So you want to learn a little bit about drag racing? What you need to do, how you get involved. Check out this simple 1-2-3 on how to get started in drag racing and soon you’ll be burning down the quarter mile quicker than you can say, “Give me more horsepower!”

Drag Racing 101

A drag race is an acceleration contest from a standing start between two vehicles over a measured distance. The accepted standard for that distance is either a quarter-mile(1,320 feet) or an eighth-mile(660 feet). A drag racing event is a series of such two-vehicle, tournament-style eliminations. The losing driver in each race is eliminated, and the winning drivers progress until one driver remains.

These contests are started by means of an electronic device commonly called a Christmas Tree because of its multi-colored starting lights. On each side of the Tree are seven lights: two small amber lights at the top of the fixture, followed in descending order by three larger amber bulbs, a green bulb, and a red bulb.

Two light beams cross the starting-line area and connect to trackside photocells, which are wired to the Christmas Tree and electronic timers in the control tower. When the front tires of a vehicle break the first light beam, called the pre-stage beam, the pre-stage light on the Christmas Tree indicates that the racer is approximately seven inches from the starting line.

When the racer rolls forward into the stage beam, the front tires are positioned exactly on the starting line and the stage bulb is lit on the Tree, which indicates the vehicle is ready to race. When both vehicles are fully staged, the starter will activate the Tree, and each driver will focus on the three large amber lights on his or her side of the Tree.

Depending on the type of racing, all three large amber lights will flash simultaneously, followed four-tenths of second later by the green light.(called a Pro Tree), or the three bulbs will flash consecutively five-tenths of a second apart, followed five-tenths later by the green light (called a Sportsman, or a Full Tree).

Two separate performances are monitored for each run: elapsed time and speed. Upon leaving the starting line, each vehicle activates an elapsed-time clock, which is stopped when that vehicle reaches the finish line. The start-to-finish clocking is the vehicle’s elapsed time (e.t.), which serves to measure performance. Speed is measured in a 66-foot “speed trap” that ends at the finish line. Each lane is timed independently.

The first vehicle across the finish line wins, unless, in applicable categories, it runs quicker than its dial or index. A racer also may be disqualified for leaving the starting line too soon, leaving the lane boundary (either by crossing the centerline, touching the guardrail, or striking a track fixture such as the photocells), failing to stage, or failing a post-run inspection. (in NHRA class racing, vehicles usually are weighed and their fuel checked after each run, and a complete engine teardown is done after an event victory.)

Shock Setup

Setting up you shocks for road racing

Perhaps one of the most important adjustments you can do to your car to improve handling is adjusting your shock absorbers bump and rebound settings.  Adjusting the bump controls the upward movement of your suspension.  Adjusting the rebound settings controls not how much your car will lean, but how fast it will lean.  How much your car leans is more determined by spring weight, roll center height, and roll bars.

Adjusting Bump

Adjusting your bump damping, controls the upward movement of your suspension when you hit a bump in the road surface or track.  It doesn’t control the downward movement, just the upward.

A common mistake people make is thinking that adjusting the bump setting to full stiff will improve handling by making the suspension stiffer.  Remember that the “amount” of lean your car has is more determined by the springs, roll center height, and anti-roll bars.

The best way to set your bump settings is to first set them on full soft or the minimum bump.  At this time, go ahead and adjust the rebound settings to full soft.

Drive a couple of lap and get a new feel for the car.  What your looking for is how the car “feels” through rough turns.  Is the car bouncing or hopping through rough turns?

Increase your bump adjustment a couple of clicks for all four wheels then take it out for a couple of more laps.  Remember that to adjust for the proper bump settings, don’t pay any attention to body roll or lean.  Pay attention to how the car feels through the rough turns.  Repeat these steps until the car feels like it’s hard or stiff through the rough turns.

Now back off the settings a few clicks.  Your bump settings are now ready to go.  You may notice that one end of the car may still feel rough.  Go ahead and adjust just that end of the car by a couple of clicks.

Adjusting Rebound

Remember that rebound controls the transitions of your turns.  It doesn’t adjust the total amount of roll going into a turn, but it does control how fast the roll angle takes place.   If you have your rebound set too stiff, the spring does not have enough time to return to the neutral position, then when you hit another bump, the shock and spring is compressed even more until it gets to the point of bottoming out.  At that point, you will have a great loss in traction.

Adjusting the Rebound

Just as with the bump settings, you want to start setting the rebound settings set to full soft.  Drive a couple of laps and now pay attention to how the car rolls into the turns.

Increase the rebound dampening a few clicks or about a turn.  Take it out for a few laps and note how the car rolls into the turns.  You want to repeat this step until the car enters the turn very smoothly with no drastic or sudden leans to one side or the other.  Once you get to that point, your rebound is set.  If you increase rebound any more, it may actually cause the car to handle worse.

Filed under: Drag

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