11/30/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber mwallace, who asks:
This is probably going to sound crazy to you guys, but here goes! I have found that the more I practice on my practice tree, the worse my lights are at the track! I have tested this theory on more than one occasion, and find it to be true. Have you or any of your subscribers experienced this? Is it possible? And if so, how can I change it?

First off, thank you for your interest in TIBR and for presenting a topic for the JEGS Q&A. As I’ve said before here on TIBR, the practice tree is a tool that I personally feel is greatly overrated. While it’s hard for me to correlate practice tree use directly with regression on the race track, I can certainly see instances where their use doesn’t promote improvement. But, before we give up on the tool entirely, I think there are some benefits from its use. Like in any pursuit, “Practice” doesn’t make perfect. “Perfect Practice,” however, can certainly pay dividends.

What we can gain from practice tree sessions:
1.)    In most instances, practice trees can help us to fine tune our physical mechanics. This is particularly true for those of us who leave the starting line by releasing a button. Practicing and honing that physical release on the practice tree (where you can see the result of varying your release point or motion) can be very beneficial.
2.)    The mental routine that promotes concise focus and concentration can, to an extent, be developed with proper practice. The trick is to take each “hit” at the tree individually, and attempt to mentally prepare yourself; just like it was an actual round of competition.
3.)    In bottom bulb competition, I feel like the practice tree is a beneficial tool because for every bottom bulb racer, rhythm (or the practice of blocking out rhythm) is a huge part of posting consistent, successful reaction times. As a result, I don’t feel like we can really over-use the practice tree for bottom bulb competition.
4.)    A solid practice session can give us some confidence, which we should be able to carry over to the race track.
What we cannot duplicate in practice:
1.)    We can’t duplicate the sights, sounds, vibrations, and tension associated with real-life competition.
2.)    It’s very difficult to duplicate the anxiety that comes with competition and people watching you (unless you can get people to watch you hit the practice tree).
 My advice:
First and foremost, I don’t believe anyone benefits from picking up the practice tree, staring at it non-stop for half an hour, and making 100 consecutive “hits.” I don’t think that accomplishes anything. There are no consequences for error, so we shake off bad lights and try again. Plus, you’re not going to come into the 20th “hit” with the same focus that you did the first; over time it becomes monotonous and useless. To me, the practice tree is only useful if it’s used in a manner that is similar to actual race conditions. Several racers here on TIBR have recommended the practice of hitting the practice tree once an hour; similar to what we do in actual race conditions. By implementing this approach, I think there could be solid benefit. Each “hit” is an individual entity, and an individual challenge. There should be some sort of preparation involved: you have one “hit,” so you need to make it count. In this format, I think that we can develop the concentration skills and mental strength that we’ll lean on in real race conditions.
In his guest tutorial column on TIBR in 2009, Jeg Coughlin, Jr. suggested a slightly different regimen for practice tree use. Rather than trying to be .000 every hit, Jeg said that he and his brothers instead try to predict their reaction time; by calling it out after releasing the button and prior to the actual reaction appearing on the screen. What’s the benefit to this? For top bulb competition, it allows them to hone their abilities to use features like a “bump down” or “bump up.” In addition, they strengthen their ability to determine their own reaction time in practice… By implementing this same idea in actual competition, they predict their reaction time as the car leaves the starting line (which as we’ve discussed essentially creates a blueprint for what needs to happen as the race progresses).
It’s my opinion that practices like those detailed above can be beneficial for racers on all levels and in all forms of competition. Like I said, it’s not the practice that makes perfect, but the dedication to “perfect” practice that over time produces positive results.
I hope that helps, thanks again!

10/31/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber trey2741, who asks:
Luke, I have noticed my reaction times at my local track have been all over the place. They have had some timing system issues, and I am only having problems at that track, but I have noticed that cars that just kinda roll in to stage instead of bump in have more consistent reaction times. I bump in almost to the point where the car (door car) is rocking. Is there any reason that the two different styles should work any better than the other?


Thanks for participating in the JEGS Q&A. In my experience, there is absolutely nothing wrong with your staging process; it’s what we preach in our “Live” schools and here on ThisIsBracketRacing.com. While “rolling” into the beam can provide a fairly consistent staging motion and maintain a pretty constant rollout, I don’t feel it’s nearly as precise a method of staging as small, measured “bumps.” My only concern with the car “rocking” would be staging so shallow that you actually knock out the stage bulb when setting the transbrake, or going up against the 2-step. As long as you’re not seeing that, I really don’t see any drawback to the method you detailed.
So, now the question is this: what’s causing your reaction time discrepancy at this particular track? While we’re both aware that timing systems are imperfect and that in many cases the technology of our vehicles has surpassed the technology of the systems used to measure their performance; I’m always very hesitant to blame inconsistencies (in ET or RT) on the timing system. In my opinion, that’s a reactive response and the most successful racers are proactive people (meaning that rather than place blame, we try to find a way we can improve the situation). So the question is: what’s causing this reaction time discrepancy at this particular track?
My first piece of advice is to keep meticulous records. Ambient light at the tree, especially at smaller tracks, can be a huge variable with LED bulbs. At night, the tree can be so dark that we cannot actually look into the tree and focus on the top bulb until it lights; then it’s so bright that our reaction is more of a “shock” response than anything. At some tracks, the light on the tree is so bright during the day that the bulbs can appear extremely dim when they light. So, keep good notes throughout the race day and see if you can see any correlation in light variables from one week to the next. 
Also, do your best to maintain confidence and positive energy at this facility despite your lack of consistent reaction times. There comes a point where that lack of confidence can have a huge effect, and detract from your focus on the starting line. Then it’s a vicious cycle: you have poor lights, which hurt confidence… Then you don’t have the confidence necessary to focus and improve your reaction times… And so on… We’re actually discussing that topic in a recent thread on the American Race Cars “Strategy Session” forum here on TIBR; check that out for some ideas to keep your confidence level high despite struggles in this one area at this one facility.
I hope that helps! Thanks again, and good luck!


10/12/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber SC412, who asks:
Luke, The NHRA season is winding down, and the world championships in each of the sportsman classes will soon be decided. With the exception of Super Comp, it looks like all the sportsman championships are up for grabs. As someone who was involved in the title chase until the last weekend last season, and who I know follows it very closely, my question is… Who ya got?

You’re right. As always, the points chase in the sportsman classes is very interesting and in many cases several racers have a shot at the title (especially in Super Stock).   Let’s break it down class by class…

Super Stock:
This is the most interesting battle at this point… Peter Biondo is the leader in the clubhouse, but I’d be surprised if his 634 point total holds up for the title. In fact, we should have a much clearer view of the Super Stock chase at the end of the day Thursday; that’s when the Division 4 event in Noble should be concluded. At this point, Super Stock is going into round 3, and several championship hopefuls are still in competition: Jackie Alley, Chris Chaney, David Rampy, and Jimmy DeFrank. If any of those guys (or gal) gets the victory, I think they’re the favorite. Alley is closest to Biondo (with 619 points), and would start improving her score with a 3rd round win in Oklahoma. Her third round opponent may not even return to the event. If that happens, she could take the lead with a single win light. But that win light would come in a fight; her fourth round opponent will be either Chaney or Rampy (who square off in round three). Both of those racers have already improved their score by advancing to round 3, and the winner of their matchup has a great chance to surpass Biondo and Alley if they can defeat Alley in round 4. Rampy would need a final round appearance in Noble to take the lead, and can still improve his total at one additional LODRS event (likely Reynolds, later this weekend). Chaney would pull close to Biondo with a victory in Noble, but would still need to improve at his final divisional event (likely Las Vegas).
DeFrank is lurking outside the top ten, but can claim points at every LODRS event remaining on the NHRA tour. He’s going to round 3 in Noble, and will leave there to finish up the Houston LODRS event on Saturday, where he’s already advanced to round 2. The former champ is currently 157 points behind Biondo, but that’s misleading: he gets a full claim at Noble, and is improving a first round loss in Houston. He could be the national points leader at week’s end, and he’ll still have a chance to improve in Las Vegas.
National powerhouses Dan Fletcher and Joseph Santangelo still have a shot at the crown too; although I’m somewhat surprised to see Fletcher entered in Phoenix this weekend (if he does not attend the LODRS event in Reynolds, he’ll no longer have a mathematical shot at the title). Santangelo bolstered his efforts with a win at Maple Grove last week (over Biondo no less), and as a contender for the title in both Super Stock and Stock I’m sure he’ll venture to Reynolds and then on to the West coast. He has two divisional events to improve a 5th round loss, and one national at which to improve a 2nd round defeat. If they go out West, James Antonette and Michael Mans still have a shot as well.
Any of those racers have a realistic chance at the title. I’d say Jackie Alley has the best chance: she’s got to go a lot of rounds to improve, but she’s also got the most opportunities remaining to do so. 
My gut pick: Jimmy D.
I’ll go tricky tipster on ya:
Jackie Alley                 4:1
Jimmy DeFrank           5:1
David Rampy              5:1
Peter Biondo               5:1
Chris Chaney              7:1
Joe Santangelo            7:1
Dan Fletcher               10:1
James Antonette         10:1
Michael Mans              10:1
It’s criminal that Jody Lang and Dan Fletcher can’t both win the Stock Eliminator championship… Lang has 5 victories. Five! You only get to claim 8 races! And he’s not a cinch pick to win it… Lang has the Vegas divisional remaining, and he’ll improve with a win light in round 2. He controls his own destiny: a final round appearance in Vegas would put the title out of reach (but he’ll know what needs to happen before that point). If Lang fails to improve, Fletcher would have to advance to the final round in the same event to surpass him. 
Don’t count out Joe Santangelo. He’s got work left to do, but he has two divisional events (Reynolds and Vegas) to improve a pair of third round losses. With a pair of finals, he’d likely be in the drivers seat. 
The odds on favorite and my gut pick: Jody
Jody Lang                   2:1
Dan Fletcher               6:1
Joe Santangelo            10:1
Super Comp:
This one is all but over, Gary Stinnett will win his fourth Super Comp title and 2nd consecutive crown.
Gary Stinnett              even
Everyone else              25:1
Super Gas:
Where did Peter Biondo come from? A month ago, he didn’t look like he had much of a shot. If we learned anything, it was to never count out the terminator. Two wins (in his last two points earning events) later, he’s the leader in the clubhouse and the odds on favorite to pick up his sixth NHRA world championship.
A month ago, the race looked like a five way battle between Biondo, Mike Wiblishouser, Tommy Phillips, David Tatum, and Mike Sawyer. Now, it’s a three way battle between Biondo, Phillips, and Sawyer, and it’s heavily in Biondo’s favor. Phillips has the best shot to surpass him, but he’s got a lot of work to do. He’s currently shown at 582 points (107 behind Peter), but he’s improving a first round loss at his final two divisional events. He’s already won the first two rounds at Houston, which will conclude this weekend, so he’s cut the lead to 87.  He’ll need to win at least one more round in Houston to keep in interesting in Vegas (where it’s likely to be an 8 round race). However he goes about it, he’ll need to see 9 more win lights in those two events to surpass Biondo (but you remember what I said about the Terminator? Don’t count out TP either). 
Sawyer is a long shot at this point. He has the same points total (582) as Phillips, and has more events (3) remaining at which he can earn points. Unfortunately for him, he must win the third round to earn a single point at any of those events. To win the title, he’ll need either two wins in those races or three very late finishes.
My gut: The Terminator holds on
Peter Biondo               2:1
Tommy Phillips           5:1
Mike Sawyer               10:1    
Those are my opinions and thoughts.  Weigh in with your own on the American Race Cars Strategy Session Message Board!

9/27/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Speedracer333, who asks:
Luke, I think I understand the effects of rollout in terms of reaction times and ET’s, as discussed in your column about staging. When staging deeper, and creating less rollout, I should see a quicker reaction time and a correspondingly slower E.T. My question is this. Generally I see the following trend: when I have a quicker 60’ E.T., I usually have a quicker reaction time. I’m assuming this isn’t due to a rollout discrepancy, so what could I attribute the corresponding reaction time and E.T. change to?


Excellent question, and one that is often asked and misunderstood. Your understanding of rollout is accurate; so when you have a run where you see a quicker 60’ time and a quicker reaction time, we can generally rule out a rollout discrepancy as the culprit.
When the car is quicker to 60’, we can assume that it’s making more power, got better traction, or a combination of the two. With that said, it’s not incorrect to assume that the added power or better traction would also affect our reaction time. The flaw I see many racers make is that they overvalue that added power or traction in terms of reaction time. For example, if your 60’ time in round 1 is 1.450, and then in round 2 it improves to a 1.423, that’s a pretty monumental jump. Usually we can attribute that to better conditions: either better weather that allows the engine to make more power, or better traction and starting line conditions. Regardless, our car was .027 quicker in the first 60 feet of the track. When thinking in terms of reaction time, keep in mind that the vehicle’s affect on reaction time would have to come in the rollout stage (the time from the transbrake, brake pedal, or clutch pedal being released until the car rolls forward and clears the stage beam). In terms of distance, the car only has to cover about 1 foot during “rollout” to clear the stage beam. So, if the car is .027 quicker over the course of 60 feet, how much can we realistically expect that it gained in a single foot? The answer: not much.
Unfortunately, we can’t quantify that reaction time discrepancy, but my opinion is that if the 60’ time were to move .03, we might be able to attribute .001 or .002 to our reaction time (and even that might be a stretch). In other words, it can’t have much affect.
There are a number of potential variables in our car’s 60’ time. At the top of the list are obviously rollout (the consistency of our staging process), the engines power, and the available traction. Usually we can attribute changes in our 60’ time to one of those variables or a combination of the 3.
There are similar variables involved that could affect our reaction time. Again, rollout is a huge variable. The second variable is our own physical reaction time. The third is the vehicle reaction time (the time it takes the vehicle to cover the given rollout distance). As I just explained, vehicle reaction time rarely fluctuates a great deal. If we’re doing our job staging, our rollout discrepancy should be very small. Obviously, the variable that fluctuates the most is our own physical reaction time.
As such, it’s my contention that variances in reaction time and E.T. have very little impact on one another (except when that variance is caused by a rollout discrepancy). In your case, my argument is that the correlation between a quicker reaction time and a quicker 60’ time is coincidence: for whatever reason you’re hitting the tree a little bit better at the same time that the car is running a quicker E.T. The two measurements are mutually exclusive. 
With that said, you may be able to identify the issue that caused both the reaction time and E.T. discrepancy. For example, as the sun sets you can usually expect a quicker 60’ time and a quicker reaction time; but not for the same reason. Generally, the 60’ will be quicker because the track is cooler (better traction), and the weather is cooling off (more conducive to added horsepower in most applications). At the same time, you can expect a quicker reaction time, because the amount of ambient light (sun) on the tree has decreases monumentally. So, in that instance you may pick up in both E.T. and R.T., but the two measurements are exclusive (and different factors caused each increase).
I hope that explanation makes sense and helps you to diagnose previous rounds and plan for future ones!

9/14/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Jimmy4011, who asks:
Luke, you’ve said several times on TIBR that you drive the finish line using what you refer to as the 90 degree rule (looking straight across the track). When doing so, how do you compensate for the nose of an opponent, assuming their front end overhang trips the finish line beams?

Excellent question. As I’ve said in the past, I do utilize the 90 degree rule at the finish line, and while I can’t say it’s definitely the best way to drive the stripe, I have found that it works much better for me personally. In doing so, I generally pick out my “spot” on my opponents car by looking directly across the race track (90 degrees) when we’re both pre-staged. That reference point is what I’m looking for as we approach the finish line.
In your question, you bring up an excellent point. As we know, the stage beams are roughly 1.5” from the ground; low enough that no part of our car trips those beams except the front tires. The finish line (and incremental timer) beams, however, are anywhere from 6” to 10” from the ground depending on the facility and sanction of the event we’re running. Therefore, the nose of a dragster, for example, will not trip the stage beams and will catch the finish line. The same holds true for low door cars (full tube chassis cars generally).
With that in mind, there’s no dead-set way to precisely measure that overhang in the staging lanes, on the starting line, or as we proceed down the race track. What I do, however, is try to visually compensate for it when I pick my spot while we’re both pre-staged. For example…
Let’s say that I’m driving a dragster and I’m racing a Top Sportsman-style Pontiac Firebird (I use the Firebird body style because they have the most front end overhang of nearly any racing vehicle; at nearly 4 feet in front of the front tire). Obviously, the nose of my opponent’s car will trip the finish line beam, and its way out in front of the front tires. When we pre-stage, I look over and see that my “spot” is on the rear bumper of this car; that’s what I focus on when I turn to look completely 90 degrees across the track at my opponent. However, I have to compensate for the overhang on my opponents machine. I know that my dragster has a nose that hangs roughly 1’ in front of the front tires. My opponent, however, has nearly 4’ of nose out there in front of his tires. As such, I know that I have to be roughly 3’ ahead of my rear bumper spot to actually be even with this opponent in terms of track position. As I reference my opponent’s car, I can figure that three feet in front of the rear bumper is roughly the centerline of the rear axle. Quick math tells me that to be ahead of this opponent at the finish line, I now need to position my body in front of his/her rear axle.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a precise science: I can’t get out a tape measure to measure my opponents front end overhang, and then use the same tape measure to move my spot accordingly. There is some estimation and guess work involved. But, by paying attention and with practice, I feel like I can narrow my margin for error down to a few inches. In my case, that still gives me a better feel for the finish line than trying to race my opponent wheel-to-wheel, or front end to front end (I just feel so much comfortable using the 90 degree method myself).
I hope that helps. It’s far from scientific, but that’s the method I utilize to compensate for front end overhang when finding my 90 degree “spot” on an opponents car.
Thanks again,

8/18/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Sean72, who asks:
I have another question for you, it's a double barreled question. I have been thinking about having a go at .90 racing. With several different brands and types of throttle stops out there, what do you think are the pro's and con's of the different types? Air vs. electric, inline vs. base plate? And the second part of the question is if I'm going to invest in a throttle stop what are your thoughts on SLE's, do you use one to stage?


In my experience, a plenum-style stop (with blades that goes under the carburetor) is more forgiving and easier to set up than an inline or linkage-type throttle stop. I’m not saying the linkage-type stop won’t work, as several racers have success with them, but the setup seems to be a lot more fickle and unless you just stumble into a great t-stop combination it seems to take a lot more testing to get them right. The plate stop, on the other hand, is pretty bulletproof. The linkage of the carb stays wide open, and the air fuel mixture is controlled in the plenum by another set of butterflies. Basically, the impact on the carburetor is the same: it still runs through the intermediate circuits when the stop is closed (because it’s not getting the vacuum of wide open throttle, even though the linkage is wide open). Like I said, it’s personal preference but every one of my combinations has been more forgiving and easier to setup and adjust with the plate-style stop (and I’m not alone; I’d guess that 90% of the successful S/C racers use the plate stop).
I’m a big fan of electric stops and shifters, simply because I try to avoid having a C02 system on my cars. In my opinion, C02 is just another potential problem, and when I ran it the air system would cost me at least one round every year. Either the bottle would be empty and I wouldn’t realize it, I’d forget to turn it on, or a line would get punctured and leak out when I was too far into the pre-race procedure to fix and fill it. Regardless, the result was a missed shift, or a malfunctioning throttle stop and the loss of any chance to win a round. I went to an all electric setup a few years ago, and haven’t regretted it. The advantage to the C02 setup is that it should be easier on the cars electrical system (the solenoids used for electric t-stops and shifters are a big draw and they require a lot of amperage; I can see a spike in voltage on my data recorder at the shift point and when the t-stop activates). But, in my opinion, that doesn’t outweigh the ease of the electric setup. A lot of people feel like air is a necessity to “bleed” the throttle stop back on down track with high horsepower cars. I ran Super Comp last season with an aluminum block dragster that ran 8.90 @ 180+ and I used an electric base plate stop without issue. In my opinion, if you need to “bleed” the throttle back on to get the car down the track in high gear, you’ve got suspension issues and you’re diagnosing the symptoms while ignoring the problem.
As you may have guessed from the first two paragraphs, I’m not a huge fan of Auto-Start or an SLE (same thing, called different names by different manufacturers). Again, I understand the principle and it’s a good idea when bracket racing (particularly as the faster car) to use a SLE setup. It stabilizes the amount of time the car spends “on the chip” at the starting line, which helps to keep transmission and converter heat as consistent as possible. While I feel it’s a good idea in bracket racing, again my personal preference is not to use one. In “Super” Class racing, the SLE or Auto-start has no value in my mind. In that format, it’s just an added variable and something else that can screw us up.
As you may have guessed, there’s a story behind my disdain for the use of C02, Auto-Start, and the like. A few years back, in 2007, my sole focus was big dollar bracket racing. That season, I raced my dragster in bracket competition every week. As such, I saw the value in an Auto-Start system. Although I didn’t like it at first, I stuck with it, got comfortable with it, and had great success throughout the season.
For 2008, I decided to chase the IHRA circuit. I installed a C02 plate stop on the same car and went 8.90 racing. I didn’t use the auto-start feature, but I still had the linkage stop on the car (so I could use Auto-Start when bracket racing). At my first 8.90 event, some 18 hours from home in San Antonio, TX, I reached the quarterfinals. When I did my burnout, I heard the distinct sound of pressurized air bursting and saw a faint cloud of gas come out of the cowl in front of the dash. I look down and watched the C02 pressure gauge plummet to 0. The brass fitting that holds the regulator to the C02 bottle had snapped off when the car hit in the burnout. I backed up, thinking “I can do this. The stop isn’t going to come on; so I can go like 7.40… And I have to shift myself. My opponent is a little faster than I am, so I’ll just lift like it’s going on the stop, stay a car or two ahead, and then floor it when he kicks back wide open.” Then as I pulled the car into gear, I realized that I didn’t have any throttle; as the linkage stop normally used as the SLE or Auto-Start had gone limp without any C02 pressure. I staged, my opponent didn’t go red, and I idled helplessly down the track. When I got back to the trailer, I took the linkage stop off the car and threw it across the pits. It hasn’t been back on since. 
A year later, I ran into an issue with my C02 throttle stop. I was fighting drastic inconsistency in my 8.90 setup and I couldn’t figure out why. I’d changed carburetors, converters, tires, gear ratio, and more. As it turns out, my big C02 bottle, which I used to charge the bottle in the car at each event, was low. Instead of filling the bottle with C02, I was basically filling it with compressed air. As a result, the timing and efficiency with which the stop opened and closed was greatly affected by the amount of pressure in the bottle (which was greatly affected by heat). Once I discovered such a simple culprit to a major problem, I decided to remove that variable. I’ve run electric stops and shifters ever since.
My personal preference: I run the Sunset Racecraft throttle stop. It’s a really neat piece: basically a “Super sucker” with butterflies. The shafts are on roller bearings, and it’s a really nice setup. It’s expensive but in my opinion it’s worth the money. If the investment scares you off, I’ve run both the #1 Stop and Dedenbear plate-style throttle stops with success in the past. As far as electric shifters, I’ve run a Dixie Racing Products solenoid for years with various shifters and no issues.
I hope that helps, thanks again for the question!

8/8/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber NDB431, who asks:
Luke, in your opinion who is the best driver in sportsman racing today?

Wow, what a loaded question… In today’s world of sportsman drag racing, the competition is so tight and the technology is so evolved (almost regardless of class), that races are routinely won and lost by such a small margin. Sure, the best racers still have an edge, but you don’t see many people dominate like in days past. As such, it’s very difficult to pick out even a handful of racers as “the best,” much less just one particular individual. There are a lot of really good racers out there right now.  

I used to get really caught up in thinking about the answer to this question, but as I’ve gotten older I really don’t feel like it matters as much. There are a lot of guys that are really good, and most of them know that (as does everyone who meets them on the race track). I’m not sure that singling out one racer as “the best of the best” really accomplishes much of anything. It does, however, make for great conversation. And hey, conversation and interest are what makes things happen here at ThisIsBracketRacing.com. So at the risk of upsetting people that don’t agree with me, I’ll take my swing at answering this question.
On a year-to-year basis, I think our BTE Power Rankings here on TIBR are as true a ranking as we have in sportsman drag racing. As such, right now (especially after the last three weeks), it’s hard to argue with the statement that Jody Lang is the baddest of the bad (or, at the very least he’s definitely the hottest of the hot). Like Jody, Tommy Phillips is another great racer who I don’t ever feel has ever gotten the respect he deserves from the racing community. Tommy has had a stellar season as well. While both Tommy and Jody are incredibly talented, if you’re asking for my personal opinion (and obviously you are) as to who’s the best sportsman racer, I wouldn’t pick either one of them.
To me, the best sportsman racer has to be the guy (or gal) that I could put in any racing vehicle, any class, and expect them to win that class or in that car. Don’t get me wrong, Tommy and Jody (to use them as examples) are very well-rounded drivers, and in addition to being atop their respective divisions currently they have both amassed incredible racing resumes. I consider Tommy Phillips to be the best “Super” class racer in the country today (personally, I’ve thought that about him for over a decade). And it’s hard to argue that Jody Lang is the best Stock/Super Stock racer in the nation (although you could certainly make a case for Dan Fletcher, Joe Santangelo, Anthony Bertozzi, Peter Biondo, and more). Tommy has won national events in Stock Eliminator (and nearly a championship), and he’s a multi-time big bucks bracket winner. Before he was introduced to Stock and Super Stock, Jody Lang won in Super Gas and he’s a multi-time E.T. Finals champ. Obviously, both of those racers are versatile and highly talented. But in today’s racing world, they’re content to compete (and dominate) in their respective categories. If I’m going to pick one “best” driver, I’m going to pick someone who has proven (and continually proves that) they can dominate in every class.
If you were to ask me who I feel like is the best top bulb bracket racer today, I’d say John Labbous, Jr. I’d give some mention to guys like Gary Williams, Nick Folk, Peter Biondo, Jeg Coughlin, and others, but if I had to pick one I give Labbous the nod. If you asked me to pick the best bottom bulb bracket racer, I’d probably go with Doug Caplinger but again I’d have a long list of really talented racers that are in the same stratosphere as Doug (Chris Plott, Rick Baehr, and Chris Walters come to mind). 
With that being said, again, in my mind the overall best driver is the racer who can dominate regardless of their car, class and competition (and has proven that time and time again). So, while I have no doubt that Caplinger is capable of winning a top bulb race and that Tommy would hold his own at the World Footbrake Challenge, I have to lean towards a racer that has proven themselves in every venue (and on the biggest stages that those venues have to offer). If I’ve got to pick one, I’m going with the “Player that can play all the games.”
The racers that come to mind for the overall crown include Jeg Coughlin, Jr., Troy Williams, Jr., Edmond Richardson, Nick Folk, Scotty Richardson, and Peter Biondo. Each of them have won multiple events and championships in seemingly every venue. That’s what really impresses me: the guys that can win on any tree, any length track, and in any vehicle. Each form of competition requires its own skill set. It’s impressive to win any class on a consistent basis; but it’s extremely impressive to consistently win in seemingly any category. Each of the drivers I just mentioned has proven their ability to do that time and time again. Had you asked me this question (Who’s the best?) any time from 1990 to 2005, my automatic response would be Scotty Richardson. What I’ve seen that man do behind the wheel of a race car is absolutely incredible. You have to consider that I had the opportunity to watch (and then to compete with) Scotty on a regular basis for a number of years. He was by far the most talented driver I’d ever seen.
Once I got the opportunity to travel and race more myself, and see more competitors from other areas of the country, I saw one individual that I felt rivaled Scotty in terms of talent and execution: Peter Biondo. Like Scotty, Peter has excelled in nearly every category and can win in seemingly any car. And, like Scotty, he’s incredibly adept in every facet involved with racing successfully (their bags have a ton of clubs; and they know when and how to use each of them). For years, my perception of who’s the “best” would change from week to week: One weekend I’d race with Scotty and think “He’s incredible. He’s the best I’ve ever seen.” Then the next weekend I’d go to a race where Peter was racing and watching him dice up the competition would make me think “Wow, I think he’s better than Scotty.” Then I’d watch Scotty win again to give him the upper hand in my mind, and on and on for years.
Here today, in 2011, Scotty has made the decision easier. While he still races occasionally, and he’s obviously still incredibly talented when and where he does, his priorities have changed. He’s raising a family and he’s focused on his driving schools. Peter is still at it, and while he doesn’t race every week he still keeps a pretty full schedule and he’s still dominating. This season is just another example: I don’t think he’d ever run Super Gas until last season. Now he’s competing for the world championship. He’ll get out of that car and into his Stock Eliminator Camaro, or Phil Monteith’s Super Stocker and he’ll be a threat to win. The next week, he can snare a big bucks bracket victory in his dragster.  The man can do it all, and very few can match his on track accomplishments. 
So, there you have it, for whatever it’s worth (probably not the paper I’m writing it on). There are great racers everywhere, but if I had to pick one guy and say “Right now, he’s the best all around driver,” I’m picking Peter Biondo.

7/21/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Aaron Cole, who asks:
60 foot vs. Reaction Time... This past weekend during my two time trials I had a .004 and a .010, while the 60 foot times were relatively the same on both passes. During the dial for dollars I added about .004 to my delay and I had a .008, while the 60 foot time picked up only a few thousandths. As first round had come along the sun had already set, so I automatically added a little more delay. Since the sun had set the track temperature had decreased significantly; therefore, making the track somewhat better. Unfortunatley I didn't think about that when I went up there for first round and the 60 foot time had went from a 1.160 to a 1.148; which, I believe, was the cause of my -.000 light. As I have read and implemented many of the formulas you have shared, I was wondering if you had an idea about the relation your 60 foot time had on your reaction time.

Great question! This is something that I’m asked often, and I hear a lot of people talking about at the track. In my opinion, this is an issue that a lot of racers have false illusions about. I’ve heard many racers, good racers at that, try to justify a .030 reaction time by the fact that their car spun, and they were .021 slow to 60’. I highly disagree with that correlation. While conditions that affect our 60’ time inherently have to have some affect on reaction time, the correlation is definitely not 1:1. In my opinion, the changes in reaction time are so minute, in fact, that I rarely compensate for them at all.

As a way to back up my theory, let’s use your runs as a specific example. From time trials to first round, your car picked up .012 to the 60’ clock. We’re attributing this gain in ET to better conditions: a combination of better air and a cooler (better) race track. The fact of the matter is that your car picked up .012 in 60’. Obviously, the 60’ time is measured from the time that your front tire moves from the stage beam to the time that your nose breaks the 60’ beam. So in 60 feet, you’ve got a variance of .012. Reaction time, on the other hand, is determined (in addition to your human reaction and delay box setting) by the time it takes the car to move 1-2 feet (the time it takes to go from a perfect, shallow stage to power the car and move forward enough to exit the stage beam). So, the question is; what is the correlation of the cars variance in 60 feet to it’s variance in 2 feet. If over the course of 60’ the E.T. moves .012, it’s ridiculous to think that the entire .012 variance is matched in the first foot and a half. In my opinion (and I don’t know how to prove this), a .01 variance in 60’ is almost completely indecipherable in terms of difference in reaction time. 
When racing in Stock Eliminator last season, we fought an issue in which the car would completely blow the tires off occasionally. When it did, it felt like it never moved an inch: it just went completely up in smoke on the starting line. It would lose a second or more (if I stayed in it) to the 60’ clocks. Even in that extreme situation, I never noticed a dramatic impact on reaction time. Even when the car felt like it spun badly right at the hit of the throttle, it rolled forward far enough to break the beams consistently.
Between my theories and my experience, I rarely ever compensate for any predicted change in ET (faster or slower) by attempting to adjust my reaction time. Sure, the laws of physics say that if we cover 60’ more quickly than last round, we have to cover the first 2’ more quickly than last round. But with that said, I don’t think the affect that a better/worse launch has on our reaction time is enough to adjust for (usually even to the .001 of a second).
So, as much as I hate to say it (and you probably don’t want to hear it), I don’t think that the quicker 60’ time had much impact on your quicker reaction time.  Although, seeing as you were only -.000, I could certainly justify the idea that the better conditions may have contributed to making your perfect light a red light (but I wouldn’t suggest that the quicker ET had much more affect on RT than that).
That’s my .02, I hope it helps! Thanks again for your question and your interest in TIBR!

6/9/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Sean72, who asks:
I need to purchase a new delay box and noticed in one of your tutorials that you use the K&R Pro Cube and release from the elbow so it must NOT be one of their Pro-Cube II with z-force units. My question is, have you tried the z-force? From what I understand its a touch to activate, not a release to activate, if so what are your thoughts on them? Do you like them or prefer the release method?


Thanks for submitting a question for the JEGS Q&A, and for your interest in ThisIsBracketRacing.com. I do use the K&R Pro-Cube box, and in one of the cars I have the new Pro-Cube II with the Z-force option. I have not yet, however, used the z-force option myself (the box allows you to use either the “push” z-force option or the conventional method of releasing the switch). I can’t give much opinion of it at this point, because I’ve never used it. 
To be honest, I’ve never felt more confident on the starting line than I have in the last couple of years. As such, I’m scared to death to make a change! If (and when) I were to struggle, however, I think the z-force would be a good option just to change things up. In the past, I’ve done things to change my routine (like moving the transbrake button, or using a different hand or finger to release it) because at times I’ve felt like I’m just going through the motions. In that situation, I like to change things up just to make me think about what I’m doing (and those procedural thoughts tend to replace the negative thoughts “don’t miss it again” when I’m struggling). In that light, I think the z-force would be very positive.
As a related note, I’ve spoken to a number of good racers who like the z-force option. It alleviates the possible discrepancy of button pressure (how hard we press the button) and seems to make “flinching” all but impossible. The only negative I’ve heard from racers is that they have a harder time knowing when they “miss it” than they did when letting go with the conventional method.
Sorry I can’t shed more light, but hopefully that helps answer some of your questions.
Thanks again!

5/26/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Mikeg100, who asks:
A friend of mine does this a lot. He has a 9.6 second car and when running a faster car, say 8.4, he will spray from the 1000 foot mark deep and then spot drop. What strategy do you think works best to get your win light on?


Like anything, the proper strategy hinges a lot upon the strengths of your own racing operation. We’ve harped on it a bunch on TIBR, but if you’ve got a really consistent car, and you’re normally very competitive and aggressive on the tree, then the “Dialer” strategy should serve you well. With the same car, but somewhat inconsistent reaction times, the “Spot Dropper” strategy should generally increase your odds. And, with a car that’s not particularly dependable or consistent, we’re generally more handcuffed to the “Driver” strategy.
With that said, there are obviously nuances to each strategy, like you discuss in your question. I think nitrous oxide (or any tool that allows us to speed the car up on the race track) can be a huge advantage, particularly as the slower car in a pairing. The reasoning is simple; as it allows us to better dictate the pace of the race. As the faster car, we can “slow down” the action at the finish line by “holding” more ET. This allows us to catch our opponent early, and essentially match their speed. By pacing an opponent like this, we can accurately gauge the finish margin. As the slower car, the more we “hold” the greater we make this speed difference, which in turn makes it that much more difficult to accurately gauge the finish margin (due to the large discrepancy in speed between the two cars). On the other hand, using nitrous as the slower car allows us to minimize that gap in speed; by running closer speed to our opponent, we should be able to do a better job at the finish line.
As such, I don’t mind being dependent on nitrous as the slower car. In doing so, it presents a variety of options. What I’ll use as an example is my general theory when getting chased in a vehicle that has nitrous:
Let’s say that I’m your friend with a 9.60 car, and I’m going into a round believing that I can run 9.64. My opponent is dialed 8.40. I have to figure that I’m giving up roughly 20 miles per hour to my opponent here. Rather than holding some ET, and putting the burden on myself to make the finish margin tight while killing some MPH (making that speed discrepancy greater), I’d rather go the other direction. I’d prefer to dial down just a bit here: say either 9.63 or 9.62. By doing so, I can be pretty confident that I can hold it on the floor (with no nitrous) and not break out. With the nitrous, I’ve got a ton of options as the race unfolds, but I’m likely going to employ one of the three following options based on the scenario:
1.)    If I feel good on the starting line, and it looks as though my opponent will not catch me, I can feel comfortable taking the finish line without the nitrous. If I’ve got a lot of room, I can lift off the throttle, but there shouldn’t be any need in it (it’s highly unlikely that I can break out). This takes away much burden at the finish line and decreases my chances of making a silly mistake in a run that should result in an easy win.
2.)    If I feel good on the starting line, and the race is going to be close (or if I’m going to be a little behind), I can spray to try to take the finish line. By doing so, I actually increase my speed, which makes it a little bit easier to judge the finish line (because my speed is now closer to that of my opponent). 
3.)    If I feel like I missed the tree a bit and/or my opponent is catching me early in the run, then I can employ a strategy like you detailed in your question. I’ll spray early to keep pace with my opponent (which should keep the race close enough that they don’t have room to lift), then basically employ the “Spot Dropper” technique and let them have the finish line. It takes some practice to be mindful of how much ET you’re picking up with the nitrous, and accordingly know how much ET you then have to kill by tapping the brakes, but with practice it can be done. And, even if you don’t end up dead-on the dial in, the same basic theory we discussed in the introductory tutorials applies: if you think you were .040 on the tree, just make sure you get more than .040 behind at the finish line (to make sure you win if your opponent breaks out).
The nitrous club is a good one to have in the bag, as it allows so many options on your end. Plus, good racers with nitrous are the toughest opponents to gameplan against, simply because they have so many options. So, use the nitrous to your advantage and keep your opponents guessing. It shouldn’t necessarily improve your ability to make quality runs, but it should inhibit opponents from making quality runs beside you with regularity.
Thanks again for the question and your interest in ThisIsBracketRacing.com!

5/4/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber TXCAMSS, who asks:
If you were to build a footbrake specific bracket car for chasing big $$ races and staying within a reasonable budget, say $10K-15K, what approximate year and model type would be your car of choice and why? I know it’s a broad question, but assuming you were looking to buy a roller and put together a winning package, what are the must have components to ensure the car is being built properly to repeat numbers when weather and track conditions are having little effect on the majority? Explain converter type, tire size, preferred ET within the average budget, trans type, fuel type, etc.

Thanks for the topic & your interest in TIBR! What I’m going to do here is use my personal Footbrake car as the “ultimate weapon” because I really think it’s as good as it gets, and it falls into the price range you outlined.

My personal car is a ’74 Vega. It was originally built for Modified eliminator in 1974 by Don Hardy Race Cars (they built most of the Pro Stock cars of that day). Over the last three-plus decades it had been back-halfed, front halfed, and probably middle-halfed by the time I purchased it in 2004. If I’m not mistaken, the car was advertised for $15,000 turn-key when I bought it. I traded a rolling dragster and a little cash for the car (probably $13,000 in total value). Since, I’ve done a lot of little things and spent some money to make the car more consistent, more reliable, etc… But the basic combination is very similar to what I bought some 7 years ago.
In my opinion, the main advantage to my car (or others like it) is weight. My Vega is a full tube chassis car. It’s pretty old technology, but its full tube throughout. It weighs 2350 with me in it (and I’m every bit of 225). That lightweight feature allows me to run a low powered small block and still run pretty quick for the Footbrake class (6.0’s in the 1/8th mile and 9.70’s in the ¼). The engine is nothing special: it’s a 355 SBC. It’s got decent bottom end pieces (steel crank, h-beam rods, etc.) and about 12: 1 compression. It’s got an out-of-the box set of BRODIX Track 1 heads (one of my motors actually has the smaller Race Right heads). I run a small roller cam.
My motor is very replaceable: its common stuff that doesn’t cost a lot of money. In fact, I have three motors for the car (and I don’t have over $4,000 in any of them). 
My car has a 4-link rear and strut front suspension. I think this is advantageous just in terms of adjustability and weight, but probably not necessary. I wouldn’t be afraid of a ladder bar/a-arm car as long as it was well built and light.
I run a BTE powerglide transmission and a very loose (6100 stall) 8” converter. I believe that finding the proper converter and carburetor combination for each car is the key to consistency and overall success. I run an APD 750 alcohol carb and belt drive fuel pump. I would definitely lean toward alcohol on any Footbrake bracket car for several reasons. First and foremost, it gives great throttle response for bottom bulb racing. Secondly, on the lower HP motors alcohol generally creates a lot of torque, which helps the car plant the tires and lets the suspension work. Alcohol is (in my opinion) more consistent than gasoline for bracket applications (gasoline can be very predictable, but the best gas carb will never be as consistent as the best alky carb). Plus, it burns cooler which is nice when running multiple classes or entries.
That’s my take on the “perfect” footbrake car. I know there are a lot of different ways to achieve the same end goal; and people win in all types of different vehicles. But if I had it to do all over again, I’d do it the same way and build something like my Vega. It’s cost effective, low maintenance, and a great working car.

4/13/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Kindbd, who asks:
When you race multiple days at the same race track... What do you do if your reaction time seems different the next day? Do you start over , like you were never there? Or do you go off your best reaction time during eliminations the day before ? It seems to be a gray area and very hard to roll it out the next day. But I find for me it changes the following day sometimes. I need a life line on this one, because most races are decided at the starting line.


Thanks for posting a topic for the JEGS Q&A. This is a great question, one that we all deal with from time to time. There are factors that can alter reaction time from day to day, but they are few and in most cases they are minimal. Generally speaking, large variances from day to day are personal issues. Whether it’s fatigue, stress, or over comfort; generally speaking a large variation from day to day is the result of something going on within ourselves as drivers.
With that said, that doesn’t mean you can’t compensate for it; it’s all a matter of how well you know yourself. Personally, I won’t compensate for it; I’ll just focus on going through my routine and getting myself into my optimum focus zone. And I’ll expect that by doing that I can reach similar reaction times to what I had earlier in the weekend. But, if you haven’t established that comfortable routine to build confidence, or you physically feel tired and lazy, it may well be time to roll some delay out of the box.
There are outside factors that can play into reaction time variance from day to day, but again I find that it’s rare that any of those factors are particularly significant. If there’s a monumental change in conditions that has a measurable effect on ET, it could have a minimal effect on reaction time. For example, if the air gets 3,000 feet worse from Saturday to Sunday, and your 60’ time slows by .03, then you’ll probably have a slightly slower reaction time. It’s not monumental: the car is .03 slower over the course of 60’, so how slow can it possibly be over the course of the first foot? But, if you’re comfortable rolling .003 out of the box due to this drastic change in conditions, I won’t argue with that.
Mechanical issues with the car can cause reaction time discrepancies, but it’s rare and even less common for issues like that to creep up from one day to the next. If you fear your vehicle is the culprit some common issues are the transbrake solenoid itself and battery voltage (we’ve discussed this briefly on the American Race Cars Message Board).
Finally, it is possible that the rollout has changed for some reason from one day to the next. This is less likely today than it used to be, as most tracks have their timing equipment anchored in the ground. It’s not like a starting line official can kick an infrared and mess up the rollout (at most facilities). But, variables like this are possible. Generally in that situation, you’ll see a field wide swing in reaction times. You’ll be at the same disadvantage as others in this case, and usually racers will talk about it. In these rare instances, the sooner you pick up on it, the more successful you’ll be.
I was at an IHRA event a few years ago; three races in one weekend (div, div, nat). On Friday, I had the tree as tight as anywhere I’d been: I think I had .050 in the box on the .4 Pro Tree, which is a lot for me. On Saturday, I’m at the back of the line for the Quick Rod time trial, and I’m watching everyone in front of me light it up .025 or worse. Literally no one was better than .025, and good racers at that. It struck me as odd. I left my delay setting where I’d been high .00 the day before and made my time run. I thought I crushed it when I let go, and I looked up to see a .033 reaction. 
Hesitant to buy into one fluke run prior to first round, I rolled about .007 out of the box, to make my best light of the weekend .000 (and my last run .026). I was .028 and won. Now I felt like I had enough data to comfortably roll the delay out. I pulled .020 for the next round, and was .00. It took another few rounds for anyone else to catch up and pull the delay out, so I had an easy road into the late rounds simply because I was willing to trust my first two runs and pull the delay. I ended up winning the race that day, and I attribute my success to picking up on that difference.
The pro tree classes seemed to be the only categories affected that day, and my only hypothesis was that somehow the track activated the “National Event Tree” (with .03 delay) for the second day of the event. I’m not certain that was the case, but it’s the only thing that makes any sense to me.
I got a little off topic there, but I hope that helps shed some light on your situation.
Thanks again,

3/23/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Bubba Black, who asks:
I have never participated in any throttle stop style racing, but your recent columns about throttle stop racing were pretty interesting to me. I have a question regarding run completion. How would you go about computing an accurate run completion? Wouldn't being on the stop(most likely with different amounts in the timers run to run) bring a pretty large variable into the equation, especially being that early in the run?

Thanks Bubba,

This is an excellent question, one that I should have covered within one of the columns. The short answer to your question is that we compute run completion figures using the same methods we do for bracket racing (as outlined in Tutorial 4). But, the complexity and variables of “Super” class racing make this a very interesting topic; and I’ll provide a fairly detailed response for anyone interested in reading it.
A huge key to throttle stop competition that is often overlooked is being able to break the run into segments in order to analyze the effect of changes in the throttle stop timer. In order to do this (when using a conventional throttle stop setup), we must always make sure that we’re on the throttle stop past the 60’ clocks. My Super Comp car, for example, has 60 foot times in the 1.45 range on the throttle stop. I want to make sure that my timer never gets close to that 1.45 second range (it normally kicks back wide open between 2.5 and 3 seconds). This way, the car is performing the same action to the 60’ clock every round: hits the tires, stop closes, and it rolls at half throttle past the 60’ clock. As such, my 60’ times should be fairly consistent (and if they’re not, there are just a handful of variables to look at). My 330’ time should be a direct correlation to the changes I’ve made in the throttle stop timer (because the throttle stop will always kick back to wide open before the 330’ mark). 
I would recommend using the same theory with any “.90” vehicle. Adjust the roll rpm (the speed at which the car rolls while on the throttle stop) until the vehicle kicks back to wide open throttle between the 60’ and 330’ clocks (make sure to leave yourself enough room so that you don’t get too close to the 60’ clock in the summer or too close to the 330’ clock in excellent conditions). 
As long as we can accomplish that goal, then we can really sit down and evaluate our runs by breaking them into segments. Variance to the 60’ clocks could result from a handful of issues: traction, the closing rate of the throttle stop, and any dips or spikes in RPM (due to an inefficient fuel curve when going from wide open to half throttle). Remember, once we’ve got a decent setup, we’re not going to move the bottom throttle stop timer number (when the stop closes to half throttle) or the mechanical setting (roll rpm) of the throttle stop. So, assuming our fuel curve is right, there’s no reason to see monumental fluctuations to 60’ on the throttle stop (these numbers should be comparable to what you see when running the car wide open).
Any fluctuation we see from 60’ to 330’ E.T. should be a direct result of a change in the throttle stop timer (which should follow the ratio we’ve developed as talked about in the last column). Track and weather conditions play a role in this incremental time as well, but for the most part we should be able to predict the 330’ ET based off the time we’ve added or subtracted from the throttle stop.
Discrepancies in ET at the remaining incremental timers (1/8th mile, 1000 foot, finish line) should be a result of weather and wind conditions more than anything.
Run completion exercises can be performed using the same methods we talked about in Tutorial 4. Here are a couple of my Super Comp runs to use as a real world example…
Time Trial:
Corrected Altitude: 3211’
Vapor Pressure: .71
Barometer: 29.94
Throttle Stop Timer: 2.88
60’: 1.393
330’: 4.218
660’: 6.072
MPH: 136.94
1000’: 7.588
ET: 8.856
MPH: 179.85
The above run was my last time trial at last years LODRS event in Belle Rose, LA. As you can see, my throttle stop timer setting of 2.88 falls well between my 60’ time (1.39) and 330’ time (4.21). As such, I expect my 60’ to vary only slightly, and my 330’ times should directly correspond to the time I add or subtract from the throttle stop timer.
As round 1 approaches, the weather conditions are as follows:
Corrected Altitude: 2783
Vapor Pressure: .74
Barometer: 30.04
Using the simplistic weather formula’s we detailed last month, I conclude the following:
Value   Run 1              Run 2              Discrepancy    Ratio   Predicted ET difference
CA      3211                2783                <428>              250: .01           <.017>
VP       .71                   .74                   .03                   .05: .01            .006
BP       29.94               30.04               .1                     .05: .01            <.020>
So, using my formulas, I say the corrected altitude is .017 faster than last round. The vapor pressure is .006 slower, and the barometer is .020 faster. If I add them all together, my total weather discrepancy from the time trial to round 1 is <.031> or .031 faster than the previous run. So, if I leave the throttle stop timer alone (at 2.88), my 8.856 time trial run should now be a 8.825 in round one due to the better weather conditions. 
As I’m paired up, I decide that I want to set up to run an 8.85. Knowing that my throttle stop ratio is roughly 2.2:1 (.022 in the timer = .01 in ET), I add .06 to the throttle stop timer (making it 2.94). At 2.2:1, this should now take my E.T. from 8.825 to 8.852 (.06 change in throttle stop timer at a 2.2:1 ratio should result in .027 change in ET). So, I go into round 1 with the intention of running an 8.85. 
My round 1 time slip looks like this:
Corrected Altitude: 2783
Vapor Pressure: .74
Barometer: 30.04
Throttle Stop Timer: 2.94
60’: 1.387
330’: 4.215
660’: 6.073
MPH: 137.32
1000’: 7.591
ET: 8.902
MPH: 172.03
Obviously, I killed some ET here, so we can perform our standard run completion exercise to figure out what I was going. The 1000’ discrepancy is just .003 (slower on the first round run). The discrepancy in the 660’-1000’ incremental time is .002 slower on our first round run (TT: 1.516, Rd 1: 1.518). So, we add .003 to .002 for a total discrepancy of .005. Since our time trial was 8.856, we can assume that our first round run completion number (what we would have run had I run the car wide open) is roughly 8.861. For a refresher course on run completion, check out Tutorial 4.
Finally, let’s close this with a look at two runs that had a little greater discrepancy…
Here’s a time trial from the LODRS event in Bowling Green, KY. 
Time Trial:
Corrected Altitude: 2990
Vapor Pressure: .74
Barometer: 29.58
Throttle Stop Timer: 2.86
60’: 1.404
330’: 4.219
660’: 6.072
MPH: 137.65
1000’: 7.588
ET: 8.848
MPH: 180.00
Here are the conditions for round 2, on Sunday morning:
Corrected Altitude: 3020
Vapor Pressure: .69
Barometer: 29.74
On this round, I had a very slow (MPH) opponent and the round trend was fast (a lot of breakouts in front of us), so I elected to set up on what I thought was 8.90. My formulas for weather showed that it should be roughly .046 faster than this time trial, meaning that I can run 8.802 with the same throttle stop timer setting (2.86). With my 2.2:1 throttle stop ratio, I rolled the timer all the way up to 3.08 (added .22 to the timer, which should be .1 in ET). This should put me on 8.902.
Here’s what the round 2 time slip read:
60’: 1.405
330’: 4.269
660’: 6.142
1000’: 7.664
ET: 8.979
MPH: 168.50
Between the two runs we can perform a run completion exercise… The discrepancy in 1000’ times is .076 (slower in round 2). The discrepancy in the 660’-1000’ incremental time is .006 (slower in round 2). Add the two together and my end run completion should be .082 slower. We add .082 to 8.848 to get 8.930, my projected ET here in round 2. As you can see, I missed the dial pretty badly. Fortunately, I got by this round and was able to get the car dialed more closely for the following round.
I should also briefly cover run completion for throttle stop racing in the 1/8th mile. With limited incremental times (generally just 60’, 330’, and ET/MPH) it’s more difficult to  perform run completion exercises. Again, our 60’ times shouldn’t fluctuate drastically, and our 330’ times should be a direct correlation to the changes in the throttle stop timer. But, with no other incremental timers to verify our findings, determining the run completion is more of a guessing game. In this situation, I would lean more towards finding an average or predicted 330’-660’ incremental time and just adding that to your 330’ ET to determine the final run completion. I don’t think this method is as accurate as the run completion method I’ve detailed on TIBR, but in this instance it’s really the only method we can fall back on. 
Hopefully my explanation along with these examples helped answer your question. Thanks again for contributing to the JEGS Q&A on ThisIsBracketRacing.com!
Luke Bogacki

3/8/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Ruehle57, who asks:
Regarding spot dropping, do you think an "Adjustable Timing Control" could be used effectively to shave off E.T. during a spot drop? With the unit in my car (MSD #121-8680), I can retard the ignition timing by as much as 15 degrees while making a pass.


Thank you for the kind words and for presenting a topic for the JEGS Q&A. I like the thought process of having a pre-defined mechanical method for executing the “Spot Drop.” In my opinion, however, the timing curve won’t provide enough of a discrepancy to be particularly useful. Even pulling 15 degrees, I believe you’d have to rob the motor of that timing fairly early in the run to kill a measurable amount of ET (my guess would be that if you pulled 15* at the 1000 ft. mark in an 8 second car you may kill just .01-.02). If we could kill a couple hundredths, that’d be great… But, we’re doing it so progressively (over the course of the last 320 feet) that we don’t really change momentum, at least not drastically. Part of the effectiveness of a “spot drop” is that we change momentum quickly, late in the run, which makes it difficult for our opponent to react to. The situation that you’re detailing would be a more gradual change in momentum that wouldn’t create as much of a hardship for our opponent.
Taking your idea a step farther, what I do think would work well (and have seen applied by a handful of racers) would be to use a throttle stop way down track to essentially do the same thing. The stop would have to essentially shut the throttle blades completely to have a substantial impact down track. This would, however, provide a mechanically controlled (consistent), safe (no brakes, just throttle controlled) method to “spot drop” in those situations where you can set up for this specific game plan prior to the round.
I hope that helps. Thanks again for the insight and for your interest in ThisIsBracketRacing.com.


2/8/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Rsimp18, who asks:
My question is two fold. I would like a in depth answer to what people like Steve's Cavalier and Bob's 1$ Nova did to make them so consistent and as a result win with a much slower car. Also, do these guys, and others, who run a much slower footbrake car against much faster cars use the "Spot Dropper," "Driver" or "Dialer" technique? Also, I am having a problem with my 1/8 mile racing, I shift into high gear about a car or two before the fist light. I find it hard to shift, spot the other car and the finish line all at the same time..Any advice short of get another car?


Thanks for your question and your interest in ThisIsBracketRacing.com.  You bring up a lot of good points and questions.  As for the consistency of Bob Mullaney's $1 Nova and Steve Stite's fleet of Cavaliers, I don’t have a great answer.  I’ve never had the courage to race anything like that on a regular basis.  I have spent some time with Steve in the past, and he did share that engine temperature was a big variable on his cars.  He had installed a separate electric fan and had several marks on the stock temperature gauge to try to keep that cycle as consistent as possible.  He also used a set of drag radial (I believe) tires that seemed to help starting line consistency.  Bob is presenting our next guest editorial, so maybe he’ll shed some light on his experiences within that.  Bret Kepner (AKA Mr. Dirt) will also present a column this season, and he’s had a lot of success in street-driven vehicles.  Steve would be another great guest columnist; we’ll look into getting him involved with TIBR in the future to give more insight on that topic.


For the guys in machines like Bob’s and Steve’s, who are generally the slower car by a wide margin…  The advantage to being in a slow car is that all of your opponents will struggle with the speed discrepancy just as much (hopefully more) than you do.  The advantage that you have is that you generally get to look at the same picture every round (in an 1/8th mile race, the 6.00 car will only face an 11-second car once or twice a weekend.  As the 11-second car, we get to see that picture of the 6-second car chasing us nearly every round).


With the idea in mind that most of your opponents will struggle with the speed difference, it really opens up our options.  At that point, there’s really no need to rely heavily on  the “spot dropper” strategy, because the average opponent isn’t going to be able to do a good job with the 40+ mph difference to begin with: so why do something just to throw him a curve?  But the “Driver” and the “Dialer” (or a combination of the “Driver” and the “Spot Dropper”) strategies are both viable, and you could utilize either one based upon your strengths (which can always change from round to round).  For me, I would generally depend on the “Dialer” strategy, because I’m not great as the “Driver” with that huge a discrepancy in speed.  With that said, I’d have a number at which I’d have to give myself a chance.  If for example, I didn’t feel like I could count on the car to repeat within a tenth (.1), then surely I have to feel like I can take the finish line by less than .1, and my strategy would flip to the “Driver.”  That "number" would change as I became more adept at the finish line in those situations.


On the flip side, racers like our guest columnist Bud McNasby have really worked to perfect their finish line skills when getting chased.  Bud admittedly utilizes the “Driver” strategy almost exclusively even when giving up 50+ mph to his opponents.  His mirror system and experience allow him to do a great job on a regular basis (and his results show that).  So the “right” strategy is based on each racers personal strengths more than anything.


As for your concern about shifting into high gear late in the run on the 1/8th mile, I can sympathize.  I drove a car for a friend of mine at a big dollar 1/8th mile event last season that had the same situation.  It can be difficult to put all of the pieces together.  The best advice I can give actually comes from a friend of mine (and TIBR member) that has been very successful in a slower Footbrake machine.  My buddy actually mounted a pair of shift lights on the rear roll cage bars!  This allowed him to pick up his opponents by looking back early in the run, without having to focus on the tach or shift light by looking back forward.  Also, when using mirrors like was suggested by Bud McNasby and Michael Beard in their columns, I think it would be a lot less disconcerting to find your faster opponent & hit the shift on time as well.


Some food for thought, I hope that answers your questions for the most part.  Thanks again!


1/25/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber Bryan Walker, who asks:
I have always thought that I could run with anybody anywhere bottom bulb footbrake only racing. I won 9 decent races last year and a couple big ones this year in my spare car. I was thinking about going up to the 3-day, $10,000 to win and the 64 car shootout race, and was going to enter both until I started reading about some of the lights and times and so forth. It seems as though the winners are .00 every round and basically dead on every round. Some of the worst lights I saw from last year were in the teens. Looking at that, I feel like I might be out of my league, what do you think? I know everyone always says if you dont try then you will never know, but I know that I cant go .00 every round, and with my consistent mid 20s I think in my mind that I would be wasting my time trying to compete with them guys. What are your thoughts?


Thanks for the question and for your interest in TIBR. I gather that the race you’re considering traveling to is the World Footbrake Challenge in Bristol. It’s a great race: well run, well paid, and a great time with an excellent group of people (racers and promoters). 

It is a tough race: one of the most competitive bottom bulb events I’ve ever attended (I’ve been to every one of them, though I’ll miss this season). I wouldn’t say that you’re out of your league by any means: racing is racing. You’re one of the top competitors in your area, and that will translate to any race anywhere. 
With that said, the level of competition from top to bottom is probably tougher at this event (any event of this nature) than any event you’ve ever attended. You know in your area (any area) there are a handful of guys who you’ve got to be on your game to beat: they’ll make a representative run just about every time they run someone of your caliber. The rest of the time you race guys that are capable of making a great run, but for the most part aren’t competitive. Those guys don’t come to these races. At an event like the WFC, you’ll run good racers (guys just like you who are used to winning on a regular basis) just about every round. So, there are very few “gimmies” and it’s a difficult race to win.
The numbers you see in the results are real, but they don’t tell the whole story. Last season, at this race, I got on the run of my life and reeled off 4 or 5 straight .00 lights late in the Sunday race to win. I was also .045 one round earlier in the event and got away with it. It’s not a superhuman race: the guys that end up winning are the guys that get a break or two along the way, and drive well when they have to (just like any other race really).
I attend events like this almost exclusively. And I’m not any better than you are, or the average competitor at these events. I’ve got a little more experience at that level, which may be a little bit of an edge, but I’m not any better. The reason I go to these events are twofold really. 1.) If and when I do win, I get paid. I could win every other week at home for $600 all season, and not make as much money as I could in one good weekend at a race like the WFC. The second reason is the one that most people overlook. Going to these races, regardless of my outcome each weekend, makes me BETTER!   I constantly race good racers in good equipment, and that forces me to challenge myself and try to make better runs. After a few weekends of that type of challenge and focus, going back home and beating up on the locals almost seems easy. 
I go to the Florida Winter Series every year. Financially, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’m gone from home for three weeks, the entry fees are enormous, and the attrition is pretty insane (we race non-stop for three weeks). And, the racers there are all guys like me: who can be gone for three weeks, who intend to make a profit for the series. I’ve had some luck down there, but even with a win or two, I’ll be fortunate to make money on the trip. I go every year knowing that, and I go because racing those three weeks makes me a much better racer. And I can carry that experience through the next season, and it will result in more win lights, more victories, and bigger paychecks.
My .02!
Thanks & good luck!

1/4/2011 - This Weeks Question comes from TIBR Subscriber SC249, who asks:
I see very consistent new suspended dragsters at the track and I see consistent older door cars at the track, both of which can go .00 and dead on very regularly. I have a slip joint dragster. My opinion is that since everyone ran .00 and dead on before suspended dragsters came out, then my slip joint dragster should be just as consistent and capable of winning as any suspended dragster out there.(As long as I plan and execute what I have learned on here). What is your opinion on different types of dragsters and door cars as far as consistency applies?


Before giving my opinion, I must first admit that I’ve been spoiled in this regard for most of my racing career. When I started racing seriously, my father and I had a solid rear end center steer roadster. With it, I won a race for a dragster, which I turned into a 4-link car. As such, I’ve never owned (and competed with) a solid dragster. I’ve driven plenty of them, but never one particular car on a consistent basis. As such, my opinions are more from observation than from first hand experience.
The majority of racers today elect to run suspended cars for a reason. They allow more adjustment (basically just in shock setting, ride height, and pinion angle, as 4-link terms we’ve been inundated with from door car specialists like “intersect point” and “instant center” don’t make a huge adjustment without front suspension), which allows us to make a suspended car competitive regardless of the amount of power we’re putting to it. I don’t think a suspended car is inherently more consistent than a solid car, except on really rough race tracks where the solid car is actually apt to lose contact with the racing surface. It’s my opinion (and a general consensus) that the suspended cars are safer for shut down and top end braking for the same reason (the suspension allows constant contact with the racing surface).
With that said, I don’t mean to say that you cannot be competitive with a solid or slip joint dragster. Your adjustability, however, is extremely limited. In my experience, each slip joint-style car has a comfort zone in terms of power and torque in which the chassis “works” well and will perform consistently. When I was getting started in racing and slip joint cars were still very popular, the hot item in our area at the time was the Cameron Race Cars dragsters. Those cars were built with a significant bow in the bottom frame rail, making them one of, if not the most rigid chassis on the market. Those chassis’ were so stiff that you had to have a bunch of power to make them work. The faster you went, the better the car was. Guys went 4.70’s (which was crazy fast at the time) with great success, but guys in the 5.20 range struggled because they didn’t have the torque to load the chassis at the initial hit.
The Mullis cars of that time were the opposite. In the big dollar bracket arena, those cars were considered to be the best thing available, because all of the guys in the 4.90-5.20 range dominated with really consistent Mullis Cars. Those cars had a lot of slips and a lot of give, and it seemed like the guys who tried to rotate the earth with them overpowered the chassis and struggled. I used those two manufacturers not to name names, but to illustrate my point.

That point is that you have to find your cars comfort zone, and I think every solid or slip joint dragster has one (whereas with the suspended car you can make it work running 4.40, or 6.00). But, like you said, I agree that a solid or slip joint car, operating within its comfort zone, on a decent race track is just as good a weapon as anything else.

Thanks again and good luck in 2011!




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