Drag Racing Primer- Tips with Street Tires

By SRT-Tom · Feb 3, 2019 ·
  1. SRT-Tom
    Here are some drag racing tips to make your trip to the drag strip safe and successful.

    Before you arrive at track

    Remove the floor mats, child seats (if applicable) and other non-essential cargo. Every bit of weight you remove can help.

    Try to plan so you have about ¼ tank of fuel when you arrive. Extra fuel adds weight and you won’t need more than ¼ tank. Don’t show up with your tank on empty. The fuel is usually expensive at the track and you don’t want to be “running on fumes.”

    Bring a drag racing helmet and wear long pants. Many tracks will not let you race unless you are wearing them. A helmet is generally required for any car that runs faster than 14.0 or over 100 mph in the ¼ mile. (Note- Helmuts meeting Snell SA2015 testing requirements are best). Some tracks may have slightly different rules, but they are all very strict about wearing helmets.


    Practice the tree. Most tracks use a “Sportsman Tree” for test & tune. With the "Sportsman Tree" you stage just like you would with the “Pro Tree” but the three amber lights and the green light fall in sequence at ½ second intervals. The goal is to anticipate the green and be as close to the ½ second interval as possible. Anything under the ½ second interval is a red light. You can practice on this simulator:


    The “Pro Tree” is much different. With the “Pro Tree,” you stage just like you would with the Sportsman Tree but the three amber lights illuminate at exactly the same instant and the green follows exactly .4 seconds later. The goal is to anticipate the green and be as close to the .4 second interval as possible. Anything under the .4 second interval is a red light.


    Keep in mind that the simulators don’t take into consideration things like rollout time to break the timer beam and how deep you stage. These simulators will give you an idea of what to expect, but there is more involved.

    Arrive Early. You will be able to make more passes if you get there when the gates open. You will also avoid long lines for tech inspection. This will also give your engine a chance to cool down a bit. After tech inspection, go straight to the staging lanes.


    After you arrive at track (before you race)

    Ice down your engine. Bring 4-5 small bags of ice. They may have ice at the track or they may not allow icing, so you should call in advance and find out. Bring some trash bags to put the ice bags into because they will likely leak. Set two on each side of your intake touching the fuel rails and metal intake, and set one over the throttle body and on the side of your intake closest to the motor. This will really wake up your Hemi!


    Adjust your tire pressure. The “factory recommended” pressure for the rear tires does not provide good traction for drag racing. Best results can be achieved with 27-28 psi in the rear. Raise the pressure in the front tires to 40 psi. This will marginally reduce the friction of the front tire contact patches.


    Reset your transmission adaptation. The SRT8 (and many other cars) have adaptive transmission shift programming. Highway driving and stop and go, slow city driving will put the adaptation into “granny” mode- not good for drag racing. If you have a tuner, like a The Predator, it can do the reset, or you can pull a fuse. The fuse number depends on the model year of your car. Wait 15-30 seconds before putting fuse back in. That amount of time will give the computer time to reset itself to factory new specs.

    Ready to Race

    Pay attention to the track staff for their safety. Wait for the coordinator to motion you to move forward and do your burnout.


    Roll your windows up and close your sunroof. This is obvious, but racers sometimes forget to do this.

    Turn off ESP. Press and hold the ESP button for about 10 seconds until you hear a chime. You may want to make a few passes with ESP on just to get the hang of things, but you will get better times with ESP off and a good launch technique.

    Avoid the water box on street tires. With street tires, the best thing to do is to pull around the water box and just do a dry burnout. Some tracks hose down an area of the track that you must pull through. If this is the case, just slowly drive through the water into the dry area and do your burnout. You do not want water to collect between the treads.

    Do a short burnout. Put your left foot on the brake, bring the revs up to about 3,000 RPM and gradually release the brake until the wheels start to spin. Apply more throttle and fully release the brake. You should usually do a 2-3 second burnout, just enough to create a “haze” of smoke. Don’t create a giant cloud of smoke. It will not be of any benefit if you are using street tires. The compound they put on the track is much more sticky than the burnt rubber from your street tires.


    Stage your car. Pull up to the starting line very slowly until the first light illuminates. This is the pre-stage light. Once you are ready to go, slowly pull forward a little more until the second light illuminates. Stage shallow for a better ET. The more shallow you stage, the more rollout you get before triggering the timer. When the second light illuminates, you are staged- Stop! As a courtesy, try to stage at about the same time as the other driver. Once you and the other driver are both staged, you will not have much time before the lights start to fall and go green.


    Launch. It’s a bit tricky to extract every 1/100th of a second from these big, heavy cars during launch. Put your left foot on the brake and bring the revs quickly up to about 1,200 RPM. Do not stand on the throttle for more than a second. Bring the revs up right before you go. Release the brake and roll the throttle to the floor in one quick, steady motion. It should take about 1.5 seconds to roll it completely to the floor from the time you release the brake. You can’t just punch it to the floor. You have to be a little bit patient when launching on street tires.


    For the first couple of passes, you may want to concentrate on launch technique only and not worry about reaction time. Reaction time will not impact your ET. Your ET is based on beams and a timer that is triggered when your car crosses the beams.

    Here are two additional tips:

    Keep at least three few extra drive shaft bolts in your car.

    If you are running a Predator or Trinity tuner, when you get to the track, put your car in "dyno mode" when you are at the staging lights and start stalling against the converter- the computer won’t pull timing.

    Now smoke those Mustangs and Camaros!

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