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Drag Racing Terms


Glossary of Drag Racing Terms

1320: Number of feet in a 1/4 mile.

60 Foot Time: See Sixty Foot Time.

Air box: Used primarily on Pro Stock Motorcycles, it settles “negative air” around carburetors the way a hood scoop does on a car.

Air Foil: also know as a wing - a stabilizer, used to create downforce, which increases stability and tire traction at high speeds.

Amber Lights: Lights used on the christmas tree to warn the driver of the start of the race. The time between lights depend on the style of racing. Typically there is .4 for the 'Pro Start' tree where there is only one amber light then green, or 'Bracket Racing' at .5 seconds between each light as the tree counts down.

Ballast: A controlled amount of weight positioned in either the front or rear of drag car used to help meet class weight requirements and/or used as a tuning variable.

Big End: Far side of the track near the finish line.

Blower: A crank driven air-to-fuel mixture compressor which increases atmospheric pressure on the engine, resulting in added horsepower. Also commonly refered to as a supercharger.

Bottom End: Near side of the track past the starting line.

Breakout: Used only in handicap racing, “breakout” refers to a contestant running quicker than he or she “dialed” his or her vehicle (predicted how quick it would run). Unless the opponent commits a more serious foul (e.g., red-lights, crosses the centerline, or fails a post-race inspection), the driver who breaks out loses. If both drivers break out, the one who runs closest to his or her dial is the winner.

Bracket Race:

Bumped: When a driver loses standing in qualifying position. See Bump Spot.

Bump spot: The elapsed time of the last qualified driver in a closed field, (i.e. the 16th position in a field open to only the 16 quickest qualifiers) The driver can be "bumped" out of the field if bettered by a someone currently not qualified.

Burndown: An intense starting line psychological battle between 2 drivers in which each refuses to fully "stage"for the race. The objective is to break an opponent's concentration, overheat their engine or cool down their tires.

Burnout: Spinning the rear tires in water (see Water Box) at a high RPM to heat them, clean them, and leave a patch of rubber on the tack for better traction. Produces billows of white smoke.

Burned Piston: When a cyl r runs lean (too much air in the air-to-fuel mixture) and excessive heat burns or melts or incinerates the piston within the combustion chamber due to a lack of fuel within its cylinder.

Christmas Tree: The Tree, as it is often called, is the electronic starting line device between lanes on the starting line, utilizing a sequential "countdown" of lights calibrated to within .0001 of a second accuracy. See Tree.

Chute: Short for parachute, used for high speed braking.

Clutch Can: The bell-shaped housing, or bellhousing, used to encase the clutch and flywheel.

Clutch Dust: The thick, black smoke which emanates from the rear of many professional class race cars. It is a normal by-product of the friction and erosion of carbon clutch discs during full engagement.

Clutch Lockup: The progression of clutch-disc engagement controlled by an air-timer management system.

Deep Stage: A procedure in which a contestant positions a vehicle slightly over the starting line, (while still maintaining official staged status), either by accidentally rolling forward or in an attempt to gain a reaction time advantage. In that position, the driver is closer to the finish line but dangerously close to a foul start.

Delay Box: An electronic device, designed to improve reaction time, which permits a driver to initiate the run by releasing a button by hand, (rather than depressing the throttle by foot) at the first flash of the starting lights.

Dial In: Anticipated elapsed time of vehicle to cover the quarter or eighth mile distance, usually measured to 1/100th of a second. Derived from the earliest handicapping computers into which predictions were entered by thumbwheel dials. Modern handicappers utilize keyboard entry. Dial-ins are used to handicap cars in eliminations. When two cars race, the two dial-ins are subtracted, and the slower car is given the difference in a head start.

Dial under: when drivers in Super Stock and Stock (handicap categories) select an elapsed time quicker than the national index. Drivers select a dial-under, or e.t., that they think their cars will run based on previous performance. The breakout rule is in effect.

Diaper: A blanket made from ballistic and absorbent, often Kevlar, that surrounds the oil pan and serves as a containment device during engine explosions. Required on Top Fuel dragsters, Funny Cars, Alcohol Dragsters, and Alcohol Funny Cars.

Displacement: The total theoretical volume of air/fuel mixture which a specific engine is capable of drawing into all cylinders during one complete cycle of operation.

DNQ: Did Not Qualify.

Doorlammer: A drag car with doors (as opposed to a dragster).

Drag Race: An acceleration contest from a standing start between 2 vehicles over a measured distance (usually 1/8 or 1/4 of a mile). Bracket Drag Racing is based on a E.T.handicap. In Bracket Racing, the slower vehicle receives a head start.

Dropper Cylinder: A condition in which a spark plug fails to ignite when excess fuel in the combustion chamber extinguishes its spark, thereby substantially decreasing total power output. A Dropped Cylinder is distinguishable by raw fuel spewing from the cylinder's exhaust header.

Elapsed Time: Also known as E.T. - Time required for a vehicle to travel from the starting line to the finish line. The time is usually measured to 1/1000 of a second. A car "starts" or triggers the ET timer by tripping the staging beam and ending when a similar light beam is broken by the vehicle at the finish line to end the timing.

Eliminations: After qualifying, vehicles race two at a time, resulting in one winner from each pair. Winners continue in tournament-style competition until one remains.

ET: See Elapsed Time.

Fire Bottles: The slang term for fire extinguishers. In some cases the fire extinguisher is activated by a push or pull control within the vehicle.

Fuel injection: A conventional delivery system which injects fuel directly and evenly into the airflow for each engine cylinder.

Foul Start: also know as red lighting - A foul start is indicated by a red-light on the Christmas Tree when a car has left the starting line before receiving the green light, or starting signal.

Full Tree: A specific starting sequence produced on the Christmas Tree in which the contestants view a countdown of three amber signals and a green starting light at half-second (.500 sec.) intervals.

Goose Eggs: A perfect reaction time (.000).

Green Light: Light on the tree to signal the driver to go.

Groove: A path of rubber laid down by other cars on the track surface.

Guard Beam: A light beam-to-photcell connection located 16 inches past the staged beam that is used to prevent a competitor from gaining an unfair starting-line advantage by blocking the stage beam with a low-installed object such as an oil pan or header collector pipe. If the guard beam is activated while the staged beam is still blocked, the red foul light is triggered on the Christmas Tree and the offender is automatically disqualified.

Handicap: The difference, in time, of 2 vehicles in a Bracket Race. The slower vehicle receives a head start based on the difference in the 2 dial-ins. Example: Vehicle "A" dials-in at 13.50, and vehicle "B" dials-in at 12.50. Vehicle "A" will receive a one second head start.

Hat: Helmet.

Headers: Fine-tuned exhaust system that routes exhaust from the engine. Replaces conventional exhaust manifolds.

Heads Up: No handicap difference in 2 vehicles. Both vehicles leave the starting line at the same time. Usually the tree is at .4 seconds a light .Also known as a Pro Start.

Hemi: An engine utilizing a hemispherical shaped combustion chamber (like a ball cut in half) known for exceptional efficiency when supercharged.

Hole Shot: Having a quicker reaction time than your opponent, gained by quicker reflexes at the start of a race.

Hydraulic: The slang term describing an extensive engine failure in which massive amounts of raw fuel fail to ignite within a cylinder during compression; since a liquid can not be compressed, the tremendous force of the piston's compression stroke is directed to the cylinder head, which is then blown off the engine (or the cylinder wall, which is blown out of the engine).

Index: The expected performance for vehicles in a given class as assigned by NHRA or the governing sanction body for the track. It allows various classes of cars in the same category to race against each other competitively.

Interval Timers: Part of a secondary timing system that records elapsed times, primarily for the racers' benefit, at 60, 330, 660, and 1,000 feet.

Ladder: The eliminations pairing schedule based on qualifying positions. In qualifying performance is rewarded with a slower opponent in the opening round; in example, a 16 car qualified field would include the pairing of the quickest (#1) with the slowest (#16), while (#2) faces (#15), etc..

Lane Choice: The option, earned by superior elapsed time performance in the most previous round of qualifying or eliminations, to determine the racing lane to be used for competition.

Lights: Has two different meanings, it can either refer to the starting lights on the Christmas Tree, or the top-end 'lights' or 'eyes', which is talking about the photocells near and at the finish line (ie, the last 66 feet).

Line-Lock: Device used to keep fluid pressure applied to brakes. This aids in performing a Burnout.

Loose: When a car loses traction or gets out of the groove.

Methanol: Is the simplest alcohol, containing one carbon atom. A high octane fuel that offers excellent acceleration and vehicle power. Pure methyl alcohol produced by synthesis for use in Alcohol Dragsters, Alcohol Funny Cars, and various other classes such as Super Comp and Super Pro.

Nitromethane: Produced as a fuel for drag racing. It is the result of a chemical nitration of methane with nitric acid.

Nitrous Oxide Injection: A system delivering extra oxygen to the engine's air/fuel mixture to dramatically boost efficiency and power during combustion; injected under pressure into the intake manifold at 54 degrees below zero, oxygen levels increase more than 10% above normal atmospheric content while the nitrogen acts as a cooling agent.

On The Trailer: Term used for drivers eliminated from competition.

Perfect Light: A perfect reaction time.  Perfect reaction time is .000

Perfect Run: The rare occurrence in which a bracket racer records a perfect Reaction Time to the 1/1000th of a second while clocking a perfect Elapsed Time against the run's performance prediction.(dial-in).

Performance Prediction: The projected elapsed time, within .01 of a second accuracy, of a bracket race car for each elimination round. Since the objective of bracket racing is to beat an opponent to the finish line while recording a slower elasped time than the prediction, it defines the parameters in which a contestant must race. The difference between predictions of both vehicles in a race determines the handicap afforded to the slower competitor. Competitors determine each prediction by evaluating dozens of variables including engine power, weather conditions and available traction.

Point Series: A method of determining an overall champion within each of the sport's Eliminator categories by placing a value on performance and achievement at events held during a designated period of time.Value points are awarded to each team driver for entering and competing in each race, qualifying performance and final finishing position, attaining certified elapsed time and speed World Records and exceptional attendance. Series points totals, reflecting total accomplishment, produce ranking through which the highest point earns the title of champion.

Pre-Stage: A position on the race track seven inches behind the starting line once a vehicle's front tires break a light beam located at the pre-staged line, a small yellow bulb is illuminated on the Christmas Tree in the appropiate lane to warn the driver he/she is approaching the starting line. See Staged.

Progressive Times: A series of elapsed times and speeds recorded at specified distances on the race track used primarily for tuning and prediction of performance Although the finish line elapsed time and speed are regarded as progressive, each racer also receives a computer print out after each run (time slip), which includes the elapsed times, beginning from the starting line, at 60ft (1/88th of a mile), 330ft (1/16th of a mile), 660ft (1/8th of a mile) and 1000 feet distances over the 1320ft course. A speed reading is also supplied from the halfway point (660ft).

Pro Start Tree: A specific starting sequence produced on the Christmas Tree in which contestants view a simultaneous flash of all three amber signals followed 4 tenths of a second later (0.40) by the green starting light. Heads-up competition.

Rail Car: Dragster

Reaction Time: The electronically clocked time it takes a driver to react to the green starting light on the Tree, measured in thousandths of a second. The reaction-time counter begins when the last amber light flashes on the Tree and stops when the vehicle clears the stage beam. (.500 is considered perfect on a full tree/handicap , but .400 is perfect on Pro Tree start).

Red Light: A red-light occurs if a car starts before the green light comes on. During competition, this will immediately give the win to the opponent.

Rev Limiter: An electronic unit which restricts the total RPM capability of the engine, both in order to minimize engine damage from excessive RPM and to maintain RPM consistency during the initial launch from the starting line. The electronics will "cut out" cylinders at random, after the engine rpm tries to exceed a certain point.

RPM: Engine speed defined by the revolutions per minute of the engine crankshaft.

Sand Trap: Located at the very end of the dragstrip.  It helps cars that have lost braking ability come to a halt.

Shoe: Driver

Shutdown Area: Distance between the finish line and the sand trap where cars slow down after the race.

Sixty Foot Time: The time it takes a vehicle to cover the first 60 feet of the track. It is the most accurate measure of the launch from the starting line. which in most cases determines how quick the rest of the run will be.

Slick: Race tire without tread.

Slider Clutch: A multi-disc clutch designed to slip until a predetermined rpm is reached. Decreases shock load to the drive wheels.

Speed Trap: The final 66 feet to the finish line where speed is recorded as an average of the last 66 feet of the track. By knowing the weight of a car, the trap speed is a good indicator of how much horsepower an engine is making.

Staged: A driver is staged when the front wheels of the car are right on the starting line and the small yellow light below the prestaged light is glowing. Each car is required to line-up their car at the starting line. Once a car moves forward enough for its front tire to block the beam from reaching the other side, the car is considered "staged". Once both cars have staged, the race can begin.

Staging Lanes: Area behind the race track used to line up vehicles for the round of competition.

Staging Lights: See Chistmas Tree.

Starter: The designated race official whose duties include the activation of the Christmas Tree, umpiring of each contest and judging of on track rule infractions.

Stick Shift: Slang for a transmission that has a clutch and requires manual gear changes.

Supercharger: A specialized compressor, traditionally mounted atop the engine and driven by a rubber belt connected to the engine's crankshaft, which forces air and fuel into each cylinder at a massive rate for dramatically increased power. Because it simply blows air into the engine, the supercharger is traditionally referred to as a blower.

Supercharger Explosion: An extremely violent mechanical failure during which a broken or melted intake valve permits a spark plug to ignite the air/fuel mixture within the supercharger causing an explosion. Mandatory ballistic (blanket) contains the shrapnel.

Tech Inspector: Directors of technical inspections who are the magistrates of drag racing. They verify the legality and safety of every vehicle in competition through lengthy examinations known simply as tech.

Throttle Stop: A complex component which, connected to the accelerator linkage on the engine, actuates a timed pneumatic closure of the induction system, effectively shutting down the engine at a point during the run before returning to full acceleration.

Time Trial: A practice run with no bearing on official qualifying positions.

Timing Trap: Area near the end of the track to measure vehicles speed. See speed trap.

Time Slip: he results of the race.  A piece of paper listing the reaction time, 60' time, 330' time, 1/8 mile time and speed, 1000' time, and 1/4 mile time and speed.

Top End: Far side of the track near the finish line.

Transbrake: A transbrake is a device which allows a car to remain stationary even when the motor is under power. It works by placing the transmission in 1st gear and Reverse at the same time. Since both gears have the same ratio, but in opposite directions, the car cannot move. The transbrake can be released with a button, which releases the Reverse gear.

Tree: Also referred to as the Christmas Tree. A series of lights used to signal a driver on the starting line. Typical trees have Pre-Stage lights, Staged lights, amber lights, green lights, and the dreaded Red Light.

Treed: Having significantly worse reaction time than the opponent.

True Win Margin: The actual distance, beyond all other determinations, between two vehicles at the finish line, measured by each contestant breaking the final light beam on the track.

Turbocharger: An exhaust driven intake air compressor (see supercharger).

Wally: NHRA trophy named after NHRA founder Wally Parks.

Water Box: The designated area for pre race burnouts, named for the water trough, in which the tire heating exercise is performed.

Wedge: An engine with a wedge combustion chamber, a combustion chamber resembling a wedge in shape. Need not have parallel intake and exhaust valve stems.

Weight Transfer: Critical to traction. Vehicles are set up to provide a desired weight transfer to rear wheels. When the vehicle accelerates, the front wheels lift and the weight shifts to the rear wheels, which makes them less likely to spin.

Wheelie Bars: Devices placed at the rear of the vehicle to prevent excessive front wheel lift.



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