Time Drag Racing Do's and Don'ts
Written by: Guy Caputo
For a long time now
I have been asked various questions regarding Drag Racing from
what to wear at the track to how many tooth sprocket should
I run. We here at Dragbike.com are always looking for ways to
accommodate our readers with articles that not only are fun
to read, but are informative, inspiring and supply the answers
they are looking for to their questions about this great sport
of ours, Motorcycle Drag Racing.
This is not a complete
list and by no means do we insinuate that it can't be improved
upon. It is simply some of our ideas for the first timer that
will give you a great place to start. If this is your first
time to the track, there are some basic essentials that you
just must have.
bring Sun Glasses, they are necessary for those very bright
days and come in quite handy in hiding those prior nights activities
if you know what I mean and I think you do.
bring plenty of fluids, liquids, water, Gatorade and/or anything
else in wet form you deem worthy of your bodies needs. Your
body is a big bag of water with a few bones thrown in for substance
so keep it hydrated. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed in
some tracks across the country so check ahead. All the tracks
have some sort of canteen or food trailer that can supply you
(at a price) with just about everything you might need if you
forget to bring your favorite beverage.
bring trash bags with you to collect your waste and other things
you no longer need. Trashcans are provided at all tracks and
are plentiful in most areas in and around the pits and track
so please help us keep our facilities clean and trash free.
There's nothing worse then having a piece of trash blow across
the track at the wrong time.
If you are going to
run in the Street E.T. class, which is the largest of our racing
classes and you are bringing or riding your street bike of choice
to the track, you must bring the following items with you. Without
these items, you cannot race your bike at the track.
bring the following items:
- A good quality leather jacket
is necessary. Full leathers are even better, but if you're
a first timer, you will usually end up with a pair after your
first season. No fringe, nothing hanging out, no swinging
leather belts hanging off your waist, just a nice fitting
heavy leather jacket designed for motorcycles in mind. A leather
coat you would wear to the disco is not what we mean. It should
be a zipped jacket having shoulder, elbow and back support
padding and wrist cuffs. Bomber style jackets are also not
- Ankle high leather boots or
shoes are the minimum for this class and if they have laces,
they should be covered (duct tape works good) because there's
nothing worse than having a shoelace get caught around your
brake pedal arm or shifter arm. Talk about a heart pounding
experience, try putting your foot out when it laced up to
your shifter linkage.
- Leather gloves are required
at every event and they should be of quality leather with
knuckle reinforcements and padded palms. Many manufacturers
make quality racing gloves in many colors and sizes. My favorites
are the new Kevlar covered gloves that not only protect your
hands from major road rash, but also will keep them from being
mangled if they happen to hit the road before your body does.
Remember, if you become separated from your machine, your
hands are usually the first things to hit something because
you are trying to protect yourself with your hands.
- A Snell Rated full-face helmet
with a quality shield that you can see thru clearly. It should
fit snuggly on your noggin and strap securely under your chin.
Do not wear a helmet that is too big for you skull. Recently
at an AMA/Prostar event, a racer wore someone else's helmet
that was too big for her head. The face shield flipped up
pulling the helmet up and she could not see her way down track,
ran into a wall and almost destroyed both her and her ride.
Thanks to the fact that she WAS wearing full leathers, gloves,
boots and gloves, she was saved the harsh reality of not having
skin attached to her body.
read the rulebook all the way thru before racing your first
time. At all AMA/Prostar events, you will receive a rulebook
at the event and it can also be downloaded from their website
at www.amaprostar.com Just click on rulebook and you can download
it in .pdf format using Adobe Acrobat reader.
bring shorts and a hat and comfortable loose clothing; it can
pretty darn hot during these summer months. Later in the year,
bring a jacket because the weather cools down dramatically after
the sun sets.
bring some basic hand tools with you in the event you have to
do some minor repairs. Metric wrenches, sockets and allens if
your riding an impolrt brand of bike and SAE inch wrenches and
such if your riding an American made. Okay, I'll say it...Harley
Davidson. There, are you happy?
bring a tire pressure gauge and some sort of way to pump up
your tires after the race. Most racers will let air out of the
rear tire in order to get more traction from the tire while
at the track. However, what if you let too much air out and
need to add a little more back in? Moreover, you don't want
to drive it home under inflated for obvious reasons.
bring some chairs of some kind if you are traveling with motorcycle
in tow, in the back of the truck or on a trailer. You will be
glad you did.
bring some sort of covering to keep the sun off your selves
and your bike if you do not have a trailer to retreat into during
the heat of the day. Most people bring some sort of awning cover
or a 10'X10' tent cover. If you have an old piece of carpet,
bring that too. There's nothing worse than having to work on
your bike while kneeling down on the asphalt or in the gravel,
ouch, the memories are coming back...make them stop.
make sure that your bike entry numbers are on your bike on the
side that is seen by the tower. Meaning if the tower is on your
left side of your bike when you roll up to the line, then have
your numbers displayed on the bike or a placard in large bright
colored (white is best) numbers on the left side of your bike.
I put them on both sides because it's just easier that way.
I recommend that you use a vinyl number that can be applied
to your bike and then removed when you are done. If you are
riding your bike to the track, the concession stand or souvenir
stand most times will sell vinyl numbers for you to display
on your bike. If you are at an AMA/Prostar event, the registration
trailer will have them or they can direct to where you can get
them. I usually bring my own before I get to the track that
day. Another little trick is to apply the number to your pants
and then remove them so that they pick up some lint, and then
apply them to your bodywork. That way, they are easily removed
at the end of the day. If you do not have vinyl numbers, then
white shoe polish will work just fine if you want to just paint
them on your bike. If you decide to use white shoe polish, I
recommend you wax the area to be painted first so that the polish
can be removed much easier and will not stain your paint when
it comes time to remove it. Just wax over the shoe polish and
it comes right off and the same goes for your windshield. Wax
the windshield a couple of times before applying the shoe polish.
forget to have your bike teched in at the tech trailer or the
tech sign in designated area so they can check your bike over
for all the necessary safety items for your class. Bring your
leathers or leather jacket, gloves and your Snell approved helmet
with you at that time.
bring a portable radio with you if you are driving to the track
because most tracks will broadcast the announcers voice over
an FM radio channel that is usually posted somewhere by the
tower or registration trailer. If you do not or cannot bring
a radio, then listen very carefully to the announcer over the
loud speakers for your class to be called to the staging lanes.
be late coming to the staging lanes with your bike and watch
for which staging lane your class will most times always go
to when called by the announcer.
enter the starting line area before the staging lane official
tells you to. Watch his/her commands to approach and do so when
When you approach the burnout box
(large cement area at the beginning of the track with water
on it), be sure to drive around the water and then back into
it with your rear tire. You want to avoid getting your front
tire wet in the event you have to grab some front brake and
the tire slips out from under you. Back your rear tire into
the water box then roll forward a few inches out of it. Grab
a handful of front brake and since this your first time don't
rush, take your time. Pull in the clutch lever and put your
bike in 1st gear. Keeping your hand on the front brake, roll
your palm back to throttle your bike up some and release the
clutch surely and without hesitation while at the same time
giving the throttle a slight twist. The wet rear tire will start
to spin so keep that hand on the front brake. You can throttle
up a bit but don't go into your rev limiter or past your redline.
You will start to feel your bike wanting to pull forward because
the tire is heating up and getting very grippy. Unless you feel
confident about riding out of the burnout, let off your throttle
and pull in your clutch and start rolling forward to the starting
line. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, then don't.
I learned to do this procedure by putting my front tire up against
a cement wall by my house and putting some water under my rear
tire. After a while, you will learn to do this in 2nd gear without
stalling your motor to get higher revolutions and doing a smoky
burnout to get your rear tire really hot and sticky. The real
trick is learning to handle the front brake while rolling the
throttle back at the same time. After a few times doing this
you will learn where your clutch starts to grab and at what
RPM your motor needs to be before you bog it down or over rev
it. It takes some time to get the hang of it so don't feel bad
if you don't get it right the first time. Any experienced drag
racer worth his/her salt will be happy to give you some pointers
before you attempt this fun and tire eating procedure.
come out of the water box like a hotshot because you're likely
to get a little sideways when you do and that's when first timers
get hurt. They get a little sideways and grab some front brake,
and then all of a sudden you are down on the ground floundering
like a trout in front of everyone. Not a pretty picture, I can
assure you (from one's own experience). Use your rear brake
to slow down and stop while approaching the line.
approach the starting line and prepare to pre-stage your bike.
make sure your face shield is down and your bike is facing forward
looking straight down the track. At this time you can pre-stage
your bike by rolling forward until your top yellow bulb lights
up and then stop.
roll any farther forward and turn on the stage light until your
opponent has also pre-staged his/her bike. You can be disqualified
by the starter if you do.
starter has the ultimate authority on the starting line. You
can be disqualified or thrown out of the facility if you give
the starter any guff what so ever for any decision he may give.
The starter is responsible for your safety down the track and
will not allow you to go down his track if he observes anything
that is not safe, not within specifications for your class or
just plain feels you should not go down the track for any reason.
Even the Race Director will not overturn a decision made by
the starter. He is there for one reason only and that is to
make sure you are in as safe a condition as possible before
you race your opponent. Do what the starter says at all times.
pay attention to your own set of lights only. Learn not to be
distracted by your opponent's set of lights. In E.T. racing,
it is only your set of lights that count. Too many racers have
lost a race because their opponent's lights distracted them.
When the yellows start to drop down, they will do so in 1/2
second increments in what is called a .500 tree. When you see
the last yellow light start to glow, start releasing your clutch
because you are what we call, launching. If you see the green
bulb start to light up before you release the clutch, you were
sleeping at the light and you will not have a very good reaction
stay in the groove (that portion of the track where all the
rubber is) when you take off down the track. The groove can
be seen as a dark shadowy line about 6" to 18" wide most of
the way down the track. This will give you maximum traction
all the way down the track and will help you stay going straight.
If you are zig-zagging down the track, you will not get a good
time. The shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line.
go near the center of the track or the wall. Stay in your lane.
If you find yourself drifting towards either and you can't bring
it back quickly, let off the power and regain control of your
bike. Hitting the wall = Bad Mojo and possibly major hurt to
your body and your bike. Crossing the centerline = Bad Mojo,
endangering your opponent in the opposite lane and disqualification.
turn off the track at the first available turn off if your bike
loses power, dies or has mechanical difficulties during your
run. If you think you have damaged your motor in any way, try
to get out of the center of your lane and go towards the outside
of it in case your leaking oil, which will stop the race for
a long time until the track crew can clean it up. You don't
want to be the reason a race has to be postponed due to lack
of time now do you?
stop at the timing booth and pick up your time slip after every
run and for goodness sakes drive slowly while in the pits. You
race on the track and you cruise slowly in the pits.
That's about it for some basic
Do's and Don'ts for the first timer at the track. I could sit
here all day and come up with another 50 of them, but you will
learn them as you go.
be afraid to ask another racer for help because they love being
asked for their advice and can't wait to help.
have fun and remember, be safe.
Until next time, Safe racing to
Guy Caputo can be reached at Guy@Dragbike.com