How To Drag Race


Drag racing is one of the cheapest, safest, most easily available forms of motorsport for the beginning racer. There are dragstrips all over the world, and the rules are pretty much the same no matter where you go. Drag strip open Test N Tune and grudge nights usually have very easily-met tech requirements, and while it can take years to perfect your race technique, the basics are learnable in a single evening at the track. Here are a few “How to Drag Race” tips to get you started.


  • When you arrive at the track, look for Tech Inspection.  The track officials must pass you and mark your window with a number before you can race. You will also need to have a pen to fill out a tech card so the announcers know who you are. If you can’t find where Tech Inspection is held, don’t be afraid to ask.


  • Always listen to the announcements from the tower that can be heard over the PA in the pit areas. The announcer will keep you up to date on the schedule and will also tell you when and where to be in the staging lanes. Often the announcing is on a local radio channel too. Just ask.


  • The most common cheap race day is the open test and tune, also called grudge racing. This means you line up against whoever may be in the opposite lane. The winner or loser does not matter, you are just running to find out how quick your car is.


  • The announcer may call different staging lanes for “slick tire cars” or “street tire cars.” “Slick tire” means cars with racing tires, like drag slicks or racing radial tires, and “street tire” is for anything with tread.


  • Staging lanes are the rows where cars wait their turn to go down the drag strip. They are numbered. Before you get to the front of the lane, make sure you are ready with your helmet and seat belt on.


  • After waiting in line in the staging lanes you will make it to the front of the line where you need to follow the instructions of the official who will either give you the sign to wait or to pull forward. The official may point to the lane in which he or she wants you to run.


  • As you roll out of the staging lanes you will see the water box, where cars do burnouts to heat the tires. You do not have to do a burnout if you don’t want to; if not doing a burnout, drive around the water box so you don’t pull water up onto the track surface. If you DO want to do a burnout, watch the official who will indicate to you how far to pull forward; you don’t want your tires in the deepest part of the water or the burnout will throw water into your fenderwells which will then drip back onto the tires. Don’t execute your burnout until the official gives you the sign to start spinning tires. The official may also wave you forward out of the burnout box after a certain amount of time of tire spin. Roll out of the box with the tires still spinning, but do not execute a rolling burnout across the starting line.


  • After the burnout, you’re ready to stage. Watch the Christmas Tree at the starting line. At the top are two amber light bulbs: two in your lane and two in the opposite lane. The top bulb is the Pre-Stage light and the second lower one is the Stage light. Each light turns on when your front tire rolls forward enough to break a beam across the starting line. Roll forward slowly so you light the Pre-Stage bulb, then roll slowly ahead until the Stage bulb is lit, then stop. The race will not begin until both the competitors have executed this procedure. (One of the most common and embarrassing thing for first-time racers is to stage with the rear wheels of the car rather than the front; watch carefully where other cars are staging so you get the idea not to roll too far forward.)


  • Before you get to the starting line, make sure your window is rolled up and, at night, make sure your headlights are on.


  • When both cars are staged, the Christmas Tree is ready to activate the race. It’s common to see a Sportsman Tree at grudge nights, which means there are three amber bulbs that will flash in sequence, .500 seconds apart, starting at the top and working downward. Then, .500 of a second after the last amber, the green light comes on. Green means “go.” Because of the delay in your brain reacting to the light coming on and the delay between your foot hitting the pedal and your car actually moving forward, you may find that it’s best to react to the last amber bulb coming on rather than waiting to see the green light. If your car leaves the line before the first amber bulb lights, you will not get an elapsed time. If you leave before the green light comes on, you will see a red light that indicates you left too soon; you will get an elapsed time, but you will lose your race. Keep in mind that the timers start when your car moves away from the starting light, not when the green light comes on (the green light could be on for 10 minutes before you left the line, but it still would not affect your car’s elapsed time number).


  • After you have left the starting line, accelerate to the finish line. If you feel anything is smoking or leaking from your car, or if anything breaks, pull over to the safety wall as quickly as is safe and stop. The rescue crew will come to you quickly.


  • Accelerate only to the finish line, not past it. After the finish line, slow down carefully; you don’t need to slam on the brakes.


  • Before you make your run, look to see which side of the track has the exit at the end. If you are racing in the lane away from the exit, make absolutely certain that you do not cut off the competitor who is in the other lane as you turn to exit. That other car may be traveling faster than you and may be heading to one of the turn-outs that is farther down the track. You don’t need to strive to exit at the first turn out.


  • Once you are off the track, you may pull to the right of the return road and stop if you have a problem with your car, but make certain you are not blocking any other racers who may not be expecting a parked car.


  • To get your time slip, drive down the return road and look for the time booth where a person will hand you a slip of paper that will reveal your reaction time (the time between when the green light went on and when your car actually left the starting line) as well as the progressive times (elapsed time in seconds to 60 feet, 330 feet, 660 feet, 1,000 feet) and the quarter-mile elapsed time and mph.


  • You’re done! Either return to your pit spot or drive carefully back to the staging lanes to go again.



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