Drag Racing 102

By Michael Albee
Mike on his way into the 14’s To get the best results from your vehicle you will need to do some experimenting. Every vehicle has it’s own little quirks. Try different things to see how your car reacts.

mikelaunchThere are only five basic things you can do to improve the performance of a Stock Vehicle. These five things are removing any extra weight, cooling the engine down between runs, make changes in your tire pressures, altering your engine rpm’s at launch, and changing tire size.

Put Your Vehicle on a Diet:
The first thing you need to do is put your vehicle on a diet by removing any extra or unnecessary weight. Every 100 pounds is worth approximately 1/10 (.10) of a second on your E/T. Quick candidates for weight removal include your Spare tire, the jack, your sub box, tools, coolers, the junk in your console and glove box and other assorted items laying in the front and back seat. Any extra weight you can remove will make your car go faster.

Ya Gotta Stay Cool:
Next, try to keep you vehicle cooled down before you make a pass. Heat his the biggest enemy of performance. Most people use large bags of ice on top of the intake, the IC tubes and radiator to cool the engine before and after a run. (Be careful when using Ice on radiators that have plastic tanks. Ice placed directly on top of a plastic tank can damage it or the gasket under it and cause it to leak coolant).

Changing Tire Pressures:
This is a very touchy area, so pay very close attention! If you are running street tires at the track you should NEVER deflate them under the recommended pressure, or over inflate them above the recommended pressure range printed on the tire. Doing this can cause a tire to wear excessively or cause it to fail. Tire failure can cause you to loose control, and that can result in you damaging your vehicle or yourself! Need I Say More?

On the other hand, adjusting your tire pressures within the appropriate range of the tire can greatly effect the tires ability to grab (hook-up). If you are spinning the tires to much, or even uncontrollably … lowering the pressure in the tire can help it hook-up better. If you can’t get them to spin at all, or very little … raise the pressure a pound or two. This will free up the tire and make it spin easier.

You want the tires to spin a little bit, but you don’t want them to brake loose and go up in smoke.

Varying Your RPM at the Starting Line:
al1Al’s staging for his 3rd run ……… With a stock vehicle you can affect the way the car performs by launching at different rpm’s. (800 rpm, 1000 rpm, 1200 rpm, 1500 rpm and so on). The main thing that varying you rpm will do, is effect your traction. Your vehicle may like a higher or lower rpm depending on the rear-end gear and tire you are running. If you are running an automatic transmission, put it in drive and make several runs. Then try making several runs while shifting it manually. Note any differences it makes and act on it accordingly.

NOTE: Your car will be more consistent if you leave it in drive (Automatic Trans). To be consistent with a 5 speed, it will take a lot of practice. Consistent runs will require that you to maintain the same shift points once you have determined where the best shift points are.

Changing your Tire Size:
Another way to effect your performance is to put a smaller or larger size tire on your vehicle. The stock SC (with an Automatic Transmission) is equipped with 3.27 gears and 225-60-16 tires. This tire size has a approximate tire height of 26.63 inches. Just by changing the rear tires to 225-50-16 you drop the tire height to 24.86 inches. This drops the outside diameter of the tire -1.77 inches and in effect give you a shorter gear which will give you more pulling power out of the hole. But beware, it will also give you more tire spin as well.

Practice Makes You a Winner:
The last two things here are not just related to the performance of a stock vehicle, but they will effect your performance at the track just as much as the items above. You DON’T have to have the fastest car at the track to win a bracket race.

It is very important for you to practice your launch and work on your reaction time. If you want to win races you need to be as consistent as your vehicle, or you might as well just sit and watch.

Practice Your Launch:
Practicing your launch means, working hard to come off of the starting line the same way every time!

Smoke-up if ya got-um! Once you have determined the right engine temperature, type and size of tire to run, the proper air pressure for those tires and your best engine rpm’s, you need to work on your launch technique. All of the stuff above will mean nothing if you can’t get off of the starting line consistently. This takes lots of practice.

stang2One of the biggest parts of you launch is your reaction time. A perfect reaction time is .500 seconds. It is a commonly know fact that reaction time can win (or loose) races for you. The object of the starting tree is to have your vehicle cross the starting line at the same time the light turns green. If you leave early you get a red light. If you leave late, it will show up on your time slip as a number greater than .500 in the column marked “R/T”.

After each run, look at your reaction time. Based on what you have for a reaction time, you can move up or down the tree until you get as close to .500 as you can. Each of the three yellow lights on the tree are .500 seconds apart so you can time your reaction with those lights.

Example: Your reaction time on the previous run was a 1.000. This means, if you hit the gas when you saw the green light come on …… it took you 1.000 second to react to the green light. The next time you run, move up one light. (When you see the third yellow come on, hit the gas). If your reaction speed is the same you should cut a perfect light at .500.

It will take time to get good at this! I made 50+ passes in 2002 and I only had about 12 lights in the .5xx’s, but my average R/T for the season was .612 and I won several bracket races this year, (one for a trophy).

Many people have spent years working on there reaction time, so don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t come to you right away. As a rule of thumb, if you can keep your reaction time in the .5’s you can win a lot of bracket races. Remember, consistency is the major key to winning bracket races.

I hope you find this information helpful. I’ve spent a lot of hours trying all of these suggestions. Some of them over and over again!

The next step to better performance at the track is to begin doing performance modifications to the vehicle! Can you say $$$

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