'd never even been in his car, let alone driving it. I made 1 run-a .517 light and .3 quicker in the 1/4. He is now preparing, with my guidance, to race my 340 Duster bracket car. My wife and I are building a stock eliminator car for me to drive, because that's where my heart has always been, driving.
My wife has driven on the race track being paranoid at first. She will have seat time in the stocker after it is finished as well. I guess I like the underdog, or seeing somebody wanting to try something I know about. I get a satisfaction when they try and come back smiling. That makes it all worth while.
As I said, it's just my own experiences that I shared, what I would tell you face to face if you were going racing for the first time. There can be mis-information passed around that could cause somebody to be injured or worse. If I have a chance to change that for 1 person, then my desire was met. We have to have a starting point. We have to be safe, but make it fun, realizing we are running on a thin line of danger. Thanks for the responses and the opportunity that I could share some of my experiences. Now go race and tell us how you do.:grin:
great post!! its funny you said all this, becuae when i went to sac ozzie basically qouted that whole thing to me. I never raced on a track! Im use to street lights, as bad as that is.......
I always assumed the times were based on how long after you broke the starting line? If it's how long after breaking the green, does that mean your 1/4 mile time includes reaction time?Originally Posted by larry383
Please excuse the seemingly stupid question....
The reaction time is how long it takes your car to break the starting line beam either before the green light comes on (red light) or after it comes on. The reaction time in actuallity has an effect on your 1/4 mile time, but dosen't change it. If, for example we use a .500 light as perfect. If the tree counts down and you have a 1.500 reaction time, you broke the starting line beam 1 second after the green comes on. With a .000 as perfect and you had a .300 light, you were 3 tenths of a second after the green.Originally Posted by MadCharger
As far as your ET that timer does not start until your front tires break (or leave) the starting line beam. So you could have a perfect reaction (.500 or .000) and let's say you ran a 13.50 second 1/4 mile. On the other hand you could have a reaction time of .750 on a .500 tree or a .250 on a .000 tree. You could still run the same 13.50.
Going further to the extreme let's stay with a .000 perfect light reaction. If you were to sit there for 1 minute after the green light came on before your car moved, you would have a 1 minute reaction time, but your front tires haven't broken the starting line beam which starts the timer to record your elapsed time, so you could still run 13.50 with a 1 minute reaction time.
There are no stupid questions when you want to know something. It was in fact a good question. That is 1 of the things that can be more confusing. Hopefully I explained it satisfactorily, if not let me know.