First thing’s first. If you have never drag raced before, you need to. I don’t care if you have a busted 1988 Ford Tempo or not. If it has gas in it, you need to drive it to the track and put it to the test. What? You are nervous? You want to know how it all works? Ok, I will give you a run down of how it all works so that you aren’t such a scaredy cat. Then you will be able to go to the track and report back your results. My perspective is from our local drag strip known as New England Dragway in Epping NH.
Every Wednesday and Friday during the warm weather months, NED has “Street Nights” where you can run basically any car you drove there as long as you meet the safety requirements. Then on some Saturday’s and most Sundays, they have “Test n’ Tune” days, which is much like a street night, but with some slightly different rules, which often leads to faster cars. The safety requirements are pretty much what you would expect. If your car is capable of going faster than a 14 second quarter mile, then you need to be wearing a helmet. Your seat belt needs to work, you need to remove your hub caps, and you need to have a clutch switch. There are a few other things that the tech inspector will want check out, but it is really just basic “is your car safe” type stuff. They also want to know what engine you have and how much horsepower you make. This means that you can’t stuff 1700 hp into your Tempo and tell the tech inspector that you intend to run 17’s @ 71 mph without a helmet. He won’t believe you.
Let’s back up a minute and start at the beginning. You cruise your car up to the front gate of the track because trailering your car makes you less cool, I think. Then you pay some kind of entrance fee and you receive a ticket. You thank the young lady for the entrance ticket, and then promptly stall out your truck….. I mean Tempo…… ultimately making you look like a total noob. Fail #1. Ok, so now you cruise on over to the tech inspector area which conveniently looks like a bunch of parking spots, because it is. He will tell you to go sign the waiver and get a wrist band at the little booth near the edge of the parking lot. You immediately do whatever he says because you want to be friends with him, and then quickly jog back to go over your vehicle with the inspector. He isn’t trying to ruin your life, he is just trying to make sure that you will have a safe day of racing. He checks off about 100 boxes on a piece of paper, and then signs his name at the bottom. Do a celebration fist pump. Do it.
Ok, at this point, you are ready to race, and since your vehicle is slow, you don’t need to wear your snell 95 approved helmet that you didn’t bring. If you are lucky, a friend will come over and let you know that your first run is going to be awful, so keep your 10 second fast and furious dreams on the backburner for now. It’s officially go time. Buckle up and head over to the starting line. There will be a few guys there directing you where to go. Drive around the waterbox for your first run. You aren’t John Force, and don’t need to heat up your Blizzak snow tires. Before you make it up to the starting line, take a look at the bottom of the walls near the tree (flashy lights) in the center of the track. You will notice a few little holes in a row, which have light beams going across the track. These are where your front tires will land right before the race begins. The light beams send a signal to the flashy tree lights so that everybody knows where your car is at.
Slowly straighten your Tempo out and inch your way up to the starting line. Key word: Slooooowly. Ok, now begin watching the tree in the center. The top set of lights will turn yellow when you reach the first set of staging light beams. Now inch a litttttttle bit further to light up the 2nd set of yellow lights. When that happens, you are officially “staged”, and read to run down the track. Take a deep breath and wait for the lights to begin dropping. They will begin lighting up from the top to bottom of the tree with about a second in between each one. When the green light glows, bury the go-pedal into the floor and hold on.
About 20 seconds will pass if your Tempo is at the top of its game, and you will cross a yellow stripe on the track which just lead you to victory. That is the finish line. WOOO! Now hit the brakes already!! At the end of the track, you make the turn, and start back up the pit road. There will be a small booth with somebody in it handing you your time slip. Don’t stall your vehicle out and look like a dweeb again. The ticket will have a bunch of numbers on it that show you how you did.
It will look something like this:
R/T = .300 (.300 seconds is the time it takes between the green light, and when you actually went.)
60′ = 2.224 (2.224 seconds is what it takes for you to drive 60 feet.)
330′ = 6.117 (6.117 seconds is what it takes for you to drive 330 feet.)
1/8 = 9.269 (9.269 is the amount of seconds it takes for you to drive 1/8 mile.)
mph = 77.85 (77.85 is the mph that you were at when you crossed the 1/8th mile.)
1000′ = 11.977 (11.977 is the amount of seconds it takes for you to drive 1000 feet.)
1/4 = 14.257 (14.257 is the amount of seconds it takes for you to drive the 1/4 mile.)
mph = 98.49 (98.49 is the mph that you were at when you crossed the 1/4th mile.)
Now you are addicted to drag racing, and it becomes all that you can think about. It is more fun than human words can express, even if you are driving awful slow. Good luck, and keep it together (figuratively and literally.)