Click for Larger ImageStaging is the name of the game, you don’t want to screw this up, and it is probably the most important thing to understand before going to the drag strip for a first timer. Move forward slowly until you see the top lights “Pre-Staged” come on for your side. Stop, then inch forward slowly until the second set comes on “Staged.” Stop, you are staged. Hang loose, wait for your competitor to stage, then as the three yellow lights start to come on one at a time, get ready to leave on the last yellow light. Gas it and have fun. Work through the gears and pay attention to stay on your side of the track. Once you go through the finish line a quarter of a mile later (or eighth of a mile depending on the racetrack) watch for the turn out. You will exit the track and drive very slowly to the timing slip trailer. You will pick up your timing slip (like you pick up a Big Mac at the McDonalds drive-thru) and then head back to the staging lanes. You will probably get about two or three practice runs. After you’re done with all three, you will write down your dial-in on your windshield and side window with shoe polish. If you ran three runs: 15.01, 14.90, and 14.75 seconds, respectively, I would recommend dialing-in at 14.60. That gives you a little comfort room in case the track starts to get faster as the evening wears on. For your first race you may go up against a car that is dialed-in at 13.90, for instance. The two of you will stage and the lights on your side of the tree will drop 0.70 seconds prior to your competition. You leave first and he has to play catch-up. If either one of you leaves the starting line too early you will earn a red light and lose the race. If either one of you goes faster than your dial-ins, that is called a “break out” and you will lose the race. If you each leave the line clean and stay within your brackets then it is the first one across the line who will be the winner. If the win light is on your side, celebrate, pick up your timing slip (you may use that information to change your dial-in before the next round) and head back to the staging lanes for your next race. If the win light is on the other guy’s (or gal’s) side, head to the bathrooms to get some toilet paper and clean the shoe polish off your windshield, because you are heading home. Yes, this is what it feels like to be a loser. Drag racing will definitely teach you that. But if you keep winning, you’ll keep racing, you never know, you might win the whole darn thing. THE PEOPLE Most drag racers I’ve raced with are just that, drag racers. They love their sport and don’t feel the need to branch out into anything different, you know, like a corner. Drag racers are good folks though. They will help you learn how to stage, let you borrow some shoe polish (give it back!) and look at your timing slips and help you come up with a nice average dial-in time for your car. Out of all of the motorsports community I would say that these guys know the most about how to get power from an engine. Listen to these guys. A lot of road racers could benefit from having a drag racer in the paddock dealing with the motor. There is an old saying, Drag Racing is for fast cars and Road Racing is for fast drivers. That’s all fine and dandy until your 21 year old ass gets left at the line by a guy in his 60s who has been drag racing the same Maverick for thirty years and can cut a light like a pro, over and over again, consistently. You’ll learn quickly that there is a lot more to good E.T. Bracket Racing than just mashing your right foot to the floor. GLORY It all comes down to the win light. When it pops on your side you feel like the man. When it pops on the other side of the track you want to go home and kick your dog. The end of that 1,320 foot track has two people feeling totally different emotions, one glorious, the other disappointment. If you win race after race (round after round), and get down to the final few cars, at most tracks, you will be taking home a trophy. How cool is that? One night of racing and you’re bringing home some wood? Not too shabby. In other race series you have to compete for an entire season and win a championship just to get a sixteen dollar plastic trophy. At the drag strip, if you win it all, you can earn a three foot trophy in one night after only paying a $15 entry fee. The only draw back to a big trophy is as much as we men love this kind of crap, most wives, girlfriends and moms think trophies are ridiculous. I know you want to put that sucker over the fireplace, but it’s probably going to live in the garage next to your first grade t-ball participation trophy. OH, YOU WANT TO WIN, DO YA? E.T. Bracket Racing can be won with a single word: consistency. You don’t have to be fast, you don’t need a Mustang with a $3,000 supercharger. What you need to do is just go down the track the same every time and run your number. Bring a slow car (one that doesn’t break traction at the line) with an automatic transmission. A car with a five speed and a lot of horsepower is difficult to get off the line without burning up the tires. It can be done, but done over and over again within a thousandth of a second is very tough. A slow car with an automatic is easy to drive. You floor the gas, let the tranny make the shifts and the win light will be on your side. Reaction time. Practice makes perfect here. You can’t be asleep at the wheel at the drag strip. Your head has to be in the game. On a 5 tenths tree, when the tungsten begins to glow on that third yellow light -LEAVE! If you wait for the green light, your reaction time will look like Bob Marley’s (You don’t want a reggae reaction, Mon). Another trick up the sleeve of a good E.T. Bracket racer is braking at the end of the track. Remember, you don’t have to be the closest to your dial-in to win the race; you just have to cross the finish line first without breaking out of your dial-in time. So if you are way ahead of the other car at the end of the track, touch the brakes (like a little drag racing insurance policy) to make sure you don’t break out. You’ll still cross the line first, with a guarantee you didn’t go too fast, and the win will be yours. You get back in line for the next round and your competition drives home punching his dashboard. RACER BOY GAUGE Let’s review the Racer Boy gauge cluster here: FUEL (Cost): The fuel gauge is below full because a Wednesday night E.T. Bracket Race is super cheap. It would cost more money to go watch John Force race than it would to race the same track a week later yourself. RPMs (Adrenaline): The tachometer is at 4,200 RPMs because competition gets your adrenaline flowing. Obviously the faster the car you bring, the more adrenaline you can get from hard acceleration down the strip. But E.T. Bracket racing is less about the ride down the quarter mile and more about winning the race itself. When the win light flashes on your side, you are jacked! MPH (Danger): The Speedometer is around 55 mph because as they said in the 70s “55 Stay Alive.” This is very safe racing. I’ve never seen anyone crash an E.T. Bracket car that was a dedicated street car running anything above 13’s in the quarter. VOLTS (Time): The volts gauge is above three quarters because you don’t need to spend all that much time and effort getting ready for an E.T. Bracket race. Just kick the tires and light the fires. I spent more time washing my car before a drag race than I did tuning it up. MILEAGE (Car Wear): The mileage is at around 2,000 miles because you can burn up some rear tires (or front for you Honda boys) and leaving the line hard can be tough on the drive train. I have never seen anyone driving an unmodified street car have any mechanical problems at the drag strip. Obviously, more modifications and more power equals more chance for breakage. E.T. Bracket Drag Racing is your chance to race head to head with another competitor and feed your need for speed while not getting the attention of Johnny Law. Always drag race at the track and you too could be the next John Force (or Ashley Force depending on your genitalia). So stop bench racing and telling your friends that your Mazdaspeed 3 does the quarter mile in twelve seconds (it doesn’t). Go to the track and see what she’s got.
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