12/6/2010 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Chip Mitchell, who asks:
Scotty Richardson has been touring doing classes and I found some of his insight interesting. Some items that he mentioned that I have not seen covered on ThisIsBracketRacing.com as of yet were "weapon" of choice or the style of vehicle to race with in big buck competition in the electronics class and various parts to use on the race car to make it a consistent vehicle. Scotty felt a mid 7 second sprung dragster was the best weapon to make a deadly consistent bracket warrior. His thoughts were the big fast 6.80 to 7.20 cars are harder to keep dialed with varied track and weather conditions. What are your thoughts on this Luke?

There are so many variables, it’s almost a loaded question! 

 
First off, I try to avoid recommending specific products because I don’t want to sound too commercialized: the goal of TIBR is to help each of the members grow as a racer, not to sell products for the companies that help my personal racing. Obviously, I feel like each of the products I run are the best money can buy, or I wouldn’t be running them. But let’s be honest: I run Mickey Thompson Tires, and I think they’re awesome. But guys win every week on Mickey’s, and guys win on Hoosiers, and guys win on Goodyears. Who am I to say that MT’s are better than the rest? I like them, and I think they’re every bit as good if not better, but I’ve won races on other tires.Same with BTE converters. BTE makes a great product and I depend on a lot of their parts to earn my living.  With that said, I’m sure Abruzzi, TCI, Trans Specialties, Coan, FTI, PTC, B&M, Hughes, JW, and more build a good a torque converter (heck, I’ve tried most of them at some point in my career). It’s just a matter of finding the perfect match for your particular combination.
 
As far as the perfect “weapon,” I think there are a few variables there as well. In your case, and what Scotty is referring to, is quarter mile bracket racing in the Northeast. And Scotty’s “weapon” would certainly play to his strengths (which are MANY). I would agree for any quarter-mile bracket race, a suspended dragster is the only way to go. And I agree that a mid-7 second car can be made incredibly consistent on just about any track. But, if money weren’t an object, I would personally rather run in the 6.80-7.20 range. For one, tracks aren’t a huge issues in that area: and I’m constantly amazed at how well the fast cars go down what I see as a questionable race track. Again, the different theory is more based on a different skill set than anything. Scotty is unreal at the finish line in anything; but what’s incredibly special about him is that he’s just as good getting chased as he is with the faster car. I’m not. I feel like I’m above average getting chased, but I’m more comfortable coming from behind: especially in a quarter-mile atmosphere where most opponents are holding and will do something at the finish line. I just feel like I have a lot more options as the faster car.
 
So, again, if money were no object I’d rather be rolling a little quicker for the ¼ mile competition.
 
For 1/8th mile racing, I have a completely different theory. In my opinion, 1/8th mile racing is more of a “dialers” race for the most part. Plus, the speed discrepancy isn’t as great. As an example: if you’re going 7.70 at 170 on the quarter, and I’m going 6.90 at 190, then we’ve got a 20 mph discrepancy which is tough on both of us (more so for the slower car, because it’s a long way down the track before you can turn around and even see the faster opponent). If you take those same two cars and race on the 1/8th mile, you’ve got a 4.45 car at about 153 against a 4.80 car at 140+. Now that discrepancy is only 13 mph, and the slower car can see the fast car for the whole length of the track.
 
As such, getting chased on the 1/8th mile doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it does on the ¼. For 1/8th mile racing, I’d prefer to be dialed anywhere from 4.80 to 5.10 in a dragster. And, to be perfectly honest, I’m not adverse to running a good, slow door car in 1/8th mile races. The wind doesn’t have much affect (it’s the main enemy of these cars on the ¼). And, again, I see 1/8th mile racing today as more of a “Dialers” race than anything. If I’ve got a really good 4.80 dragster and a really good 6.80 door car, and I’m going to approach the race almost strictly as the “Dialer,” I actually like my chances better in the slow car. Why? I’m going to try to make good time trials (.00 and dead-on) in both cars all day. The majority of my opponents will be in 4-second dragsters, and some or all will be trying to implement a strategy other than the “Dialer.” It’s going to be a lot harder for them to race against me at 100 mph than it is at 140 mph, and it doesn’t change my gameplan at all.
 
So, I agree with Scotty’s theories for the most part, and I completely understand where he’s coming from… But for me personally, the ultimate “Weapon” is different for a lot of scenario’s.
 
Thanks again!

Luke


11/5/2010 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Cyrrus, who asks:
Luke, I would like to hear your strategy running against pure dialers. At my home track, the majority of the racers are dialers. On top of that, most of them dial to not break out and hardly adjust the stripe at all. Some don't even look back at all. Don't get me wrong, these racers are very good. Extremely sharp on the tree and have very consistent cars. I feel like my hands are tied to also being the dialer since any other strategy will not induce a mistake by my opponent and provide a possibility for me to make a mistake. Thanks for reading my question.

 

While it’s not a weak strategy, the “Dialer” strategy is the easiest gameplan to race against. What I mean by saying that is this: you can successfully implement any of the three basic strategies against the dialer. What this allows on your end is the option to deviate your strategy not based upon your opponent’s tendencies, but rather upon your own strengths. 
 
If you’re confident you can defeat your dialer opponent by implementing the dialer strategy yourself, then proceed by all means. You’re basically challenging your opponent to make a better run than you do. By the same token, if you don’t feel like your car is as good as that of your opponent, your best odds to win the round will likely be as the “driver.” Your dialer opponent won’t do anything at the finish line to make your job any harder, so there’s no reason to think that you can’t do a good job as the “driver” and win the round that way.
 
Of the three basic techniques, the “spot dropper” is probably the least useful against a pure dialer, simply because (as you said) the pure dialer isn’t paying much attention to what you’re doing in the other lane anyhow. With that said, there are occasional advantages to implementing the “spot dropper” approach, as detailed in the “spot dropper” column.
 
Like I said, racing against pure dialers doesn’t make your job any easier in terms of execution: you still have to do a better job than your opponent to win the race. Knowing that you’ll be staging opposite a dialer does, however, make your strategic decisions that much easier because you know what to expect from your opponent. It brings all three strategies into play and allows you to pick the strategy that you think you’re most capable of executing well for that particular round.
 
I hope that helps. Thanks again!
Luke


10/19/2010 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber SC249, who asks:
Luke, I have been racing for about 4 years now but I have recently just purchased my own Super Comp dragster and a trailer. What items (products/accessories) do you believe I need in my "toolbox" to set myself up for super comp and bracket racing success in the shortest amount of time?

 

Thank you for your interest in ThisIsBracketRacing.com and for presenting a topic for the JEGS Q&A. First off, congratulations on your new purchase! This is an excellent topic, and I’ll try to approach from my personal experience. I’ll list the items I’d recommend in the order in which I would prioritize them. Obviously, you’ll likely prioritize them differently according to cost, how much emphasis you’re going to put on S/C racing vs. bracket racing, your particular combination, and how much you’re planning to travel & what types of events you plan to attend.
 
Accessories
The two biggest accessories that I’d encourage an investment in for Super Comp racing are a good weather station and some type of playback tachometer (minimum) or data recorder. I don’t think either item is a necessity for most bracket competition (although they can be an aid), but I wouldn’t attempt to run Super Comp without these two items.
 
In the latest tutorial column, I harped on the importance of a weather station at divisional and national events, and the need to develop a strong database with one. After a couple years with a handheld unit, I invested in a trailer mounted unit last winter. I like it for a number of reasons: 1.) the unit doesn’t move, so the readings are as constant as possible. 2.) It’s capable of monitoring wind speed and direction. 3.) I use the pager outputs so that I can review changes in the staging lanes (I don’t have to be at the trailer). Those benefits are great for me, as I’m running multiple cars and don’t have time to reference the weather station as much as I’d like. At $2,000+, is it necessary? Probably not, it’s just nice to have. At the very least, I’d recommend a name brand hand held unit and some type of wind monitoring device.
 
I’ve also harped on data acquisition. I really like the Auto meter Stack setup, like we covered in a “Tech Talk” column earlier this year. I’ve learned a lot about my combination by using the features of that unit. A complete data recorder like that may not be within your initial budget, and that’s fine. It’s a great tool, but you can get started and be competitive without it. At the very least, you have to have some sort of playback tachometer to see what the car is doing on the throttle stop. Minor RPM deviations on the stop cause major inconsistencies. These deviations are a lot easier to dissect with purpose built data recorders, but a simple playback tach will often lead you in the right direction. I wouldn’t attempt S/C without that aid at least.
 
Spares:
Stuff is going to break. And, using Murphy’s law, it’s going to break at the most inopportune time. Personally, I’ve run dragsters long enough to compile just about any spare piece I could need at the race track (I still don’t carry a spare motor because I’m cheap, but aside from kicking the rods out, I can fix it at the track). I’d recommend building a spare inventory as finances allow. My personal inventory would includes the following, and if starting new I’d go in the following order:
 
Valve Springs
Lifters
Rocker Arms
Brake Pads
Spark Plugs
Starter
Flexplate
Intake Gaskets
Shift Solenoid
T-Stop Solenoid
Transbrake Solenoid
Trans
Converter
Ignition System (Box, Coil, Plug Wires, Crank Trigger)
Battery
Alternator (if using one)
Water Pump
Vacuum Pump or Rebuild Kit (if running vpump)
Fuel System (Pump, Regulator, Carb)
Oil Pump
Master Cylinder
Trans Cooler
Third Member
Delay Box
Wheels & Tires
 
Like James Monroe noted in his column… When building spare inventory take the time to make sure the spares are ready to be installed in short order. The replacement parts should be a direct replacement when possible (the same product). Go ahead and put the appropriate wire ends, fittings, etc. on these items. When you need them, you may well need to change them in a matter of minutes, so make it is easy and convenient as possible in advance.
 
I hope that helps, good luck!
Luke


9/23/2010 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Brandon684, who asks:
Luke, I have been messing around with launch RPM the last couple of weeks, and have been told that 4800 is ideal (Super Comp dragster). The thing is, I still have over .050 in the delay box and I've always kind of had it in my head that fewer numbers is better. Would it be ideal to drop the launch RPM down until I had like .020 in the box, or just leave it right at 4800 and let it rip?

 

Assuming that you’re happy with your combination in terms of ET, I’d leave the launch at 4800. I’ve heard people say that they don’t like to run a lot of delay in the Super Classes, but I don’t see any disadvantage to it. Whether you’re moving the delay from .010 to .015, or from .045 to .050, it will still effect reaction time by .005. For some reason, people think additional delay multiplies a poor reaction time, but it’s just not the case.
 
Plus… On today’s national event tree it’s really rare for competitors to carry more than .030-.040 in the delay box. If you’re running .050 at a divisional or association meet, likely you’ll only have .020 or less at a national event. They say they slow the pro tree down .03 for the Pro cars, but in my experience it’s .04 or more. So, if you were to chip it down so you only had .015-.020 in the box, I fear that you’d have to change up your combination at a national event to be able to keep any delay at all.
 
In conclusion, I’d leave it alone. I don’t believe .050 in the box is hurting anything.
 
Thanks,
Luke


8/25/2010 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber XCHAMP1317, who asks:
When the conditions (weather or track or both) are iffy how do you get rid of the appropriate ET when holding .03 PLUS to a faster car? If I know I had a great light (in my mind), hook and hit my shift points how do I get rid of and close the door on a much faster car who either did everything right or is holding as well? I can burp it (.01 to .02) or scrub the brakes but when the other stocker is a second quicker and 15 to 20 mph faster it is hard to close the door when I am holding a comfortable margin as if I were leaving second. Thoughts?

Thanks for taking the time to present a question for JEGS Q&A. The way that I try to approach this situation is this… Coming into any round, I examine the weather factors and track conditions to determine the E.T. that I think I can run. This E.T. falls somewhere between a prediction and a flatout guess, depending on how confident I am in the car I’m driving and the data I’m reviewing. As I’ve said in past columns, the level of my confidence in that predicted E.T. will determine what strategy I will implement in this particular round. If I’m not particularly confident in my predicted E.T., I’m likely to adopt the “Driver” strategy exclusively (which is to have the better reaction time and cross the finish line first by as small a margin as possible). The more confident I am in my predicted E.T., the more likely I am to hold a fairly set amount of E.T. and give myself the option of adopting either the “Driver” strategy or the “Spot Dropper” strategy as the race progresses.

 
For example, if I’m running in Stock and I feel like I can run a 10.71, my strategy is going to be different than if I feel like I’ll run somewhere between 10.65 and 10.74. When I’m not as confident, I’m essentially locked into racing the other car. When I feel like I know what I’m about to run, I can “run my race” a little bit more, and try to go dead-on if track position doesn’t dictate a clear decision.
 
Let’s assume now that I’m pretty confident in a predicted E.T. Let’s say that I come into a round believing that I’ll run between 10.700 and 10.720 wide open. For me, it’s easier to do the math and make decisions going down the track if I pick a certain number, so now I’ll take the average and figure I can run 10.71. I’m running a faster car, dialed 9.90, and I elect to dial a 10.75. When I do this, I figure I’m holding between .03 and .05, and for the purpose of my downtrack decision making, I’m going to assume I’m holding .04.
 
In doing so, I give myself the option of racing as the “Driver” or the “Spot Dropper” as the race plays out. That decision will be predicated on two factors: my feel of reaction times, and track position.
 
If I feel like I’m good on the tree (say .030 or better), normally that reaction time has the advantage in Stock Eliminator, so I’m immediately thinking more along the lines of the “Driver” than anything. Then, as the run progresses, I start referencing my opponent early in the run to determine the rate of closure. What we’re trying to accomplish here is to determine who will cross the finish line first if we both hold it wide open. And, the earlier in the run we reference our opponents, the earlier in the run we can make that decision. The earlier in the run we make that decision, the more time we’ve got to decide what to do about it.
 
So, when we leave and feel like we’re better than .030, we’re already leaning toward being the “driver” and crossing the finish line first by a small amount. Then, as the race progresses and we reference our opponent and the finish line repeatedly, we see that it looks as though we will get to the finish line first by a fair amount. What’s a fair amount? Obviously in this situation, we know we need to kill at least .04, so we want to be able to cross the finish line at least .04 ahead if we both hold it wide open. Against this 130 mph opponent, .04 is nearly 8 feet. So, if we judge the rate of closure and determine that we’ll cross the finish line first by over half a car length if we both hold it wide open, then there’s enough room in front of our opponent to take the finish line. 
 
Let’s say that in our example, it looks as though we’ll cross the finish line first by about 12 feet. Now both of our variables point in the same direction. We felt like we had a good reaction time. That makes us lean toward the “Driver.” Plus, track position dictates that we can kill the .04 we’re holding and still cross the finish line first. In this instance, it’s the correct decision to adhere to the “Driver” strategy.
 
Now, once we’ve determined we can get rid of our .04 and still cross the finish line first, it’s now our job to cross the finish line first by as small a margin as possible. As you mentioned, it’s a little bit trickier to do this against a faster car than it is against a slower car. You don’t want to lift too early, lose momentum, and end up not crossing the finish line first. At the same time, you don’t want to wait too late, take a bunch of finish line, and break out.
 
For me, the best way to race when getting chased is to kill small amounts of ET at a time, without killing a lot of momentum. This can be accomplished by short, quick “rips” of the throttle (lifting to about half throttle and then quickly going back to wide open) or by gently rubbing the brake pedal while keeping the gas pedal floored. Personally, I like to rip the throttle, but it’s all personal preference (I don’t think one is any better than the other). And in this instance, I’d likely realize that I’ve got plenty of room and adopt the “Driver” strategy before I reach the 1000’ marker. Knowing I’ve got to get rid of at least .04, and that I’m too far ahead, I’ll give the throttle one quick “rip” at the 1000’ cone or even before it. By doing that early in the run, I knock off a little ET, but I’m right back on the floor so I’m not losing much momentum. Rather than taking 12 feet of finish line, I’ve probably got it down to 10 if I hold it wide open the rest of the way… And, I haven’t lost much mile per hour at all, so I’m not creating a huge discrepancy in my momentum versus that of my opponent. 
 
At that point, I’ll reference my opponent again, and assuming that nothing has changed, I’ll give the throttle another quick “rip.” Now, I should have taken that finish margin from 10 feet to about 8 feet. A couple more, and I’ll close it up to 4 feet. Then, as we approach the finish line, I may see that I’m still a little too far ahead and lift completely or tap the brakes to tighten it up (keep in mind my opponent may “Dump” me at this point, and I’ve got to be ready to react to that). But that doesn’t happen until really late in the run, and by that point I’ve already killed enough ET that I’m not dependant on making a dramatic move in the last 50 feet of the course.
 
In the scenario I just presented, the decision making process was pretty obvious: we felt like we had a good light and we were far enough ahead to kill our .04 and take the stripe. Obviously when both factors point in the other direction, we’re going to lean more toward the “Spot Drop,” just kill our .04-.05, try to run dead-on the 10.75, and hope for the best. When it gets tricky is when your perception of reaction time doesn’t add up with the track position you see as the race develops (For example, you felt good on the tree, but you’re only going to be .01 ahead at the finish line). At that point, you’ve got to make the best decision that you can based on the information you have. But you have to make a decision to either A.) cross the finish line by as small a margin possible regardless of how much E.T. you kill, or B.) kill the .04 you think you’re holding, try to go dead-on, and hope the win light comes on. The most common mistake (and I make it often) is to get caught up in the middle, not kill enough ET, and not cross the finish line first. In these instances, we often end up in no man’s land, where we can’t win the round, because of our indecision.
 
I hope that answers your question. Thanks again and good luck!
Luke
 


8/4/2010 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Eric Bowling, who asks:
I have noticed that there is a lot of talk about sponsors being a big part of the racers abitlity to compete at the highest level, can you touch on how you went about obtaining such sponsors?

Great question and excellent topic. At some point I think I’ll bridge into a series of columns dedicated more to the business of racing, as I’ve received a number of questions on the subject. I probably don’t set a great example in this regard: I’ve never been a truly sponsored racer in that I don’t get a check every month to cover racing expenses. Those deals do exist, even for sportsman racers, but they’re few and far between. I have had a lot of success with manufacturers within the racing industry who see tangible sales from successful competitors using, testing, and promoting their products. As such, I do get a lot of the necessary parts for my personal racing vehicles at no cost or at a deep discount.

 
On any level (cash, product, contingency, etc.) motorsports sponsorships are more like partnerships, and have to be approached as such. From our end, as racers, there are two main components to a successful partnership: Obtaining marketing partners & maintaining marketing partners. While the first seems to be the more daunting task from the beginning, the second is actually much more time consuming and tedious work.
 
Obtaining Sponsorship:
In my experience, this is a four-step process.
Step 1: Determine potential sponsorship lead(s). Don’t just open the National Dragster and circle the manufacturer of every component on your race car, and never go into a sponsorship search with the “I’ll take whatever I can get” attitude. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a two way street, so when picking out companies and individuals to target, you must look at both sides of the equation. First off, does the company manufacture a quality product or offer an excellent service that you would purchase on your own? It’s impossible to successfully promote a product you don’t believe in yourself. Do the overall goals and mission of the company align with those of your business and/or race team? And, most importantly, do you feel you can you offer specific tangible returns that make this partnership worthwhile for your sponsor?
 
Step 2: Establish a relationship. Once you’ve got a target company in mind, find the people that make the decisions regarding their advertising budget, and meet them (preferably in person). For most companies in the high performance industry, this can be accomplished at events in which their company has a midway display (like national events) or at trade shows like the PRI show or the SEMA show. Keep in mind, the company sets up these displays to advertise their product, create a positive image with consumers and distributors, and eventually MAKE MONEY. They’re not there to talk to 100 racers about sponsorship. As such, this isn’t the time to close. This is the time to establish a relationship, allow the person that makes these decisions to put a face with a name, and to briefly find out a little bit more about the companies philosophy so as to shed more light on how your program can be molded to benefit theirs.
 
Step 3: Develop an offer. I’ve seen really intricate, detailed proposals, and I’ve seen agreements scratched out on a napkin at the bar. The depth of what you’ll need depends on your relationship with the company and their experience in motorsports. Obviously, you’ll need to provide a little bit more background information on our sport for a company that’s never been involved in it. Along the same lines, you’ll need to provide more personal information to a potential sponsor that has no past dealing with you or your race team.
 
The biggest thing to remember in creating a proposal is that it’s not all about you. You can win all of the races in the world, and you can make all kinds of personal appearances and donate to every charity in the book… It doesn’t matter if you can’t show your potential sponsors how it benefits them. Be very frank and very honest when detailing your agreement and be sure that both parties understand the commitment, what’s expected, and what’s being offered. And be sure both parties understand what to expect.
 
The most common misconception about motorsports sponsorships is that they’re based on on-track success. In some instances this is true. There are certain manufacturers within the motorsports industry who can see a tangible return directly from results, the old “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” theory. As an example, I feel like I sell a fair amount of torque converters for BTE and slicks for Mickey Thompson Tires by winning races. Racers see my success, know that my cars are consistent, and that may sway their buying decision. That does happen, and that’s a tangible benefit that I can show these companies. The vast majority of marketing partners don’t benefit directly for on track performance. Let’s say that a manufacturer provides you a Water Pump at no cost, and you win 5 consecutive races. Sure, that water pump did its job and had it not you wouldn’t have enjoyed success… But it wasn’t an integral part in your wins. That company doesn’t necessarily sell water pumps because you had one on your winning car. They sell water pumps because you tell everyone how happy you are with their product. They sell water pumps because you promote the company in your post race interviews and press releases. They sell water pumps because you keep a spare at the track and are willing to loan or sell it to a racer in need. They sell water pumps because you are a knowledgeable salesperson at the track who can explain to potential customers why this product is superior. They sell water pumps because you take the time to distribute catalogs and product sheets at the race track to make competitors aware of their products.
 
This is especially true for companies outside of the racing industry that step in to sponsor an operation. If you’re racing locally and you’re sponsored by a local restaurant, do you really think they sell more blue plate specials when you win a race? No. They don’t really care. They sell more blue plate specials when you organize an appearance at the restaurant with your car. They sell more blue plate specials when you take the time to put together a cooperative marketing program with your race track and the restaurant for fans to present their ticket stub for 10% off their meal, or a free dessert. 
 
All of this can be drawn out in a proposal, and needs to be explained in some detail. In most cases the focal point of your pitch should NOT be your on track success.
 
Step 4: Sell! The hard work is done. Once you’ve targeted your potential sponsor, established a relationship with a contact, and presented them with a proposal, all you’ve got left to do is close the deal. Don’t let this be intimidating. You’ve provided the decision maker with enough information to make an educated decision. When it’s time to close the deal, it’s rare that you’re going to say or do anything to change their mind: the decision is made. Your skill in negotiating may have an effect on the terms and details of the deal, but the decision is made. Sometimes the decision won’t be to include you in their marketing plan, and that’s fine. You provided this company with the information to make an educated decision, and if it doesn’t fit into their plan it’s better for both of you to know that immediately. Some decisions will include you in their marketing plan, and that’s a great thing. But it’s only the beginning!
 
Part 2: Maintaining the partnership
 
This is by far the most important part of the equation. You’ve already established a relationship and obtained a sponsor. You’ll never need another backer of this sort as long as you maintain this relationship, and the company remains successful (and you should be doing your job to ensure that they do). Once the relationship is set, it’s time to fulfill all the promises that you made in obtaining the partnership, and more. Go over and above whenever possible to bring greater return to your marketing partners. Keep in constant contact with your partners and let them know what you’re doing for them. Develop cooperative programs that benefit both parties, and the relationship will continue to grow. As I said before, maintaining the relationship should take much more time and effort than obtaining it in the first place.
 
Positive, longterm relationships tend to multiply.  If you do a good job for one company, that can open doors for additional sponsors.  This is especially true within the motorsports industry: it's tight knit and everyone knows everyone else.  But this theory applies outside of it.  If you make a handful of appearances a year at your local restuarant, and the car dealer across the street sees their parking lot overflowing when you do, then guess what?  You've got another potential lead.
 
Thanks again for your question & good luck!
Luke


7/8/2010 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber rjk350s10, who asks:
Luke, you have spent a lot time and detail covering race strategy and routine. I do not recall you discussing your thoughts on weather stations and ET predictors. Do you rely on these and if so to what extent? How do you encompass them into your round preparations? Favorite or recommended products?

 

Excellent topic, and one that I haven’t touched upon much. Keep in mind: I grew up running 1/8th mile bracket events. These races are run on the 1/8th mile, in one day, with minimal downtime between rounds. On occasion, we’d see significant changes in condition, but it was rare to have conditions effect the cars more than .01 or .02 from one round to the next. And even in those instances, it was easy to pick up on the effects by watching round trends and seeing the pairs in front of you pick up or slow down; then dial accordingly.
 
In those days, I didn’t even own a weather station, much less was I very dependent upon it; and I still don’t feel like it’s a necessity for that type of racing and I certainly wouldn’t put a whole lot of stake in what it tells me for that form of competition.
 
However, when racing quarter mile and when racing in multi-day events, weather analyzers become a great advantage, and almost a necessity. In recent years, I have purchased a weather station (just a cheap, handheld Altronics unit; but I don‘t really have a brand preference. I use Altronics because they pay contingency and it seems to be a good product) and have become increasingly more dependent upon it. Because I run so many different cars and categories, I have very seldom taken the time to enter a database for the run prediction feature with one particular combination. Instead, I’ve developed a basic reference and ratio for my gas powered combinations (in which I take corrected altitude and vapor pressure into consideration more than anything else) and my alcohol combinations (where I focus more on humidity and vapor pressure); and predict my ET’s from there. It’s simplistic (maybe even primitive), but it’s worked well for me.
 
Obviously, I just plug in the variables to determine what I believe the car will run and create a game plan based around that number. I also warn not to become too dependent on the weather station: there are always situations where the cars will run fast or slow and the air won’t show it. Always factor in the round trends and consider what’s happening around you.
 
At the beginning of 2010, as I prepared to make my first serious run at NHRA points, I invested in a trailer mounted weather station, another Altronics unit. It was a fairly monumental investment, but I felt a wind meter would be a huge benefit, and I liked the idea of having pagers for both cars (at national events, there are instances where we’ll spend a great deal of time in the staging lanes and conditions can change). Plus, I felt like having a stationary unit (over the handheld) would insure more accurate readings. I’ve been really impressed with the unit, and I’ve even expanded my readings somewhat. I’m using the system for the two gas burning cars (my Super Comp machine and Bryan Robinsons Stocker), and in addition to corrected altitude and vapor pressure, I’ve put an added emphasis on barometric pressure and wind; I’ve created ratios for those as well. I still haven’t set up either car on the run predictor, for a couple reasons. Reason 1: I’m kinda lazy and very stubborn. I still like my system. Reason 2: I’m a tinkerer. I don’t leave a combination alone long enough to get a significant database. I’m constantly trying something that I think will be “better.” I may be constantly shooting myself in the foot, but that’s the way I operate.
 
Thanks again,
Luke


6/3/2010 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber nzwcpn, who asks:
You guys do everything based on math. Is there a formula that can figure time and distance based on mph? for example, my car runs about 109 mph in the 1/8 mile. Can I compute this? What I am looking for is a way to help figure out finish line driving, where I can say, 1 foot equals 1 hundredth of a second travelling at 109 mph, or whatever it turns out to be.

Excellent question. I had meant to cover this last year, and somehow I overlooked it. I’m amazed that no one has brought this up before now. I can’t take full credit for this answer, I had to lean on TIBR subscriber John Rollins to verify that we had this correct (John is a big numbers guy). 

There is a formula to transfer the time we see in the finish margin of the time slip into distance that we can see on the race track. And, as you eluded to, it is based on the mph of the cars involved. In fact, a better explanation is that the distance is determined by taking into account the miles per hour of the car that crosses the finish line LAST. By knowing the last finishing cars miles per hour, we can determine how many feet they cover per second; and therefore how many feet behind they were when the first to finish car actually crossed the finish line.
 
Let’s do some basic math to start our figuring. We know that there are 5280 feet in a mile. We also know that there are 3600 seconds in an hour. So, if we’re going 1 mile per hour, we’re covering 1.467 feet per second. 
 
With that said, we can quickly determine that if we’re going 100 miles per hour, we cover that 1.467 feet in .01 seconds. 1.467 feet = 17.6 inches. For the purpose of this discussion, we’ll call that 18 inches. 
 
The rule of thumb to remember here is that .01 at 100 miles per hour is roughly 18 inches. So, regardless of your cars mile per hour, if you cross the finish line first by .010 against an opponent that runs 100 mph, you’ve crossed the finish line first by roughly 18 inches. We can use that 100 mph / .01 = 18 inches as our base formula to figure off of from there.
 
Let’s say that you give the finish line up by .005 and cross the stripe at 120 mph. You want to know how much you goofed up by in terms of distance. 
(120 / 100) x (.005 / .010) x 18
1.2 x .5 x 18 = 10.8
In this case, you crossed the finish line second by a physical distance of approximately 11 inches.
 
Let’s try one more for practice. Let’s say that you’re racing your car in eighth mile bracket competition, and you run a 140 mile per hour dragster. You cross the finish line first by .015 and win the round with a dead-on 6.110. How much distance did you actually cross the finish line first by?
 
(140 / 100) x (.015 / .010) x 18
1.4 x 1.5 x 18 = 37.8
 
In this instance, you crossed the finish line first by nearly 38”, a little over 3 feet.
 
Now, let’s take the exact same race, but let’s say that you crossed at a wide open 110 miles per hour and your opponent got to the finish line first by the same .015 margin. How much distance did he actually cross the finish line by?
 
(110 / 100) x (.015 / .010) x 18
1.1 x 1.5 x 18 = 29.7”
 
In this situation, your opponent crossed the finish line first by just under 30”, 2.5 feet. Interesting, isn’t it? If you cross first by .015, you got there by 38”. If he crosses first by .015, he got there by 30”. The race, in terms of physical distance, was actually closer when your faster opponent crossed the finish line first because you’re covering less distance within that .01 second span (at 110 miles per hour versus his 140 miles per hour).
 
By the same token, it’s easier to do a better job at the finish line the faster your car (and your opponents car) is running. .01 at 180 miles per hour is nearly 3 feet, which should be visibly obvious. .01 at 50 miles per hour is just 9 inches, which is pretty difficult to see. For this reason, we should expect ourselves to take less finish line when driving a Top Dragster than a Junior Dragster!
 
Hope that helps clarify. Again, excellent topic!
 
Luke


5/17/2010 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Still Cruisin, who asks:
In the Super categories which strategy would you most employ if you were decent on the tree? Driver? I know it would depend on your opponent, but given the heads up racing I'm wondering if the bracket strategies would be the same or slightly different on average. One thing is that the stops create some inconsistency with all the cars from what I have seen.

First of all, thanks for your interest in TIBR and for presenting a topic for the JEGS Q&A. You bring up an excellent point; my general game plan for “Super” class racing varies quite a bit from my general bracket racing mentality (especially 1/8th mile bracket racing).
 
As you mentioned, generally speaking cars are not as dialable on the throttle stop as they are wide open (or, at least we don’t run them on the stop as often so we don’t have them as “happy” on the stop as they are wide open). With that said, obviously the best scenario (and I think a key to my recent success in 8.90 competition) is to constantly work and strive to make the car consistent enough that we’re comfortable employing any of the three driving strategies. I lean more towards the “Driver” in throttle stop competition, but by having a car that I can dial better than most competitors, I really give myself a lot more options. If I’m set up .87, I can switch over to the “Spot Dropper” mid-run if track position (or reaction time) dictates it. It’s pretty rare that I’ll incorporate the “Dialer” mentality (more so in “super” racing than bracket racing), but having a car that I can depend on allows me to do that a small percentage of the time. And, by doing so on those rare occasions, I make it harder for anyone to race against me, because in the back of their mind they have to think I’m capable of holding it to the floor and running .90 or .91. That shadow of doubt in their mind sways the advantage back to my favor.
 
One thing to always keep in mind when racing in the .90 categories as the “driver” is that the majority of your opponents are doing the same thing. I think it’s a natural thought process: we’ve got the throttle stops that inherently tend to hamper consistency. We’re racing quarter mile (which inherently hampers consistency). And, we’re often running rounds several hours (or days) apart, which hampers our ability to confidently dial the car. As such, the majority of “super” class racers stage the car with the intention of running under the index.
 
What I see in the .90 categories is a lot of racers who try to drive way over their heads. When they bracket race, they trust the car, and rarely use the “Driver” approach. Yet suddenly, when we’re racing against an index, whether out of habit or necessity, they try to become Superman and hold .04 or .08 or more. A lot of the racers who try to do this simply aren’t adept at it, which gives those who are a significant advantage. Without getting too far out into left field, I’ll digress. But, you can pretty well assume that the majority of your opponents in the .90 classes don’t plan to hold it wide open through the finish line. So, if you’re ahead, you can almost count on them to drop.
 
As I said, I still employ the “Driver” strategy the majority of the time in Super Class competition, but my execution changes a great deal because the guy in the other lane is usually driving a little bit more aggressively than the average bracket racing competitor.
 
 


 


4/8/2010 - This week's question comes from TIBR Subscriber WagonRacer, who asks...
My question is concerning spot dropping. Could you recommend a method for a .05 drop? Here is the type of vehicle I'm working with: Foot Brake Door Car: roughly 3200 lbs w/driver. ET 1/4: 10.0-10.2, MPH: 130-131. 1000' drop and coast kills .13 -.14. Agressive drop (read smoking the front tires) at the MPH cone kills .02. I would also like to incorporate something subtle after 1000' if at all possible. Thanks for your advice.

First of all, thank you for your interest in ThisIsBracketRacing.com and for presenting a topic for the JEGS Q&A forum. I’ll do my best to answer your question in two parts:

First, for a late run “spot drop” of .05, I’d say to move your spot to roughly 60’ before the mph cone. It sounds complicated but it’s actually fairly easy to reference: there’s 60’ between the mph cone and the finish line, just envision a “mph mph cone;” another 60’ in front of the mph cone (120‘ before the finish line). You can kill .02 with a real hard drop at the mph cone. You should be able to be just a little less aggressive in terms of the physical movement to the brake pedal and kill about .05 by doing this roughly 60’ earlier.

Second, your other option you eluded to, is more of an act of deception than anything else (if I understand you correctly). You want to dial up enough that your opponent knows you’re holding, but get rid of the ET subtly earlier in the run so you can hold it on the floor at the end (when your opponent expects a drop). This is an excellent idea, but you’ll have to experiment with it to find something you’re comfortable with. In the Stock Eliminator car that I drive, for example, I can completely lift off the throttle and go right back to the floor at the 1/8th mile and kill .03. Obviously, it’d be better to do this by dragging the brake pedal (which would be almost completely indecipherable to your opponent), I’ve just always had a hard time being able to know what I’ve killed by doing that (probably because I don’t trust myself to do it often). To kill .05, you’ll have to make a little more exaggerated move possibly a little earlier in the run.

By perfecting both of these actions, you would have two methods in which to confidently kill the same amount of ET. You could then change up your game a great deal based on reaction time and track position as the run progresses. For the average opponents, I’d stick to the late run drop; this gives you the option of deciding between the “Spot Dropper” and the “Driver” as the run develops. I’d save the .05 kill in the middle for the really talented opponents: preferably the one’s who pay attention and realize that you’re holding .05. This option is really more a variation of the “Dialer” than anything: but by doing it this way it’s really deceptive (because your opponent almost certainly assumes you‘re the “spot dropper“). I think for most of us (obviously depending on personal strengths), once we’re comfortable applying and executing the three major finish line strategies, the “Dialer” becomes more of a “change up” than anything. You have to occasionally throw that off speed pitch to keep the batter guessing--and the way you’re illustrating doing so would be very tricky and could be extremely successful once you master it.

Hope that helps, thanks again!

Luke


3/9/2010 - This week's question comes from TIBR Member Jim Parsons, who asks:
Luke, Do you use a blinder in your foot brake and stocker? If so, could you talk about the type and benefit?

Thanks for your interest in ThisIsBracketRacing.com and for presenting a topic for the JEGS Q&A. I do use a blinder in the bottom bulb categories, but only to block my opponents side of the tree (I watch mine come down). I’m not a huge advocate of blocking the top two bulbs, just because it creates so many variables: I’ve yet to hear of anyone having much success blocking at night (regardless of what tricks they’ve come up with to eliminate the glare). Plus, you have to be weary of positioning yourself and your blinder just right so as not to block the wrong bulb; and on long spots you almost have to count out the spot in an effort to be ready, positioned, and focused as the tree comes down. By not blocking my top two bulbs, I feel like I eliminate a lot of that “clutter” and worry and enable myself to focus better on the tree.

With that said, I do block the other side of the tree. I’m easily distracted, so I do my best to not only block my opponents amber bulbs, but also their green, red, and stage bulbs; because any flashing on that side of the tree will likely distract me. I also tape up my helmet a little bit, and can generally position myself so that between the blinder and the tape I can essentially block the entire other lane on the starting line (I can’t see his tree, see his car leave, see the starter walking around, etc.). To do so, I have to close one eye, which, believe it or not slows down my reaction time (The best I can tell, it effects me .01 to .015). So, rather than try to compensate for that, I keep the blinder up and close my left eye every round (whether I’m the faster car by a little or a lot, or the slower car, whatever--I just keep that constant). I also use the blinder even at tracks that have some type of blinder on the tree (usually at least the top bulb is open, and as I said I like to block out the stage bulbs, green & red, and the whole other lane if possible).

Everyone has a different view on this topic, but that’s what works for me.


2/18/2010 - This week's question comes from TIBR subscriber Trey2741, who asks:
Luke, if you only had the option of being in a 5.20 dragster or a 6.10 door car at a big bracket race which would it be? Both are about the same as far as consistency goes. Sometimes I think the dragster would be a sitting duck for the faster cars. Which would you prefer and which would you have more options in as far as holding and manipulating track position?

Excellent question. The answer really just depends on what you feel like your personal strengths are and what you want to accomplish. The advantage to racing the dragster is that you should be able to accurately judge your opponent the majority of the time (75% or more of your opponents will likely be dialed between 4.60 & 5.10--and anything in that window should allow you to do an excellent job). The disadvantage in the dragster is that all of those opponents should be able to do an equally good job of judging you.

In the doorcar, you can’t expect yourself to do a great job on the finish line against the majority of opponents. In time, you should expect yourself to be able to do the obvious against the fast cars, but the majority of the time you’re going to depend more on your car than on your finish line ability. The advantage is that you take away the finish line abilities of most of your faster opponents as well. Even the best finish line racer is going to struggle to do much more than the obvious with a 30+ mph discrepancy.

For me, having two cars that are similar to the two of yours… I don’t necessarily feel like I have a greater chance at victory in one car than the other, but my approach is completely different in the dragster than in the Vega. In the dragster, I’m utilizing more strategy, I’m trying to out-drive more opponents, and I’m constantly changing things up to make it harder on them. In the Vega, I’m just trying to make good runs. I’m generally the dialer, and I’m trying to be .00 and dead-on. There’s not as much need to change things up or employ trickery; simply because most opponents can’t do a great job against the slower car at the finish line to begin with.

On the days when I’m driving great, I’d rather be in the dragster. On the days that conditions are changing and no one can get real dialed in, I’d rather be in the dragster. On the days where everyone is running dead-on, and it’s a .00x package bloodbath, I’d rather be in the Vega. I can make just as good of a run in it; and if I’m going to be the “dialer,” I’d rather do it at 6.10 than 4.90, just because it’s so much harder for the average opponent to race against.


1/13/2010 - This weeks article comes from TIBR subscriber Brcktracer, who asks:
I'll start by saying I really enjoy bracket racing. Unfortunately, life has and will keep me from racing very often. My question is: Do you have any recommendations for those of us that don't get to race very often? I know a practice tree is an option but is there anything else you recommend?

First of all, thank you for your interest in ThisIsBracketRacing.com and for presenting a topic for the JEGS Q&A forum. This is an excellent topic; one that I understand completely but am not particularly well versed in (I’ve always been fortunate to able to race, and had the desire to race a lot). Obviously, there’s no substitute for seat time. Everyone knows the more you get to race, the more opportunities you have to improve and make yourself better.

In your situation, however, I think the biggest key to success is mental outlook and confidence. Look at some of the best bracket racers out there today. I’ll earmark Jeg Coughlin, Jr., Edmond Richardson, and Peter Biondo. Obviously, each of these guys is a premier racer and has been for a long time. And, each of them have made countless runs down the race track over the course of their career. But, right now, each of them have priorities outside of sportsman drag racing. Each of these guys still compete, but their schedules are much more limited than in years past, yet each of them still enjoys a great deal of success when they come into the sportsman racing scene. Why?

I guess it’s kind of like riding a bike. It’s an old habit you fall into. But with these guys, that old habit isn’t just driving. It’s winning. And to me, that’s an attitude. I really believe the trick is to convince yourself that you’re not at a disadvantage. Like Peter said in his column on TIBR, the number one thing holding us back is fear. When you come into a race feeling like you’re rusty because you haven’t raced in a month, then you’ve put that negative thought into your mind.

I believe mental preparation has as much to do with success as anything. I’m no doctor, but I know that. We’re fortunate to have Bruce Deveau, author of “The Racers Mind” as an instructor this year, and he’ll give a more educated stance on the role that the brain plays in our success on the race track. But, in your shoes, I would recommend the following. As you build up to race day, replay runs in your mind. You don’t have the repetition of runs week in and week out, but that doesn’t mean you don’t know what to do. Play the whole scenario out and go thru it: from the water box to the turn off. This way, once you’re back in the seat it doesn’t seem foreign. I’ve heard it said by people who are much more educated than myself that going over actions repeatedly in your mind is almost as good as actually doing it. So, in terms of bracket racing, going over your routine in your mind repeatedly makes the actual act of doing so in the car seem far less foreign. And as I’ve said before, I’m a big believer that comfort breeds confidence, and confidence breeds success.

And, when you’re playing back runs in your mind, play back good one’s--like I said in a previous tutorial. We don’t all have a year, a month, or even a weekend of greatness to pull out of the memory bank, but we all have moments. Take those moments of greatness and relive them to inspire confidence. I always go back to the old Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t… You’re right.”

In my opinion, mental preparation is as important as anything, especially for a racer who doesn’t get the seat time like some of us are fortunate enough to.

Hope that helps, good luck in 2010!

 


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