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Top 10 Drag Racing Tips from the Pros

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Top 10 Drag Racing tips from the Pros

By: Chris Parent
 bbnova chris drag racer and author


Drag Racing is a sport enjoyed by many.  But how does one become competitive?  What are the most important things to know?  It can take some people years to get the information they need.  I have compiled a top 10 list for you so that you can get the advantage over your competition!

(1) Safety First.

drag racing safetyI hate to say it, but this is the most commonly over looked tip.  Maybe it's the machismo of being at the track, or the "I know what I'm doing" attitude, but safety at the track should be job 1.  With 1 pass, there's a lot of people that you need to think about; Driver, crew, track employees, spectators are all there and potentially in harms way.  Take your time, make yourself a safety check list, and enjoy the day.  After all, you usually have hours in between a passes, and passes are just a few seconds.  Take the time to check, and double check all of your safety gear.  Are your seat belts legal? worn?  Is your helmet approved?  Have you tightened the lug nuts?  Is anything dripping from your car?  Did the car that made the pass in front of you drip anything that may cause you to spin out of control?  Are you in the groove correctly?  Is the cap to your fuel cell tightly secured? 


Long time competitor Keith Seymore adds: Also, with respect to safety, it seems like we've seen a rash of underhood items not secured and causing problems. Things like coolant caps or forward mounted fuel cell caps not on tight, allowing fluid to escape and get on the track. Might be worth a mention.

(2) Contrary to Popular Belief, More Tire Pressure is Better, to a Point

A lot goes into launching a race car.  suspension parts, geometry, weight distribution, power control, etc, all play a major part in moving the car out of the hole.  One of the easiest things to control is tire pressure. However, there's a common misconception regarding low tire pressure.  I'm sure the root of this comes from street racers attempting to make their DOT tires more like slicks.  drag racing tire wrinkleBut when it comes to getting the quickest E.T., more tire pressure is better, to a point.  The lower the tire pressure, the more a tire will give to conform to the pavement surface.  Hence more friction; more friction = quicker 60 foot times.  However, when a powerful drag car is equipped with slicks, side-wall wrinkle happens due to the amount of torque the car is placing on the tires.  That wrinkle is lost forward momentum, and therefore lost E.T.  Each track will have it's own "sweet spot" for tire pressure, but the following steps will help you locate where to have your cars tire pressure.  Start low, keep increasing until there's spin.  This technique will take a few test passes to get the right amount.  Start with a low amount of tire pressure.  For slicks, this may be around 7 lbs of tire pressure.  Provided the rest of the car is set up correctly, you should plant the tires with no spin, and be on your way.  However, to improve your 60 foot times, up the tire pressure by .5 increments and make a new test pass until you get tire spin. Protip: A camcorder and slow motion can help spot tire spin.  Once you have found where the car wants to spin the tires, back the pressure back down .5-1 lbs of pressure.  Now you have set your tires to the optimal pressure!

(3) Selling T-shirts with Wheelies?  You May be Losing E.T.

Having less wheel stand is better, again, to a point What race fan doesn't like to see a bumper-dragging, spark flying wheelie half way down the track?  It's one of the coolest things a race car can do. drag racing wheelie However, when it comes to safety as well as E.T., that front end needs to stay down.  A good amount of crashes or mishaps on the tower side of the track happen due to drivers not controlling the car during a wheelie.  It's hard to steer with rudders on a race car!  Wheelie bars will help unload the car and prevent wheel stands, but they do just that, unload the energy that was lifting the car and let the rear tires spin.  If all you can see is sky when you launch, and fast E.T.s are your goal, tuning should be done to lower the amount of power the car is producing during launch. 

(4) Good Crews Win Races

drag racing crewWhen starting out in drag racing, it's usually just you and a buddy or significant other.  Or maybe you are alone.  But there comes a time when you make the move to race more and more.  When this happens, it's time to start looking for a crew.  It difficult to find good people who are willing to sacrifice their own time for your own gains.  But having the right crew behind you can make all the difference in the world.  A crews job includes commonly known things such as working on the car, preparing food, etc, etc.  But one important job of the crew often overlooked is to back the driver.  Making sure the driver is in the right frame of mind, isn't worried if things have been done, and has focus on driving is key.

(5) Consistency Wins Championships

Drag racing trophy award

Time and time again, racers are asked what the key to winning is.  Sure a fast car, lots of money, a good crew are all important things to have.  Put those all

together in a soup, and you consistency. The teams that win championships are always there, ready, and competing.  Having the fastest car 1 race, doesn't mean you will win the years championship.  Heck, it doesnt even mean you'll win race day.  Being consistently fast and good is how you win that trophy.





(6) Heads Up Racers:Tune to the Fastest Competitor, not Your Cars Best.

A trade secret for those with deep pockets and or the fastest car.  Build the fastest car you can.  Then slow it down to just faster than the next competitor.  drag race tuningIf you want to set a record, and think you have the car to do it, then by all means, open it up and let it rip.  But when it comes to the highly competitive sport of heads of drag racing, beating #1 by .01 seconds is just enough.  Don't show all of your cards, or you may end up having a class rule designed solely to slow down your car and team, and yes, this does happen.  Ask Kevin Parent.




(7) I Wear My Sunglasses at Night.

  When the sun goes down, sun glasses will help on the tree, if you can't adjust elsewhere.
Question:If 2 drivers are up against each other in identical cars with identical E.T.s, and the track happens to have both lines identical, who will win? drag racing tree Answer: The driver with the better reaction of course!  Many races have been won on race day from a better reaction time.  I'm going to repeat this:Many races have been won on race day from a better reaction time.  Now that I have that set up for you, leaving on the tree is vital, as that's the signal on when a race starts.  During the daytime, especially on a sunny day, it's easy to see the trees lights.  It's designed that way.  When the sun goes down, those same lights are lighting up, in the dark.  The human eye is able to see the light bulb turn on sooner in the dark, than daytime.  This is due to the contrast of the light waves to the surrounding scenery.  A little known race trick is to wear sun glasses.  Sun glasses help those without adjustable buttons or other means of delay.  Remember:A red light from leaving too early will keep championship from even the fastest cars.

(8) Escaping Trouble- Pull the Chute!

It happens, and it's every drivers worst nightmare.  Something thought about, but only talked about in hush voice, and even then on rare occasions.  drag racing crashYou are roaring down the track at 100+ MPH when all of a sudden, without notice, your car starts dancing out of control, what to do?!  Of course you should try to regain control of the vehicle, stay out of the gas pedal, and let instinct take over.  But 1 tip in addition to this is to pull the chute.  Pulling the chute will not only slow the car down, but keep the back end of the car pointed towards the tower.  With the back end pointed towards the tower, the chance of your front wheels giving you control of the vehicle is much greater.  Remember steering a car only works when the front wheels are on the ground, with solid contact and rotating.  It's nearly impossible to control a car that's sliding sideways; you are pretty much just along for the ride.

(9) Get into the Groove

From the fastest of modern race cars to weekend warriors, slicks have proven themselves as the best tire for getting down the track.  But where should the car be in the lanes?  The correct answer here is "in the groove".  The Groove, as it's commonly referred to, is the build-up of tire rubber and chemical products from cars going down the track that form marks and give the optimal traction for the next car.  drag racing track grooveTire rubber likes to stick to tire rubber.  Bare surfaces such as asphalt and concrete simply do not have the friction that the groove provides.  If you have crew members or a few minutes to spare to look for yourself, don't be afraid to look at the track conditions yourself.  What to avoid.  Bald spots - places where the rubber has been scraped up. This may still be the best place to put the car, but watch out for these.  Wrong path:  If a big tire car gets out of control, it may create a path followed by other cars and the 60 foot area may need another look at or be re-prepped.  The quickest E.T. is usually the shortest path down the track (ie. a straight line).  Debris.  Watch out for rocks, stones, etc.  Don't be afraid to make sure the track is clean before you go down the track.

(10) Remember It's All About Having Fun.


Drag racing attracts competitive people.  While I haven't ever seen any figures, it has to be one of the most expensive hobbies ever.  Due to the nature of the sport, winning a race or championship is an end goal of most.  But it's easy to forget, have fun!  Remember to smile once in a while.  Talk to your friends.  Meet new people.  I often will spend some time on race weekends in the stands watching the spectators and listening to their conversations.  Hearing what they have to say about the cars, or racers always brings a smile or chuckle.  Personally, I love watching Jet cars.  Sure I hate the smell of kerosene as much as the next person, but it's hard to deny the show they put on with the fire, smoke, sound, and speed!  Find what it is that you enjoy, and make sure you are doing it.  If someone says something that gets you down, don't take it personally and step away for a while and do something that you like.  I bet you'll find yourself enjoying the event a lot more.

 drag racing is fun