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Ron's Drag Tips

Just for V8 SHOs

Thanks Ron



I've decided to spell out a few tips for doing the 1/4, based on various questions I've received. I'll confine it to ATX running, as the SHOtimes MTX guys have their own special circumstances.

For those of you who have never tried it, this is the perfect time of the year to do it. The weather is conducive to racing, plus there doesn't seem to be as much rain in October, so if you plan a few hours of driving to get to a dragstrip, you should be able to run & not get rained out. North of the Mason-Dixon line, most strips close up shop at the end of October. It's a good time to go to a local Test-N-Tune day, or at least for time trials prior to the serious elimination runs. 

I am assuming a knowledge of drag racing basics, like how the tree works, etc. E-mail me if you want info on this stuff.

In a general order, here are some things that come to mind. Some of these may seem simple and rather obvious, but that's because you're sitting at your PC. When you're getting the car ready for the heat of battle, you sometimes miss the little things. My worst run last Saturday (apart from the 16+ run smoking the tires) was the 15.20 when I forgot how I planned to stage and messed up.

Prior to Race Day 

Plan on running the car with as little gas as possible, so plan the fillups accordingly in the days ahead. I like to run on the Low Fuel light (about 3 gallons left). Gas is 6#s/gallon, don't run more than necessary. Pick your flavor of choice, but avoid the alky stuff, and if you live in an RFG area, you may be close enough to a county without RFG to do a fill. If you're nervous, buy a 1-gallon plastic gas can and fill it. You can leave it with your stuff when you race (see below).

Don't fill the windshield washer reservoir. A gallon of the stuff is about 7#s, wait until after you race. The rough rule-of-thumb is 100#s removed = tenth in ET, so 10#s is a hundredth.

Check your air filter. When I went to clean mine last week, I had two big leaves in the air box. It's also a good time to check that your throttle body butterfly opens fully when the gas pedal is mashed down.

If you haven't done it before, I would recommend practicing the foot moves for the launch. You can do this in your garage (LEAVE THE ENGINE OFF!!  :-0 ). Move the seat up pretty close.  I hold the brake pedal LIGHTLY with the ball off my left foot, with very little pressure, just enough to hold the car. I launch at around 1,200-1,500 rpm, which is barely off-idle, and doesn't need much brake. At the launch, I move my left foot off the brake, and STAND ON THE GAS PEDAL, AS QUICKLY AND AS HARD AS I CAN. When I go down the strip, almost all of my weight is on the gas pedal. My calf muscle in my right leg was sore & cramping on Sunday after the runs on Saturday.

Prepping Prior To Racing

Check to see if the track requires a helmet, and remember to pack it if it's required.

I also take along some clean rags, Windex (to clean the window markings off before I leave), tire gauge, and white liquid shoe polish (only if you think you may do some bracket runs). Tools as you feel appropriate, but I don't take any. Cooler and (non-alcoholic) drinks if you wish, as well as something to munch on. Drag strip food lives up to it's reputation!! Also, take along a pen, as it's easier to fill out the admission form, plus you can make notes on your time slips.

I run 50#s in the rear tires, the fronts have 45#s (warm weather) or 35#s (cool weather). I usually do this at a gas station prior to getting to the track. A useful gadget is a small battery-powered compressor that you can charge before going to the track. Good for air pressure adjustments, if needed (see below). You may just want to try 45#s in the front, and drop in 5# increments if you burn way too hard. I wouldn't go much below 30#s, 25#s as the absolute minimum. In hot weather, I experimented with 50#s in the front, dropping incrementally down to 25#s and found no difference. This is with the RSAs, other tires may react differently.

Since you ran the gas low, you may want to bring along the 1-gallon gas can (filled of course) if it makes you feel better!

I take an old 8' X 10' tent tarp for the stuff I remove from the car. You can yank all of the stuff out at home, or leave the valuable stuff at home and do the rest at the track. I lay it down, take out the stuff, then fold it back over. At large tracks, I would pull up next to a trailer rig, and ask the folks there to keep an eye on your things (like at Milan). Lapeer is more casual, and we always have folks hanging around our parking spots.

Remove the spare, jack, tire cover, and any other loose stuff in the trunk. I also pull out the floor mats. The glove box stuff was left at home. Some tracks may want you to pull your wheel covers (pre-'99).

If this is the first time you're racing, or the first time that you are taking a particular car, don't be as worried about ET. You will want to look at trap speeds, as they will tell you your potential ET-ability.

Whenever I have the car parked, I open the hood, facing the breeze if possible. If you are unfamiliar with the track, take a walk around to look at the staging lane setup, what lanes to pull into (usually not an issue on Test-N-Tune days, but on other days there are usually lanes set aside for hot cars, bikes/snowmobiles, etc). Your car can cool a bit while you do this. Also look at the Christmas tree, to see if it has any differences you should know about. Also watch how cars pull up to the starting line, as we usually have to drive around the burnout box and not get water on our tires.

Lining Up To Race

When you're ready, drive to the staging lanes. Close the hood first, makes it easier to see!! Make sure your windows are ALL up, and turn OFF the climate control (voice of experience on both of these!). As you drive up, you have to drive around the burnout box area. I do a short burnout (brake-torque) back of the starting line to clean off the tires a bit. Sometimes just punching it is all I have time for. No need to overdo it. Just leave the ATX in OD now and for your run. 

As you pull up to the starting line, make sure you are pointed straight. You may have to maneuver a bit, remember that you had to pull in at an angle at many strips to avoid the water. 

Check your lane to make sure that there is not wet stuff where your tires will be. The Starter usually will clean up somebody's mess, but they usually use a mop and kind of spread it around. You have some latitude in the lane, but don't get your tires over the center, keep them in the rubber tracks if possible.

Remember, you're out here to get some (hopefully) good times. Don't worry about your Reaction Time (R/T). It doesn't affect your ET, and it's another subject unto itself.

Pull up slowly to the first Staging light. Once you light it, pull up VERY SLOWLY until you just light the second Staging Light. This is called a Shallow Stage, and is the best for ET in the SHO. It gives you a bit of roll before you trip the ET light. Try to be the first one to stage, if possible. This will give you a little bit of time to get situated before the lights come down (as the other guy stages). You don't need to worry about the psych-out game of who-stages-first at this point!

Lightly hold the brake with the ball of your left foot (you did practice in the garage, didn't you??) Lightly touch the gas pedal, it doesn't take much to get to 12-1,500 rpm.

If it's a three-yellow tree, launch on the third yellow, or when the last yellow on the tree comes on. If you go on the green, your R/T will really be bad! When you launch, STAND ON THE GAS as described above. With the ATX, I never back off the gas, even when I had the smoky situation with the improper  (for conditions) tire pressures. I still got a good trap speed, even though the ET was over a second slower than normal.

When driving down the strip, don't be correcting the steering (unless you have to). If you lined up straight, the wheel can be held virtually motionless. You should burn a couple of feet and take off. If you really fry the tires, make sure it wasn't because there was crap on the track, meaning that you shouldn't immediately fiddle with tire pressure when it may have been something beyond your control.

Important Point!! at the end of the strip, make sure that you stay on the gas all the way through the timing lights.....and then some!!

In the old days, the speed lights were something like 60' before & after the Finish Line (with the ET light) so you had to stay on the gas a bit to get a correct speed. As I understand, the speed lights now are done at the finish, but I still stay on it past the Finish Line. At some tracks (like Lapeer), the Finish Line is a little hard to see. The center stripe goes for a bit after the Finish (probably left over from the old speed measurement days) and I just stay on it until that line ends. I consider it to be the follow-through, as it required in bowling & golf to get a successful result.

Getting off the gas a bit too quick doesn't affect the ET, but drastically affects the trap speed. At the Atlanta Convention, I raced Terri Huffnagle for the ATX Final, after the car "cooled down" (in 100 degree heat) for an hour. I dialed 15.90. When I was beating her at the last couple hundred feet, I jumped on the brakes.....no ABS, but Hard. My ET was still a 15.79 (break-out) but I had rubbed 20 mph off my trap speed, getting something like a 67, when my usual that day was 87-88.

I have a gut feel that some of the low trap speeds some SHO guys are getting may be due to this situation. Even though I stay on the gas, I can still slow down enough to take the first turn-off road at both Lapeer and Milan.

Post-Race Analysis

At Lapeer, we usually do two runs (one in each lane) then go back, get our timing slips, and rest a bit. You can glean some info from your slips if your times are varying. Look at your 60' times, the 1/8 mile ET & speed, as well as your 1/4 ET & speed. This is where the pen is handy for notes. If your 1/4 ET/speed is varying, look at the intermediate times to see the differences. Sometimes you will find that one lane is better for you than the other. For example, Scott didn't like the Spectator lane last week, as it was too "loose" for his nitrous & Nittos, but I liked it better because it gave me a little more wheel spin. The ATX SHO needs some wheel spin to get the rpms up into the power band.


On hot days, when I'm in the staging lanes ready to run, I will set the climate control at 90 degrees, and punch Max AC. It will run the cooling fan, as well as pump a bit of heat into the car. Yeah, it gets hot in the car, but I figure that every little bit helps.

At places like Milan, when you may sit in the Staging Lanes for a long time waiting to run, I'll sit with the hood up and push the car along until race time. Hey, it gives you something to do!!

There it is, just some general thoughts on the subject. I'm sure I'll think of a few more as soon as I send this!!

Ron Porter
Lake Orion, MI
'99 black, sitting in the driveway with exactly 25,000 on the odometer

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