Every person that has ever been to a drag strip all started off with one problem - they don’t know what to expect or do. Are you one of those people? If so, consider this the first lesson from Modded Mustangs’ Drag Racing School.
We’ll start by getting into the basics of drag racing. Drag racing is a competitive race with two cars side by side to see which is the fastest. You can race 1/8th of a mile or 1/4 of a mile depending on which drag strip you’re at. The race starts from a dead stop and is started by a tree (which we’ll get to that later). Each track has basically setup the same and consist of a main entrance, staging lanes, a pit area, bathrooms, a concession stand, the track itself, return road, and a shutdown area. Make sure before you waste your and your buddie’s gas that you find out what days and the times you can run your car - you don’t want to drive 40 miles to find out they’re not open that day (and believe me they do that).
The first thing you do once you arrive is pay (it’s usually around $20 to run and $10 to spectate but it varies). Once you pay, you’ll likely be handed a tech card. Don’t lose this because this is going to be your ticket to race. Find yourself a suitable pit area for the night and make sure it’s a good spot because this is where you’ll be spending most of your time.
Time to start prepping. Go ahead and pop your hood and begin to let your engine cool (some people like to ice their intakes during this time). Go ahead and remove anything you don’t need (spare tire, jack, jack-stands, etc) for weight reduction purposes. After you get everything taken care of, go ahead and fill out your tech card which includes some basic information about yourself and your car. Take it to the tech booth where someone will inspect your car to make sure you it’s safe to run. Different tracks require different things but a few basics to remember: you have to wear a shirt with sleeves, long pants, and closed toe shoes. Also, make sure you have a coolant overflow tank and a helmet. After your car passes tech you are ready to run!
Proceed with ease over to the staging lanes. You have to pay attention to people and little children crossing the road. Also remember to be respectful and keep it on the track. That means no burnouts, no racing, and no speeding until you get to the track surface itself. Once you get to the lanes you are free to get out of your car but it is a good idea to stay pretty close because the lanes tend to move pretty fast. When your lane starts moving go ahead and put your helmet on and buckle up. When you get to the front make sure all of your attention is devoted to the track official and he will signal you to move forward. Once you get the signal, go ahead and proceed to the burnout box.
If you want to go through the water then drive slowly through, if you do not want water then simply drive around the water box. I recommend using water with only slicks or drag radials. If you are running regular street tires then you probably want to try your best to avoid the water box. This is because water will get in the tread and be difficult to remove, resulting in a slower 60 foot time. So if you are running street tires just a nice spin to clean them off will work just fine. After you are done with your burnout slowly pull up to the starting line.
While you are pulling up pay attention to the top two lights on the tree. The first set are the pre-stage beams. When you see them light up it indicates that you are almost ready. Continue pulling forward until the second set lights up. The second set is known as stage bulbs. Once the second set lights up, you are ready to rock and roll – so pay attention. Once you are staged, the starter will start the tree. There are different types of tree settings but the one that we will focus on (and most commonly used) is a 0.500 second full tree. When the starter activates the tree, three amber bulbs will light separately with 0.500 second intervals. After the third light goes off, the green will illuminate. And as most of us know, green means go!
While you are roaring down the track keep an eye out for the bright blocks on the side of the track (usually red, yellow, or orange). As these indicate different spots on the track where time and speed is calculated. The very last block indicates the finish line. After you cross the finish line, be looking for the return road on your left. Do not slam on the brakes to hit that first turn road, because there is usually more than one and you have ample space to slow down. Also remember, before you turn left to go into the return road, check your mirrors to make sure the car next to you is not exiting also.
After you leave the track, stop at the time-slip booth and pickup that little receipt-looking slip that lets you know how fast you blistered down the track. Once you have managed all of this, then you will never forget it. So, what are you waiting on? Get off of the computer and go tear up a drag strip near you!