About Drag Racing

Drag Racing: a straightline speed and accelaration competition between two motor vehicles, ususally from a standing start, to see which can cross a finish line first.

What is Drag Racing?

From a standing start two cars race against each other over a certain distance which is straight and measured. There are standard distances: quarter mile (1,320 feet or 402.3m), 1000 feet (301.5m) for highest horsepower vehicles only, eighth mile (660 feet or 201m). There are several classes in drag racing meets. Each class must compete in a single-elimination tournament of head to head passes, as the races are called.

The Burnout
Before each race comes the “burnout” which heats the tires and leaves a trail of rubber at the start of the track which facilitates traction. Next the driver lines up or “stages” at the starting line. Less formal drag races may be started by the dropping of an arm or waving a flag. If the race is professional, an electronic device known as the Christmas tree.

Basics of drag racing
Before each race (also known as a "pass"), each driver is allowed to perform a burnout (which heats the tires and lays rubber down at the beginning of the track, improving traction), then lines up (or "stages") at the starting line. Informal drag races can be started by any means, including flag-waving and arm-dropping. Professional drag races are started electronically, with a series of vertically-arranged lights known as a “Christmas Tree”,which has a series of lights for each lane. Each column has two lights at the top which are amber lights. These are connected to light beams on the track. When the beams are accessed by the vehicle's front tire(s) this means that the driver has pre-staged (approximately 7 inches from the starting line), and then staged (at the starting line).

Under the staging lights are positioned three large amber lights, a green light, and a red light. After the drivers are staged, the tree is activated, which causes the three large amber lights to illuminate, followed by the green light. There are two standard light arrays: Either the three amber lights flash simultaneously, followed 0.4 seconds later by the green light , called a "Pro" tree, or the amber lights light in sequence from top to bottom, 0.5 seconds apart, followed 0.5 seconds later by the green light which is called a "Sportsman" or full tree. Leaving the starting line before the green light goes on activates the red light for that driver's lane, indicating disqualification.

These are the measurements are taken for each race: reaction time, elapsed time, and speed. Reaction time is the time from the activation of the green light to the car departing the starting line. Elapsed time is the time from departure from the starting line to crossing the finish line. There is a measurement of speed by means of a speed trap near the finish line. This tabulates the approximate maximum speed of the vehicle during the run or “pass”.
The first vehicle to cross the finish line wins since the driver has the lowest total reaction time + elapsed time. The elapsed time is a measure of performance only; it does not, alone, establish the winner. A driver can lose because elapsed time does not include reaction time, therefore a car with a faster elapsed time may have a driver who does not react to the green light fast enough. It is beneficial for the driver to "jump the gun" by a fraction of a second, and start the car during the split-second between the yellow light going out and the green light going on. However, if the car leaves the front light beam before the green light comes on, the driver has "red-lighted", and should no later fouls happen during the race, he is disqualified. Although a driver may commit a red-light foul, the other driver can also commit a foul by leaving the line too early. However, the other driver would win because he left the line slower. Drivers who gets a substantial lead at the start are said to have gotten a "holeshot". When a driver wins a race with a higher elapsed time but lower reaction time, this is known as a "holeshot win".

There are also other disqualifying infractions, depending on the rules of the race, including crossing the centerline between lanes, touching a wall, striking a track fixture, failing to stage, failing a tech inspection, or running faster than expected/allowed for the assigned class.

In the common Eliminator racing format, the losing vehicle and driver are removed, while the winner goes on to race other winners, until only one is left. When a driver has no opponent for a round, the driver makes a solo pass or "bye run" (in order to at least partially eliminate the advantage that would otherwise come from the engine having one less run on it) to advance to the next round. generally the bye runs take place only in the first round. On bye runs, some drivers may choose to drive slowly so as not to stress the car, though choice of lane in the each round is often determined by time in the previous round, making driving slowly a real negative. Unlike the NHRA, some European events have a consolation race where the losers of the semifinal rounds race for third place.

During drag racing events, vehicles are classified by taking in to account the extent of modifications. Criteria include engine capacity, configuration of cylinders, frame type, vehicle construction materials, wheelbase, horsepower to weight ratio, number of cylinders, whether or not power adding devices such as turbochargers, superchargers or nitrous oxide are employed, vehicle type (such as car, truck, et cetera), or even make and model for limited entry fields. Classifications are in place so that the cars are evenly matched.

Drag racing vehicles are modified to be lighter and more powerful than in their standard incarnations.. A lighter vehicle means that the power-to-weight ratio is increased and a greater acceleration is possible. Increases in power depend on the extent of engine modifications.

Racing organizations
The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) oversees the majority of drag racing events in North America. A smaller organization is Feld Entertainment's International Hot Rod Association (IHRA)--- about one-third the size of NHRA. Nearly all drag strips are associated with one body or the other. The NHRA is more popular with large, 1/4th mile nationally-recognized tracks (although the two fuel classes have 1,000 foot races because of safety issues), while the IHRA is a favorite of smaller 1/8th mile local tracks (and offers selected races on their national tour under the 1/8th mile format. One reason for this (among others) is the IHRA is less restrictive in its rules, such as rules on nitrous oxide (legal in Pro Modified) and oversized engines (no 8.2 liter / 500cid engine restriction in the IHRA's Pro Stock category) and less expensive to be associated.
Before the founding of the NHRA and IHRA, smaller organizations sanctioned drag racing. The first commercially sanctioned drag race on the East coast was supposed to have been held at Longview Speedway (now Old Dominion Speedway) in Manassas, VA. Old Dominion Speedway is presently sanctioned by the SBRA (Southern Bracket Racing Association).

There are hundreds of different classes in drag racing, each with different requirements and restrictions. NHRA and IHRA both have some of these classes, but many are only used by one sanctioning body or the other. The NHRA has over 200 classes, while the IHRA has less. Some IHRA classes have multiple sub-classes in them to differentiate by engine components and other features. There is even a class for young drivers, Junior Dragster, which uses an eighth-mile, also favored by VW racers.

Drag racing strategies and methods
The car itself is the prime strategy. Enhancements must comply both with NHRA/IHRA rules and restrictions based on the class where the car runs. Common enhancements are the use of slicks (smooth, soft tires that grip the track), methods for introducing more air into the motor such as turbochargers, superchargers, and nitrous oxide (N2O), specialized fuels (higher octane gas, methanol, etc...), improved suspensions, and a multitude of others.

The burnout
Before approaching the starting line (also known as the staging area), most racers will apply water to the tires either by backing into a small puddle (the "bleach box" or "water box") or have it sprayed on. The car then does a burnout to heat the tires, making them stickier. Some cars have a "line-lock" which prevents the rear brakes from engaging.


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