Drag Racing Tips
Everyone was a beginner at one time, and this page is dedicated to helping those who have not raced before, or someone that has been to the track and raced a little, or someone who just wants to know a little more about what they are watching... Some people don't race for fear of doing something wrong, and being embarrassed. You would be surprised at the number of people who DO race, that are not aware of certain race "etiquette". Hopefully, this guide will provide all the basic information you will need to have an enjoyable, and safe experience at Lapeer Dragway.
DRAG RACING BASICS: PIT GATE TO FINISH LINE!
By Lapeer Dragway Official, adapted from an article by Jeff Tyler
The track has test and tune every Saturday. Check the website each week before going to the track for up to date information. On Saturday, there are a lot of people running who are just as new to this as you are! The track officials know this, and are ready to help. If you don't know, ask!
If possible, call a few buddies, and go to watch the first time. Check out the "lay of the land". Ask the racers in the pits how everything works. Remember, everyone there is a car nut just like you, and everyone there was a "first-timer" once themselves.
When you decide you are ready to give it a try, go to gate 1 (the gate you entered through). They will charge you $25 for the car & driver, plus $10 extra for each spectator you bring. You must fill out a driver’s information card. There may also be a space on the back of the card that you must sign, so look there also.
Go find a pit space. Only take up one space, as the night goes on, it can get very busy. Unload any loose items in your car (I would suggest you leave what you can at home. It’s a good time to make new friends, and enjoy looking at all the great cars!
Some obvious things you need: helmet, seatbelts, safe tires (no cord showing), all lug nuts, radiator coolant overflow catch canister (the factory one is fine), no blatant fluid leaks pouring out, etc! Your battery must be firmly attached to the body of the car (doesn’t move when it is pushed on). Also, shorts and tank tops are not allowed! You MUST were long pants while racing! All the officials look for this, so don't try to sneak it by them. This is about it for a streetcar. If you run faster than 11.99, then the entire game changes. However, if your running that well, I'll bet you've been to the track at least a time or two.... The gate will write your car number on the window where it is visible by the timing tower. If staging lanes are not open, then return to your pit.
The track announcer will come over the PA system, and say that the staging lanes are open. Listen carefully, as they may have cars of different classes report to different lanes. Classes you may want to run in: Test-N-Tune, Trophy, and Money. The staging lanes go slowly, then quickly, so stay with your car! Also, do NOT run your air conditioner. The condensation on the system will drip down onto the track. This will lead the track operator to believe that there is something wrong with your vehicle. BELIEVE ME, they look for this, and if they see something dripping, then will pull you off the starting line. When they check the liquid on the ground, and see it is plain water, they will make you aware of this, and send you to the back of the staging lane.
At the end of the staging lanes, there will be a track official. Watch carefully, and when it is time, he will point at you, and then point where he wants you to go. Make sure that your seat belt is on, all windows are rolled up, and your helmet is fastened. If it is near sundown, turn on your parking lights. Having at least one working taillight is a required rule at all tracks. This is how the officials can see where you are on the track. This is so they don't send another pair of cars down the track while you are broke down at the other end. By the way, most tracks make an effort to keep near stock streetcars from running sub-10 second racecars.
Since this is for beginners, I will assume you are on street tires. DO NOT drive through the water box! Your treaded tires will just pick up water in the treads, and when you do your burnout, it will sling water all over inside the wheel well. You will then track the water all the way to the tree, and water will be dripping down onto your rear tires, making them very slick! If you do this, you make the track dangerous for everyone, and you may be asked to leave if you do it again. The water is for slicks, not treaded tires. Drive around the water box, and then get your car centered in the lane. Back up slightly if needed. There will be a track official to guide you. For street tires, a long burnout is not necessary. Street compounds are hard, and high performance tires are specifically designed to not heat up. Clean off your tires and warm them up with a quick, short burnout.
Do not pull up to the tree (the pole with the lights on it)! Every beginner does this. The staging beams are actually about 15 feet or so before the tree! Hopefully, you took my advice and watched the other cars run first, and looked to get an idea where everyone else was pulling up to. If you cant figure it out, don't worry, ask the starter he knows it is “Test-n-Tune” and will help you. When he realizes you cant find the staging beams, watch him. He will walk up next to your car, and motion to you to either pull up, or back. Again, don't get embarrassed, or upset. The starter has to do that several times a night. Slowly pull forward until you see the very top white light come on. You are now "Pre-Staged". It is considered a racers courtesy to wait for the other car to pre-stage, before staging. Then gently roll forward a few more inches, and the other white light right under the top one will come on. You are now "Staged". Do not roll forward too far, or the "Pre-Staged" light will go out, and you may be required to pull back, to re-light that light. That is called "deep staging", and is usually not recommended unless you are driving your Mother's Yugo. If you do accidentally pull forward too far, and deep stage, do NOT pull back until instructed to do so by the starter. He may just start the tree anyway, and you would be sitting there in reverse! Now, watch the bottom, large yellow light (Not the green or you will be caught sleepin'!)!
The starter will activate the tree, and the yellow lights will come on, one at a time .5 seconds apart. When the last yellow light comes on, GO! By the time you react, then your car reacts, the green light will be on. Trust me. If you red light, it is no big deal. Afterward, check your reaction time, and adjust. At Lapeer Dragway, a .500 is a perfect light on a standard tree. This is different from other tracks where a perfect light is a .000.(The pros use a tree where all the yellows come on at once, then green.).
If you only take one piece of advice from me, please let it be this: Do NOT try to set a national record on your first time out. If this is your first time at the track, PLEASE make at least one pass where you are only running at 80%. This will give you a chance to see what the track feels like, what your car feels like, where the finish line is exactly, where the turn off is exactly. Your senses get overwhelmed when trying something like this the first time. A mistake you would have caught easily any other time can cause you to wreck your car. I've seen excellent drivers wreck great cars from a simple mistake that would have never caught them otherwise. It can happen to you too. This is the most fun you can have with your clothes on, but it is serious stuff too. Treat it that way. Stay in your lane at all costs.
Make sure you know exactly where the finish line is! Most new racers brake way too early...the speed trap beams are located 66' BEFORE the finish line beams. Make sure you are not mistaking the speed trap for the finish line!
Hopefully, you took my advice, and made your first pass at 80%, so you don't have to worry about figuring out this next section while running flat out. Most tracks have plenty of run out area. Lapeer has something like 1/2 mile of run out area! However some other tracks, as soon as you pass the finish line you need to get on the brakes. When running the quarter mile, you will be running close to 100 mph at the finish line. If you slam on the brakes at those speeds, it is VERY easy to upset the chassis of the car and loose control, so be careful to not brake too hard.
READ THIS SECTION CAREFULLY!!! Before you run, know where the turn off roads are located. Lapeer has 3 turn offs, with one of them located at the very end of the run out area. The turn offs go to the left side of the track and the car in the LEFT lane has the Right Of Way. NEVER, EVER turn in front of another car, crossing their lane!!!! If you are running against a REAL slow car, I will drive all the way to the last turn off, as my only other option would be to sit in my lane and wait for them to finally arrive. I don't like sitting in the middle of my lane on a racetrack. On another track, several years ago, a streetcar was running a low 10-second car. The fast car had problems at the starting line, and the streetcar won. However, the quick car was now on the way. The streetcar turned in front of the 10-second car, which had just cleared the traps at 128mph. A STUPID mistake that can get you and someone else killed! I also saw a kid in a Honda actually miss the first turn off, make a U Turn on the track, and come back to it. I flagged him down on the return road, and let him know that there was another turn off at the end of the track. Remember a dragstrip is ONE WAY! What ever the circumstances never turn around and head back up the track!
After you turn off, continue back up the return road (the posted speed limit is 15 mph in the pits and on the return road). If you want the seasoned people to look down on you, then go roaring around in the pit area. That is also a sure fire way to get asked to leave. Then go to the timing shack, where you can pick up your time slips
CONGRATULATIONS! You just made your first pass down a drag strip! I assure you that you will be hooked after just one time! There is nothing like it...
THINGS TO PACK FOR A DAY AT THE RACES:
- Pen to fill out tech card
- 1/4 tank of gas
- Think about your clothes! It can get pretty hot as the day goes on!
- Helmet (required)
- Fold up chairs
- Ice chest for drinks and cooling down intake (GLASS IS NOT ALLOWED!)
- Cellular phone
- Bug repellant
- Orange cones to mark your pit
- Camera or Camcorder!
- Long pants are required for drivers! If it is hot, consider taking sweat pants you can take off and on