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Drag Racing a Guide to Drag Racing Nhra Ihra Dragsters Tachometer Burnout

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The NHRA Powerade Series tour, passes through twenty US cities giving fans plenty of opportunities to witness the speed, spectacle and and creative engineering displayed at these events. Drag racing involves two vehicles - cars or motorcycles - competing against each other on a straight track and over a specified distance. The sport of drag racing is popular in North America and in several other parts of the world including the UK, Scandinavian countries, Australia, South Africa and the Caribbean.

Drag racing is no small feat as dragsters can reach terminal speeds exceeding 330 miles per hour over a 1/4 mile stretch. In North America, Drag racing emerged on the back roads of post World War 11 America. The first official race by the NHRA - The National Hot Rod Association -was held in 1953 on a portion of the Los Angeles county fair ground. Tony Schumacher, made history on the hot rod circle when in February of 1999, he became the first to exceed the 330 miles per hour speed barrier.

Basic rules

While the length of a drag race track is generally mile, shorter distances are raced usually by cars in the higher horsepower categories. Races are measured on speed, reaction time and elapsed time. The reaction time is clocked from the time the green light comes on to the time the vehicle leaves the starting line. The time between the car leaving the start line to the finish line is of course, the elapsed time. The speed is determined by a measurement done through a speed trap close to the finish line. The first vehicle to cross the finish line is the winner, however, a faster elapsed time does not guarantee a win since it does not include reaction time.

Vehicle Configuration

Depending upon how many changes have been made to a drag racing vehicle, will determine how the vehicle is classified. Classification of vehicles is done to ensure cars are fairly matched in a race. Modifications are made to vehicles to make them lighter and more powerful. In the classification of vehicles, the criteria used include the frame, construction materials, wheel base, how the cylinders are configured, the capacity of the engine, how many cylinders are in the vehicle and the horsepower to ratio. Any performance enhancement must be in compliance with the NHRA or IHRA rules as they relate to specific classes.

The Race

There are many terms you will hear associated with drag racing which actually can tell you a lot about the race. The "Burnout", is done prior to the "Staging". In the "Burnout", drivers spray the tires with water or roll he tires in a pool of water. As the car leaves the water the "burnout" takes place. The "burnout" serves to heat up the tires, making them sticky and thus improving traction.

Following the burnout, we move to the "Staging" phase. All vehicles pull up to the staging line. In the pre-stage phase, two cars will move forward slowly close to the starting line. In the full staging phase they pull-up to the start line and apply the line lock to stop the car from rolling. At this point the "Christmas Tree lights" are illuminated and it is off to the races. The Christmas Tree is an electronic device with multi-colored led starting lights, hence the name "Christmas Tree".

While racing, the drivers have to be careful not to risk disqualification by taking off too early or crossing unto an opponent's lane. Since most of the racing cars use a manual shift, it is up to the driver to determine the best time to shift gears. This is a critical decision during the race. The use of a tachometer can help the driver determine the best time to take this action.


The NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) is the body that oversees drag racing in North America. The IHRA (International Hot Rod Association) is a smaller association with less stringent rules than the NHRA and is favored for its 1/8 mile local tracks and lower association fees.

Drag racing in North America has come a long way since its humble start on the back roads of post World War 11 America. The NHRA, the largest motor sports sanctioning body has over 80,000 members, some 35,000 licensed competitors and 140 tracks. Both racers and vehicles have evolved significantly as have safety and innovation, all making tremendous impacts on the growth and popularity of the sport of drag racing.

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