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Guide to Drag Racing

Guide to Drag Racing

A drag race is a race between two vehicles, where the winner is the one that crosses the designated finish line first without stalling or crashing. The total time elapsed from when the vehicles leave the start line to the finish or destination is measured. Drag race vehicles can be modified to go faster and improve the vehicle’s performance.

Drag Racing History

Drag racing started to gain popularity across the US in the 1940s. As side-by-side racing grew, the name drag racing was given to the budding sport. Unfortunately, no one recorded the reason for the name. In the years since people have speculated that it is due to the way racers drag through the car’s gears. The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) was founded in 1951 to regulate races and set safety standards for racers across the US and Canada.

Drag Racing Classifications

The NHRA has hundreds of classes established for drag racing. Each class specifies the weight and style of vehicle allowed. There are also specific rules for the types of modifications that can be made to the vehicle’s body and engine to keep races between vehicles in each class as fair as possible.

Some noteworthy classes include:

  • Top Fuel Dragster: These are the fastest drag racing vehicles, with top speeds of over 300 miles per hour.
  • Pro Stock: Also known as factory hot rod, this class includes vehicles that look like stock production vehicles. These vehicles have top speeds of around 200 miles per hour.
  • Top Alcohol Dragsters: The vehicles in this category run on methanol-based fuel, sometimes injected with nitro to make the vehicles reach a top speed of about 280 miles per hour.


How a Drag Race Works

Drag races are held on a strip or a quarter-mile track, with an area just beyond the finish line designated as space for the cars to cool down and come to a complete stop. Before the race itself starts, the cars may do a burnout to warm up tires and increase traction while racing. In an amateur drag race, you may see the race starting with someone waving a flag or dropping their arms to tell the racers to go. There is a device called a Christmas Tree for professional drag races that starts the race. The Christmas Tree is a display that has several colored lights on either side. The top two lights are called staging lights and measure when the cars are pulled up to the starting area. The first light measures when a car is within seven inches of the start line, and the second staging light indicates the car has pulled up to the starting line. There are three large amber lights directly under the staging lights, then a green light, and red light. When the amber lights illuminate, followed by the green, the race begins. The red light only illuminates if a racer is disqualified for leaving the start line too soon.

Elapsed time is one of the measurements taken during a drag race. This is the time between the vehicle leaving the starting line and when it crosses the finish line. Another measurement is the reaction time, which is the time it takes for the vehicles to leave the start line after the green light turns on. Speed is measured constantly with the help of a speed trap located near the end of the race. The first vehicle to cross the finish line is ultimately declared as the winner.

Whether you enjoy races as a participant or a spectator, drag racing can be a fun and enjoyable pastime that gets your adrenaline going.