Irwindale Event Center

Home Page
Admission Prices
Who Can Drag Race?
Rules - NHRA Street
How to Drag Race: 101
Clubs and Special Features
Speeding Ticket Referral Program
Summit ET Series
Contact the Speedway

24 Hour Information Hotline


How to Drag Race  - 101
The Place to Race!
First of all, what is "drag racing"? In the simplest terms, drag racing is a sport where two vehicles compete side-by-side in an acceleration contest. Both drivers race in a straight line from a standing start to a finish line 1/8 mile away. The first to cross the finish line wins the race. Competition is part driver and part machine.

Drag races are conducted on a dragstrip according to a set of safety and performance based rules. The dragstrip is designed and constructed to allow racing to be done under the safest possible environment for both the drivers as well as spectators. The track surface, guardwalls, fences, staging lanes and return road are arranged according to strict standards. Race procedures must conform to long established industry standards. Insurance carrier and sanctioning body guidelines must also be closely followed to ensure a safe, fair and fun racing experience for all that attend or participate.

Drag racing is a sport

The Racer
No special skills are needed. In the sport of drag racing, any licensed driver can participate. Kids as young as 8 years old compete in Junior Drag League events and some as old as 99 race at local tracks nation wide in weekly programs. Driving skills improve with each race. The full performance capabilities of a vehicle are tested while a driver learns a vehicle's characteristics.

The Track
The dragstrip is a 60 feet wide strip of specially prepared asphalt. Concrete safety guardwalls line both sides of the racing surface from the starting area to far beyond the finish line. The starting area has a concrete surface 150 feet long to withstand the harsh wear from spinning tires.

The Tree
A drag race is started using a device called a "Christmas Tree" that stands 42 feet ahead of the start line. As the vehicles approach the starting line the drivers are signaled to stage their vehicles and start the race by watching the colored bulbs light up in sequence.

Each side of the "tree" has two small yellow bulbs at the top that signals a driver when the vehicle is on the start line. The first bulb lights when the vehicle is almost on the line, "pre-staged", followed by the next bulb lighting as the vehicle moves forward to "staged" position on the line.

The "tree" has three larger amber colored bulbs on each side followed by a green bulb and then a red bulb. Once both vehicles are staged, the "tree" is activated and the first amber colored bulbs on both sides of the tree light up. Then second later the next amber bulb lights up while the first amber bulb goes out. Another second later the last amber bulb lights up. And one-half second later the green bulb lights up signaling the drivers to start the race. If either vehicle leaves the start line before the green bulb lights up, the red bulb will light up instead. This indicates a foul start for that vehicle thereby giving the other driver an automatic win.

While both vehicles may leave together on the green light, a driver's reaction time from when the green comes on will become a factor in the race. If one vehicle remains on the starting line after the green comes on, the other vehicle will gain an advantage making it possible for the slower vehicle to win the race.

More About Reaction Times
Keep in mind that the tree counts down at .500 second (five tenths) intervals. The reaction time announced is the time that the vehicle took to move off of the starting line compared to when the last amber bulb lit up.

Example: A reaction time of .543 means the vehicle left the line exactly .043 seconds after the green came on (.500 after the last amber plus .043 = .543). And a reaction time of .410 means the vehicle left .080 seconds before the green bulb lit which activated the red light instead…a foul start. A perfect reaction time is .500 seconds. A reaction time over .6 seconds is considered marginal and over .7 is slow.

The Race
With each racer leaving the start line together, the finish line decides the winner. A series of infrared beams across each lane measure incremental times during the race as well as top speed.

The total time of the race for each lane is recorded and announced as the elapsed time, or E.T., followed by the top speed for each vehicle. The clock starts when the vehicle leaves the start line, not when the green comes on. The reaction time is recorded separately to show how long a vehicle waited to leave while the E.T. shows how long the race was. Adding these numbers together as a "package" will show the mathematical winner every time.

The E.T. is displayed on finish line scoreboards in seconds, tenths and hundredths. The top speed of the vehicle displayed in full numbers followed by tenths and hundredths. Example: E.T. = 9.43 (seconds) at 88.31 (miles per hour).

The Finish Line
After crossing the finish line, the driver lets off the accelerator and slowly applies the brakes in the coast down area while staying in his own lane. Drivers should avoid skidding. The vehicle in the right lane makes a right turn exit first followed by the left lane. This allows a safe exit for both vehicles. No driver should ever turn around on the track since there may be another pair of vehicles ready to start the next race.

The Return Road
After the vehicles exit the track, they return to their pit area using the return road. Racers can stop along the return road at a station called "Time Slips" where a track official will hand the driver a printed slip that shows the results for both vehicles. The speed on the return road is limited to 6 m.p.h.

The basis of competition is in the performance numbers. Drivers perform as consistently as possible while tuning their machines for optimum performance.

Street racing is not drag racing

GO TO How to Drag Race - 102

Irwindale Speedway Drag Strip is the place to race!

NHRA Summit Racing Series Web-Site

NHRA Web-Site