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Bracket | Index | E.T. Style Drag Racing Explained

At a recent Drag Race we attended, we observed that some folks didn't want to race because the felt they were 'out-gunned' by other racers, that they might not be competitive. Instead, they faithfully sat with great interest in a spectating capacity only.

Well, with Bracket Racing, everyone is competitive and everyone has a Drag Car & Controller already in the box!

'Heads Up' racing usually refers to 'fastest car wins' racing. Truthfully, it does take a bit of trial & error to be competitive in 'Heads Up' classes. Once you start Bracket Racing, there's a good chance you'll soon find yourself wanting to race 'Heads Up'.

'Bracket Racing' is based on consistency - that your car will run consistently and that you'll react (with your controller) consistently... If you are interested in trying a Drag Race or two to see if it's something that you'll like (you will), try to attend one of the nations many HO Drag Strips on a day or night when they are offering Bracket Racing. Let's take a look at how it works...

Bits of this article were pulled from NHRA explanations.

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What is a Drag Race?

In basic terms, a Drag Race is an acceleration contest from a standing start between two vehicles over a measured distance at a specifically designed Drag Race facility.

The accepted standard for that distance is either a Quarter-Mile or an Eighth-Mile. In HO scale, a Quarter-Mile is recognized as 20.75 feet. Typical Track voltages may vary (from 18-26 VDC) and available amperage should really be at least 8 AMPS per lane.

Drag contests are started by means of an electronic device commonly called a "Christmas Tree." Upon leaving the starting line, each contestant activates a timer which is, in turn, stopped when the same vehicle reaches the finish line. That Start-to-Finish clocking is the vehicle's E.T. (elapsed time), which serves to measure performance and often serves to determine handicaps during competition.

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What is E.T. Bracket Racing?

By far the most popular form of Drag Racing is a handicapped form of competition known as "E.T. Bracket Racing" or just "Bracket Racing". In this form of Racing, two vehicles of varying performance potentials can race on a potentially even basis. The anticipated elapsed times for each vehicle are compared, with the slower car receiving a headstart equal to the difference of the two. With this system, virtually any two vehicles can be paired in a competitive drag race. You heard right! With this type of Racing, a T-jet can still beat a Fully Modified NEO Patriot - believe it!

An Example:
Let's say Car A has been timed a 1.78, 1.74, and 1.76 seconds for the quarter-mile, and the driver feels that a "dial-in" of 1.75 is appropriate.

Meanwhile, the driver of Car B has recorded elapsed times of 1.27, 1.22 and 1.26 on the same track and he has opted for a "dial-in" average of 1.25.

Based on these "dialed-in'" times, Car A will get a .5-second head-start over Car B when the "Christmas Tree" counts down to each car's starting green lights.

If both vehicles cover the Quarter-Mile in exactly the predetermined elapsed time, the win will go to the driver who reacts quickest to the starting signal. That reaction to the starting signal is called "Reaction Time." Both lanes are timed independently of one another, and the clock does not start until the vehicle actually moves. Because of this, a vehicle may sometimes appear to have a mathematical advantage in comparative elapsed times but actually lose the race. This fact makes starting line reflexes extremely important in Drag Racing! Assuming both cars consistently run their "Dialed-In" times every run, the Race is now won or lost based on the drivers reaction times! This is where 'coming off the line' can make or break the race...

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"Break-Out" and/or "Red Light"

Should a driver go quicker than his/her predetermined "Dial-In", it is called a "Break-Out," and is grounds for elimination from the particular race. In the case of both vehicles making their runs under their Dial-Ins, the win goes to the driver who Breaks Out of his Dialed-In time the least.

Another form of disqualification is a foul start (or "red Light"). This happens when the driver reacts to the "Christmas Tree" too quickly and drives his car away from the starting line before the red "GO" signal. When dual infractions occur, say a red Light and then a Break Out, the red Light takes precedent over the Break-Out.

That's pretty much it. Based on these simple rules, you, your cars and your controller are IMMEDIATELY COMPETITIVE at any Bracket Racing event!  So, what are you waiting for? Get Out There and Race!

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The Christmas Tree

Trees will vary from track to track. At left is a picture of the HODRA Christmas tree. This is a good example because it represents a full featured tree.   As a vehicle approaches the starting line, it breaks the first light beam and the top "pre-stage" white light on the 'Christmas Tree' is lit.   The driver carefully moves the car forward until the second light beam is broken and the 2nd 'staged' white light come on. You are now in position to race...   After both cars are staged, the Starter activates "Christmas Tree" and three amber lights and one green light are sequenced.   Drivers use Amber lights as a guide to anticipate the green bulb coming on. Leave too soon and the bright red "foul" light will show in the offending lane..

Photo courtesy of HODRA's Joe Murray

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