HeadLine News
Friday, December 17, 2004 - 08:19:33 AM EDT

Guy Caputo - Dragbike.com

Texas Shootout

First 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.

Do 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.

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.

Do 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.

Do 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 recommended.
  • 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.

Do 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.

Do 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.

Do 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?

Do 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.

Do 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.

Do 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.

Do 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.

Don't 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.

Do 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.

Don't 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.

Don't enter the starting line area before the staging lane official tells you to. Watch his/her commands to approach and do so when told to.

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.

Don't 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.

Do approach the starting line and prepare to pre-stage your bike.

Do 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.

Don't 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.

IMPORTANT TRACK NOTE: The 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.

Do 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 time.

Do 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.

Don't 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.

Do 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?

Do 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.

Don't be afraid to ask another racer for help because they love being asked for their advice and can't wait to help.

Do have fun and remember, be safe.

Until next time, Safe racing to all.

Guy Caputo can be reached at Guy@Dragbike.com



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For a long time now I have been asked various questions re