So you have the car and the desire but you currently lack the right direction in where to show off your hot rod. Pointing newcomers in the right direction is something I can assist with. However, the desire to put forth an effort and build a suitable car that you enjoy is truly in your hands. Assuming you already have the race car, then you are right on your way to being ready to make your drag strip debut.
Making the choice to take your car to the drag strip is a wise one. The alternate, illegal street racing is just that: illegal, reckless, and deadly. Driving on public roads is a privilege, not a right. So always consider the consequences of driving reckless on the streets and understand you put your and innocent bystanders’ lives at risk.
The National Hot Rod Associate (NHRA) was founded over 50 years ago to combat an epidemic that existed then and still remains a serious issue today. NHRA’s original motto was and still continues to be their “dedication to safety.” Organized drag racing meets sprouted up throughout southern California in the early 1950s with a reason. Race organizers worked with law enforcement to create an alternative for speed hungry gear heads. Rather than spend time and resources trying to catch and arrest illegal street racers, sanctioning bodies began hosting drag meets, offering a safe and legal environment to race their cars.
Today, young tuners and hot-rodders are offered the same opportunities. Test ‘n Tunes are the easiest way to break into the sanctioned drag racing scene. They are inexpensive, safe, and enjoyable. Typical test ‘n tune events cost approximately $15-20. Yes, that abandoned country road is free, but just consider that for only $15 you can race on a professionally prepared and well lit racing surface that the pros race down, collect data on your car with time slips, and meet a bunch of fellow racers with your same interests.
Taking your car to the track for the first time is an exciting experience. Cruising through the pits, making laps down the track, and showing of your set of wheels is fun and rewarding. NHRA/IHRA sanctioned drag strips require strict, although reasonable technical specifications for the cars in competition. So before you get too lost in your drag strip day dreams, be certain you are brining a race ready car that is legal for on track activities.
First, buy the latest NHRA rulebook. Non-NHRA members can pick up a hardcopy of the 2010 rulebook for $10. NHRA members have the option of downloading the free online E-Book or spending $7 on a hard copy. To participate in your local tracks’ weekly bracket program or test ‘n tunes DOES NOT require a membership with that sanctioning body. The rulebook will serve as your guide to race car and safety gear requirements. Generally, the quarter-mile elapsed time and mile per hour of your vehicle will dictate specific rule requirements.
For racers entering a test ‘n tune at an NHRA sanctioned track, their car will be expected to meet specifications set forth for the Summit Racing Series. The Summit Racing Series is NHRA’s regular weekly bracket series held at NHRA member tracks. The Summit Racing Series consists of four primary classes: Super Pro (7.00 – 11.99-seconds ET), Pro (9.00 – 13.99-seconds ET), Sportsman (12.00 – 19.99-seconds ET), and Motorcycle (7.50-seconds ET and slower). Depending on the track, a High School only category may be contested.
Assuming you intend to bring your street legal vehicle to the drag strip, your car will most likely only need to comply with NHRA Summit Racing Series sportsman and pro class requirements and specifications.
So you’ve thought about it and finally have chosen to take your street vehicle to the drag strip to get a first-hand sense of what the drag strip is really all about. Don’t feel obligated to shell out your hard earned cash on a top notch race only drag car right away. Simply taking your street vehicle to a test ‘n tune will give you a feel for the drag strip and help you decide if this is something you really want to get involved in. For many racers, one blast down the drag strip commits them for life, as they instantly become addicted. That’s a good thing. Yes, it is an expensive sport, hobby, or profession but you can spend your money, time, and effort in far worse ways.
So you have your bone stock street vehicle and the desire to drag race. Now what? Well, it is pretty simple at this point: go drag racing! Well, almost. Let’s take a quick look at the driver credential requirements.
All drivers at any level racing on an NHRA-sanctioned drag strip are required to have a state or government issued drivers license that exceeds a learner’s permit. If, however, you plan to compete at an NHRA divisional or national level event, you will need an NHRA membership and an NHRA competition license. There are also required licenses for drivers who run 9.99-seconds or quicker. There are four license-Types: Type-A: Longer than 125″ wheelbase (typically dragsters), Type-B: 125″ wheelbase or shorter (funny cars or door cars), Type-C: Pro Stock and Pro Modified classes, and Type-D: Reserved for motorcycle or all-terrain type vehicles. To each license type are various classes signifying what specific classes or ETs that license permits the driver to run. For all specially licensed drivers running 9.99-seconds or quicker, a physical is required before licensing can begin.
As suggested in the NHRA rulebook, novice racers are invited to seek advice in getting started by calling NHRA headquarters, (626) 914-4761.