Category: Drag Racing

The Basics of Drag Racing (Part I)

Drag racing can be fun and exciting but it’s important to be safe also.

First, what is “drag racing”? In the humblest terms, drag racing is a sport where two cars compete side-by-side in an acceleration contest. Both drivers go in a straight line from a standing start to a finish line. The first to cross the finish line wins the race. Competition is part machine and part driver.

You drag race on a dragstrip according to performance safety rules. The construction and design of the dragstrip allow racing to commence under the safest possible setting for the drivers and spectators. 

The track safety walls, surface, fences, staging lanes and return road are set according to strict standards. Race procedures have to conform to long-established industry standards. Insurance carrier and sanctioning body guidelines must be closely followed to guarantee a fair, safe, and fun racing experience for all that attend or participate.

Drag racing is a sport

The Racer

No special skills are necessary. In the sport of drag racing, any licensed driver can participate. Kids as young as 9 years old compete in Junior Drag League events and some as old as 80 race at local tracks nationwide. Driving skills develop with every race. The full performance abilities of a car are tested while a driver learns a vehicle’s characteristics.

The Tree

A drag race is started using a device called a “Christmas Tree” that stands around 40 feet ahead of the start line. As the vehicles come to the starting line, the drivers are beckoned to stage their vehicles and begin the race by watching the colored bulbs light up in sequence.

While both vehicles might leave together on the green light, a driver’s reaction time from when the green comes on will be a factor in the race. If one vehicle stays on the starting line after the green comes on, the other car will gain an advantage making it possible for the slower car to win the race.

The Basics of Drag Racing (Part II)

Learning the basics of drag racing are important for both drivers and spectators so that everyone has fun and stays safe.

Reaction Times

Keep in mind that the tree counts down at five-tenths intervals. The reaction time stated is the time that the vehicle took to move off the starting line compared to when the last amber bulb lit up.  Reaction times are essential to the basics of drag racing. 

The Race

With every racer leaving the start line together, the finish line decides the winner. A series of infrared beams across each lane measure incremental times during the race as well as top speed.

The total time of the race for every lane is recorded and announced as the E.T. or elapsed time followed by the top speed for every vehicle. The clock begins when the car leaves the start line, not when the green goes on. The reaction time is recorded separately to tell how long a vehicle waited to leave while the E.T. shows how long the race was. Putting these numbers together as a “package” will tell the winner every time.

The Finish Line

After crossing the finish line, the driver eases off the accelerator and slowly applies the brakes in the shutdown area while remaining in his own lane. Drivers must try not to skid. The car in the left lane makes a left turn exit first followed by the right lane driver. This offers a safe exit for both vehicles. No driver must never, ever turn around on the track since there might be another pair of cars ready to begin the next race. A very important factor in the basics of drag racing. 

The Return Road

After the vehicles exit the track, they go back to their pit area using the return road. Racers can stop along the return road at a station called time slips where a track official will give the driver a printed slip that shows his times. The return road speed limit is just 5 m.p.h. 


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