GETTING STARTED IN DRAG RACING
by Tony Sakkis
January 10, 1997
In terms of cost of participation, the most bang for your buck in any kind of racing is amateur drag racing.
Of course you can go out and spend big bucks on a nitro burning car to compete with Kenny Bernstein, but for absolutely nothing (except the price of admission, which is usually under $20) you can go bracket racing.
Just like real pro racing, bracket racing pits two drivers against each other; the goal being to cross the finish line first. But the goal is also to finish at or above your preset "dial in."
What that means is that you must adjust your car to the particular track and day, then consistently run at or above that elapsed time number. So you must predict the time you will run, then you must not be faster than that time. If so, you're eliminated.
The nice thing about bracket racing is that you may start in your old tub of a street car. On any given bracket racing night there will be cars from gas dragsters to VW busses, going as fast as they can, and trying to be as consistent as possible.
Veteran drag racers tend to stay in brackets because they can modify their car as they wish, moving up in class when they feel ready -- which is especially good if you can be only a part-time racer.
It should be noted that the car should not be a major source of worry at this point. What you are trying to do is to get a feel for the universe of bracket drag racing.
Equipment-wise, it's always recommended that you use a helmet, but for the most part you won't even need one for the slower street cars. Other than that, seat belts and a car that won't fall apart are the only requirements.
Although bracket classes vary from place to place and state to state, the classes are generally as follows: Super Pro (SP), Pro (PRO), Sportsman (SPTS), Street(STR), Motorcycle (MX), and High School (HS).
Super Pro and Pro are the hot cars which run times between 7.50 and 10.99, with drivers who will often run for money or in NHRA Divisional races for prizes. Pro class is for cars running the quarter mile in 7.50 seconds to 12.99 seconds. This is really a major stepping-stone class.
Probably the place to start for most people is in Sportsman or Street, or if you fit, Motorcycles or High School. Sportsman is for cars running 11.00 to 19.99 seconds. Street class cars must run street tires and elapsed times of 12.00 to 24.99 seconds (actually, all the way to 39.99 seconds). And in High School class, you've got basically a wide open class, same ET parameters as Street -- 12.00 to 24.99. You'll need to run stock mufflers and DOT approved, or street-legal, tires as well. Obviously, you need to be a student.
The National Hot Rod Association is located at 2035 Financial Way, Glendora, CA 91741; Phone is (818) 914-4761. There are six divisional offices that will give you more localized information: NHRA Northeast Divisional office, (717) 626-8597 (Covers competition in Connecticut, DC, Maine, Quebec, etc.); NHRA Southeast Division office, (904) 374-9922 (Covers competition in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, etc.); NHRA North Central Division office, (317) 689-8727 (Covers competition in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, etc.); NHRA South Central Division office, (409) 856-6958 (Covers competition in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Eastern Mexico, etc.); NHRA West Central Division office, (816) 795-8055 (Covered competition in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Wyoming, etc.); NHRA Northwest Division office, (360) 698-3828 (Covers competition in Arizona, California, Hawaii, etc.).