HomeColumnsTom McCarthyA Case for Chance: Chip Draw vs Ladder in Drag Racing

A Case for Chance: Chip Draw vs Ladder in Drag Racing

A Case for Chance: Chip Draw Vs LadderA Case for Chance: Chip Draw vs Ladder

In drag racing, the ladder system for pairing up competitors is an old, tried, and true method used among most major established sanctions. For example, if 19 competitors show up for a race, a sixteen-bike qualified field will usually be established before elimination rounds. Then comes the ladder pairing for race day comprised of the sixteen quickest machines.

The sixteen quickest are established via qualifying runs, and from the 17th qualified position on back, these would-be competitors now become “alternates.” In the event that on race day morning, if someone is broken and can’t make the call to the lanes on race day, the first alternate (#17) and so forth, can fill in the 16-slot competition ladder. This is so a PAIR of competition machines can give the crowd a side-by-side drag race, the way the sport is intended to be viewed for entertainment.

A Case for Chance: Chip Draw Vs Ladder

The conventional competition sequence of pairings is the number 16 qualifier, now races the number 1 qualifier and 15 Vs number two, etcetera, as entered on the conventional established ladder. This system is important for accruing championship points at the end of season, as a #1 qualifier gets X number of additional championship points for being the quickest by exhibiting top performance.

The very nature of this system always matches the strongest vs. the weakest in performance to begin eliminations. This weeds out the developing racers and rewards the strongest as they wade deeper into the competition field, round by round, as eliminations progress.

A Case for Chance: Chip Draw Vs Ladder

This is the long-established drag racing pecking order competition in a conventional sense. Perhaps it’s time for more sanctions to re-think this and give others a better fighting chance at advancement.

The following was brought to my attention recently by a top competitor, who was once an up-and-coming, struggling new racer. He said to me in casual track-side conversation, “Ya know, when I came to races in my class, and we had like the same 17 to 19 racers, when it was a sixteen bike qualified field if I could crack the qualified field, it was still number one qualifier versus the number sixteen guy – me, or if I was 15th, I still had to face the number two guy. So really, unless one of the top racers broke, I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of advancing to round two.”

A Case for Chance: Chip Draw Vs Ladder

He further commented, “But one season, I tried racing with a brand-new sanction, and I really went there just to test a new combination. At that race, I first encountered a “Chip Draw” pairing system. I was confused at first without a qualified field, but I was willing to give chip-draw racing a shot. To my surprise, I discovered it re-invigorated my love of drag racing because suddenly I had a chance to win.

You see, with a chip draw, because the pairings and lane choices are totally random, I was able to survive round one, be competitive in the second round, and get lucky with a bye-round. Suddenly, I was in my first final round in years. Lo and behold, I had my first win in YEARS,” he exclaimed.

A Case for Chance: Chip Draw Vs Ladder

And there, ladies and gentlemen, this racer fell in love with drag racing once again. Because with a random Chip-Draw system of ladder pairing, this racer suddenly had a fighting chance. Not only did he win that race, it motivated him to up his game. He then went on to win that year’s class championship. As a result of this, instead of continuing his downward spiral of getting further frustrated with drag racing, being knocked off by a system that made the strong, stronger, he became invigorated.

Fast forward two years later, and now today, this racer, who’s got more than a few years under his belt, has become a class sponsor and put up a four-figure cash pot for his fellow racers to shoot for, to help invigorate his class and the sport of drag racing. Success breeds success when winning is more evenly distributed.

While drag racing is, for the most part, a traditionalist sport, entrenched and oh so scripted: if sanctions could find a way to have at least one “Chip-Draw” race a season, this levels the playing field a bit, giving everyone a more equitable chance to win.

A Case for Chance: Chip Draw Vs Ladder

We all know that in drag racing, it’s incumbent upon racers to find more power, apply it appropriately within class rules, and chop that tree like a seasoned lumberjack every round. But in this world where big money, deep pockets, and the best of parts can dominate in ways a back-pocket racer can’t, giving everyone a chance to fall in love with the sport again is not a bad thing.

Exactly how and when to do this is problematic.

Everything is #figureoutable.

Tom McCarthy Until Next time…

– Tom McCarthy

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