"Speed costs money," the old racer's adage goes, so the question is: "How fast do you want to go?"
An average bracket drag racer's internal dialogue goes like this. You say to yourself: "I'm going to want to know how much pressure I'm running, so I better bring a tire gauge. Perhaps I'll want to add air, so I'll buy a small compact compressor. If I want to enhance performance even further, I need to change tires; put on some slicks, then of course I'll want to change the rear end, and since the rear end can take the strain, I might as well go for the full engine rebuild, and, heck, since the engine, rear end, and tires are going to be full race, might as well gut the car and go for the full Super Street treatment with full cage, aluminum interior and that cool looking flat dashboard with the tach and all that other cool stuff... "
Okay, so you realize the problems associated with improving your car. Where do you stop? That's the question which has bothered bracket racers since the dawn of time. The natural reaction is to want to go faster, but the pocketbook is not always prepared for that natural racer's emotion.
But I want to remind you at this point that in bracket drag racing it isn't how fast you go, it's how you go fast. You're setting your "dial in," you're establishing the ground rules. If your car can go a zillion mph, that's wonderful, but if you're constantly reacting to the tree like a banana slug, then you're wasting your money on making your car fast. You'll never win, no matter how fast your car.
You're going to want to pick up a few things that will boost your performance, so besides the requisite tire gauge, the weather station, the pen the paper for logging data, and the little mechanical tweaks, you'll want to look at rev controls to keep the revs down until you leave the line, line locks which allow you to sit at the line without using the brakes, and most importantly, a delay box.
Studies have shown that human beings can not change their reaction times. You can't look at the yellow and say, "next time I'll wait an extra 2/100ths of a second before I leave." It's impossible.
The delay box is a twelve-volt system that is activated by a pushbutton inside the car -- usually mounted on the center console or somewhere else easily deployable from your seat. The delay works by you entering a digital time into it prior to the run, and after you "stage," you let go of the button as the first light flashes at the top of the tree, not when it gets to the bottom. The car just sits there. You've got your foot planted to the floor, but the delay box hasn't given the okay to leave. After the clock runs down, then you take off.
But what's the difference? If you prepare yourself to leave on the first yellow, you'll never leave before it comes on and if you're ready to go, you will never be late. It's much simpler than anticipating the light and much more of a naked piece of data. Your reaction will be pretty much the same every time because it is an honest reaction.
Most bracket drag racers shoot themselves in the foot when they get started. This is a way to avoid that, and not spend a lot of money while you're trying to determine which class you want to be in. It may not be legal in all bracket drag classes, but even if you've got to travel some to race, it sure is cheaper than a new engine, blower and all the stuff you have to replace each week when it breaks.