A guide to your first time at the track
So itís your first trip to the race track.
Like countless thousands before youíve got yourself a hot set of wheels and you want to go flex your muscles on the track. Also like those before you, you are scared to death because youíve never been before. The first trip to the drag strip can be nerve wracking for even the toughest of persons. Hopefully this little write up will help ease your nerves a bit and make your first trip to the track an enjoyable one.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME:
Before you leave there are some things you should do because if you are like me you live a good ways away from the track so if you forget something youíre screwed.
The first thing to do is make sure you are dressed properly. NHRA says you have to wear long pants and atleast a t shirt to race. If you show up to the track in shorts they will send you home or atleast to the stands to spectate.
Secondly clean your car! Your fellow racers will not be happy with you if you are dropping mud and rocks down the track as you go.
Third, itís a good idea to have a backup way home. Things break at the track, itís a fact of life and itís a lot stickier then the street so your hard launch at home may be fine but at the track you could snap and axle or shuck a clutch without knowing itís possible.
Next, check your car over. Be meticulous about fluid levels, tire tread wear, and other things that you think might get you sent home at the track. If you have a leak or a bad tire, donít even go. Save yourself some time and stay home.
Lastly Remove anything from your car that doesnít need to be there. Whether this is your cd cases, dirty clothes, excess fuel, etc etc it all adds up and can cut your ETs. Also if you plan to take your seats or spare out do it now. You can do it at the track and in most cases you can use a designated area in the pits to put your crap but there is a chance it gets stolen while you are staging or racing. Sad but trueÖÖ
UPON ARRIVING AT THE TRACK:
On your typical test and tune night you are going to have to pay to get in the door. This varies from track and time of year. Iíve paid as little as 10$ and as much as 35$ for a test and tune session so have some cash with you. If you plan on bracket racing or competing in some other form of racing bring more because entrance fees vary greatly.
Once youíve paid, a track official will hand you a tech sheet. The tech sheet is simply an information card that you must fill out before you can race. This will contain the basics like your name, address, etc as well as details about your car such as year, make, model, and what modifications, if any you have. BE THUROUGH, list everything!!!
ON TO TECH INSPECTION:
This is where track officials are going to nit pick your car and this is a good thing. Tech inspection is not a big deal for those running their daily drivers because chances are if your car made it to the track with you driving it, it will pass tech inspection. However if the inspectors do find some reason not to let you race, donít get pissy. Itís for YOUR and everyone elseís safety.
For your average daily driver or lightly built racer at the track they will be looking for:
The proper attire (your long pants and t shirt)
That you have no hubcaps
All windows are in good shape with no cracks
If you are running quicker then a 13.99 you must have an approved helmet.
If it is a convertible you must have a helmet.
If itís a convertible faster then 13.99 it must have a roll bar
Tail lights must work
If you are spraying nitrous you must have a visible sticker
For your average Joe thatís it. Simple enough right?
Depending on the track after tech inspection you may have to declare a class. Just ask an official they will help you with that, the class you run determines which ďclass laneĒ you run in. This happens at all the major tracks, at your smaller mom and pop tracks everyone just piles into the staging lanes at this point. Again, ask the officials they are glad to help you find where you need to be.
Once you arrive in the staging lanes this is a great time to talk to some fellow racers and get some tips and tricks for the track. Every track has its secrets. This is also a good time to check your tire pressures and adjust them or anything else that may need adjusted. This is also a good time to spectate and see what the people who have run before are doing. Since this is your first time you are going to want to locate the return lanes and timeslip station. Just watch the other drivers and see where they are exiting the track and getting their slips.
However, stay alert because once your class is called you need to get back to your car ASAP. At this point you will move to your staging lanes.
Itís getting close to race time and Iíll bet the butterflies are setting in good now. There are going to be two staging lanes a left and a right. Pick the lane you want to run in and get in that staging lane. If you did some scouting earlier you can see which one is hooking up the best and get that one. At this point itís basically like sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. The line is going to move slowly but you are only minutes away from actually running. Once you get to the front of the line itís time to go.
THE WATER BOX:
The water box is a puddle of water near the start of the track that is used for cleaning tires. IF YOU ARE NOT RUNNING SLICKS DO NOT GO THROUGH THE WATER BOX!!!!!!!!!!! I canít stress this enough. Not only will you screw up your run, but you may screw up the run of the person behind you by dragging water up to the line. Having water at the start line is also dangerous especially for the guys running big horsepower. If you are running slicks, obviously you are going through the water box to clean the tires.
THE BURN OUT:
After you have negotiated the water box itís time to heat up or clean the tires, depending on what you are running. To do a burn out pull the ebrake give the car a fair amount of revs and quickly let off the clutch. Keep the RPMs up to maintain the spin. Once you see smoke your tires are clean. In a street car on street tires there is no need for a real long smokey burnout, save those for the big boys.
Be alert because things are going to go quick at this point. Itís time to stage, You can either stage 1st or 2nd, there is no correct order but itís a personal preference. So ease your car up to the staging lights and just break the beam of the first light. This will light the first yellow lamp on the tree and it called prestaging. If you staged first it is proper track etiquette to let the other lane stage before you light the second bulb. This is called courtesy staging. There is no rule for this but itís something you should do. Ok, now heís lit his first lamp so itís time for you to ease forward again to light your second lamp. Once the other lane has staged the tree goes in motion. The three amber lights are timed .500 seconds apart and the green is .500 from the last amber, this will give you an idea on how to time the launch.
Do your thing, how you launch, where you shift, etc etc is up to you and the car you drive.
Once youíve crossed the finish line you need to look for the return road entrance. If it is on your side of the track you should go first down the road. If it is on the other lane you need to wait for the car in the other lane to go first. DO NOT CROSS THE OTHER LANE WITH A CAR STILL RUNNING ON IT! This will get you kicked out and is extremely dangerous. Next you need to pick up your time slip. Then continue down the return road. Be sure to obey the return road speed limit or you will get warned or kicked out. Finally head back to the staging lanes for more fun!
I know it seems like a lot to take in but really itís all easy. As I have said many times donít be afraid to ask an official or other racer for help. Everyone was a first time once in their life and usually people are glad to help.
I hope you found this write up useful and see you at the track!
Last edited by nugz; 01-03-2008 at 06:30 PM.