Drag Cars, Drag Tech & Drag Racing Action!

Learn The Basics Of Drag Racing


What is a drag race?

In simple terms, a drag race is an acceleration contest from a standing start between two vehicles over a measured distance (1320 ft.=1/4 mile or 660 ft = 1/8 mile). These contests are started by means of an electronic device commonly called a "tree". Upon leaving the starting line, each contestant’s vehicle activates a timer which is, in turn, stopped when that same vehicle reaches the finish line. The start to finish clocking is the vehicle's E.T. (elapsed time).

Who can compete?

Almost anyone can compete in drag racing. To drive a full sized vehicle, drivers are required to possess a valid State driver's license as a minimum. Certain performance levels/classes require a driver to possess an NHRA Competition License. In addition, some states may limit the minimum age of a contestant of a full size vehicle, check you state & local laws.

In recent years, a new youth oriented drag race program has been developed. The JUNIOR DRAG RACING LEAGUE is open to children 8-16 years old. Competition is limited to the operation of a junior dragster only. Junior dragsters compete over an 1/8 mile course. Junior Dragster competitors are required to possess a valid Junior Drag Racing League competition license.

Some tracks may require a driver 17 years of age or under must have a valid minor release waiver signed by their parent or guardian on file at the track, check the rules of your local track.

All vehicles must meet basic safety criteria (i.e., good brakes, seat belts, and safety helmet). This applies to most street-able type vehicles. See NHRA or other sanctioning body rule book for more details.

What is Bracket Racing?

Bracket racing is a form of drag racing whereby vehicles of different performance levels can compete on a potentially even basis. The anticipated elapsed times are compared for each vehicle, with the slower car receiving a head start equal to the difference of the two. With this system, virtually any two vehicles can be paired in a competitive drag race. For example: car "A" has recorded times of 17.78, 17.74, and 17.76, and the driver feels that a "dial-in" of 17.75 is appropriate. Meanwhile, his nemesis, driver "B", has recorded times of 15.27, 15.22, and 15.26 on the same track, and has opted for a dial-in of 15.25. Accordingly, car "A" will get a 2.5 second (17.75-15.25=2.5) head start over car "B" when the Tree counts down to each car's starting green light.

Should a driver go quicker than their predetermined dial in, it is a "break-out", and grounds for disqualification. In the case of both vehicles breaking out, the win goes to the driver who broke out the least. Another form of disqualification is a foul start, or "red-light". This occurs when the driver reacts to the tree too quickly and drives away from the starting line before the green light activates.

I have never raced before, but want too. What do I do?

When you come to the track, you will first meet our "gate personnel". First you will be required to sign a release waiver to enter the pit area. Minors under 18 will be required to have a minor release form signed by a parent/guardian. You will then proceed to the ticket booth where you will be for admission and be issued a "tech card".

After leaving the ticket booth, you should immediately complete as much of the tech card as you can in ink, and legibly, before heading to "tech inspection". Tech inspection is where our inspectors check over your vehicle and make sure you have the minimum safety requirements. Having the card filled out neatly before you get to tech helps move things along much more quickly.

After passing tech, you will then proceed straight ahead to the "classification booth". This is where they will put a class designation and number on your vehicle for identification throughout the event.

After being tech inspected and numbered, you are ready to go. When they call your class to the lanes, proceed to those lanes for time trials/ eliminations. If you are unsure if your class was called, or don't know which lanes you were to report to, feel free to ask track officials any questions you might have.

REMEMBER SOME STATE LAWS REQUIRE 5 MPH IN ANY PART OF THE DRAG RACE FACILITY OTHER THAN THE RACE TRACK ITSELF. All tracks strictly enforce this since there are usually many people walking about in the pit area.

OK, now you are tech inspected, numbered, and in a lane. What next?

Please stay with your car in the staging lanes. As your lane starts moving, please move your vehicle up accordingly. Follow all instructions from the track personnel as you approach the "burnout box". This is the area where, if you are running slicks, you will do what is called a "burnout" to warm up your tires. If you are running street tires, it is a good idea to drive around the water, as street tread generally will drag water up to the starting line, and give you a poor start. The person in the burnout box will signal you when to start your burnout. Do not approach the starting line or start a burnout until instructed by start line personnel.

After the "burnout" area, you will approach the starting line. In the center of the track, close to the starting line is a "Christmas tree". That's the pole with all the pretty lights on it. Slowly approach the starting line until the "pre-stage" (the bug lights on top of the tree) and the "stage" (that's the second set of bug lights on top of the tree) are lit. At that point, you are set and ready to race. If there is anything wrong, or you are not ready, DO NOT LIGHT THE STAGE LIGHTS. When both cars are staged, the starter will throw the switch to activate the tree. If your car moves before the green light lights, you will get a "foul" or red light on your side of the tree. During elimination’s, the first car to foul will get the red light.

One important note: If all the red lights are flashing on and off, that signifies there is a problem on the track. If you are staged, immediately back out of the stage lights carefully, a very short distance, and shut off your vehicle. If you are not staged yet, stop and turn off your vehicle where you are.

Getting back to the race: Once the tree counts down, you leave the starting line, and you're racing. Once you get to the finish line, immediately start slowing down, safely. There are a couple turnoffs, all to the left on the track. Take the one you can make safely. If you are in the right lane, do not cross over until you know exactly where the vehicle in the left lane is, and how fast he is moving. If you are unsure, just use the entire shutdown area and exit to the left at the end of the track. You will then come up the return road, and stop at the "time slip" booth, where you will get a printout of your run. Drag racing is a great sport and it will continue to grow for many years, please support it and never abuse it.

NOTE: Always check rules and regulations at your local track, rules and regulations may vary from track to track, state to state.

DragTree DragTreeText2a

Basics of a Pro Tree.

Deep or Shallow Staging?

Shallow staging increases your reaction time but reduces your elapsed time and increases trap speed, while being the safe choice for beginners. Deep staging decreases your reaction time and increases elapsed time and reduces the final trap speed, putting you at the edge of disqualification so it should be reserved for experienced racers only.


A car that travels the quarter mile in 9.75 seconds when shallow staged. But deep staged, the same car will get a 9.90 time slip.  Anyone who has raced against a hard index (9.90, etc) is very familiar with this principle. It allows you to fine tune your times. With a 9.90 car, the difference between deep and shallow staging is about 15 hundredths of a second. With slower vehicles, it's more.



Get Flash Player

Copyright © 2001-2009 DragCars.com(TM). All Rights Reserved..

Contact Us 

Legal Policy