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Drag Racing 101

Tech Inspection – a designated track official will inspect your car. Street driven vehicles will be required to have all factory safety equipment in working order, good tires, brakes and no damage to anything that might pose a safety hazard. After your car passes the inspection you will be given a number on your window and a driver’s armband. In the case of multiple drivers for one vehicle, each driver will be required to fill out their own Tech Inspection Card. You are now ready to proceed to the staging lanes.

Staging Lanes – this is the area were competitors take their vehicles so they can be grouped with their prospective classes or matched up for the upcoming round of competition.

Staging Director – this is the person who directs the flow of traffic from the staging lanes to the water box/race track lanes.

Water Box or Burnout Box – this is the area of track located just before the starting line where cars with Competition DOT radial tires or slicks can spin the tires in water to heat up the tires. Street tires do not benefit from this procedure and usually retain some water on the tread area; they are directed around the water box area and can perform a dry burnout to warm tires to get better traction.

Starting Line – there are 2 beams of lights called “staging lights” designating the starting line.

Pre-Staging – there are two sets of staging lights on the starting tree. When staging, you move your vehicle up to the first (pre-stage) light beam. When you are pre-staged the first light at the top of the starting tree will light.

Staging – After you and your opponent have pre-staged, you then move your vehicle ahead another 8 inches. This runs you through the second light beam at the starting line, which lights the second (staged) light on the tree and you are now ready for competition.

Deep Staging -Deep Staging is done by pulling forward about 2 more inches or until the Pre-Stage light goes off. By doing this it puts your vehicle closer to the finish line which may give you a lower ET but it also results in a lower trap speed. The main reason for deep staging is to get a faster reaction time.

Starting Tree – “Christmas Tree” is the starting device located between the two racing lanes at the starting line. It has two sets of staging lights; three sets of yellow starting lights, a green “Start” light and red “False Start” light.

Full Tree – the method used to start cars at the starting line. After the second set of staging lights are lit, the yellow lights on the tree come on one at a time; each is .500 of a second apart, then the green light. A perfect reaction time when using full tree is .000 seconds. Generally used for Bracket Racing.

Pro Tree – all yellow lights are lit at once then .400 of a second later the green light comes on. A perfect reaction time when using a Pro Tree is .000 seconds. Generally used for Heads-Up Racing.

Reaction Time – Reaction Time is the amount of time it takes your front tires to break the starting line beam relative to when the green light on the tree turns on. A perfect reaction time is .000 seconds which means your tires broke the beam at the exact time the green light turned on. This is usually achieved by reacting to the last yellow light on the tree and anticipating the green light. Each driver/car combination will vary so this is an area of practice to gain the best reaction time, which is very important in drag racing. It can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing a round.

Interval Times – as the vehicle progresses down the track it trips a series of light beams and the time to that point is recorded. Elapsed time is recorded at 60, 330, 660, 1000 and 1320 feet. It also records eighth-mile speed and quarter-mile speed.

Trap Speed – Trap speed is the average speed of your vehicle through the last 66 feet of track, either at the eighth mile or quarter mile.

ET – this abbreviation refers to Elapsed Time. Elapsed Time is the amount of time it takes a vehicle to travel between the light beam at the starting line and the light beams at the end of the track.

Dial-in – Dial-in is also called an “index”. Your “Dial-in” time is the absolute best (fastest) time you think your car can run. This is based on your qualifying runs. This “Dial-in” is used during bracket racing, which allows cars of very different performance to compete against each other.

Hole Shot – the advantage achieved at the starting line by the quicker reacting driver.

Handicap – when one car is faster than the other, the slower gets a head start. The amount of the head start or handicap depends on the difference between the dial-in of each vehicle.

Index – Elapsed time assigned by NHRA or IHRA to allow various classes to race together with an equitable handicap starting system.

Breakout – a term used when you run faster than your “Dial-in”. To take full advantage of your dial-in, you want to run as close to your dial-in as possible without going faster. If you run a faster time than the dial-in number on your car, you lose.

Red-Lighting – if you start too early, before your green light comes on you will be disqualified.

Bye Run – a single run given to a car, because of an unequal number of cars in the round, usually designed by best reaction time.

Round – a round is completed when all cars in a bracket (class) have made a run.

Eliminations – when cars are raced two at a time, resulting in a finish that determines one winner and one loser. The loser is “eliminated”, the winner returns to the lanes and continues to race in a tournament-style competition until only one car is left in that class.

Bracket Racing – Bracket Racing is when two vehicles of unequal speed face off at the tree. In bracket racing, the slower car will get the green light first. Races often come down to the 1/1000s of seconds’ difference, referred to as best package including reaction time, determine the winner. 

Heads-Up – Heads-up racing is when two vehicles line up and both vehicles leave at the same time. The first vehicle to cross the finish line is the winner.

Shutdown Area – Area located after finish line for cars to slow down after they have made a run.

Return Road – Road that leads from shutdown area back to the pits or staging lanes.

Time Slip – a printed record of your run, given to you as you return to the pit area after you run. Usually it is given to you on the return road.

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