12/14/2012 - This weeks question comes from TIBR subscriber Superpro5533, who asks:
I am sitting here watching, and reviewing all, or at least most, of the big dollar bracket races in the past month. I found a trend that some drivers will do a burnout, but then proceed to not take the tree, or a pass, and basically idle down. What is the purpose for that action? Cant they just break the beams and back up?


Good question, as that’s actually the cause of some debate. The rule in NHRA and IHRA competition is, as you stated, that on a bye run the driver/car must stage under its own power and “take” the tree; which means that you don’t even necessarily have to break the beam under power, you just have to get staged and let the tree sequence begin. An interesting note: I have seen racers lose on a bye run in NHRA Pro Tree competition when the transbrake didn’t hold (or they staged in high gear), as they were staged long enough to activate the tree, but left before the starting sequence. They were disqualified. It’s no different than side-by-side fouls in Super Comp or Super Gas (or even the pro categories). If both cars leave before the tree is activated (LB3A) on a heads-up run, they’re both disqualified. The reason is that the timing system has no way to prove which car left first. There is a provision in the rule book for the starter to override that and declare a winner if one car obviously left before the other (which was invoked in an NHRA funny car matchup within the last couple of years; I don’t remember the drivers).
Anyhow, back to your question… By the NHRA and IHRA rule book you are correct. However, some tracks have their own rule; and to be honest many tracks operators either don’t know the rule or have their own idea of how to enforce it. As a result, if I don’t have any need or desire to run all out on a bye run, I’ll generally ask a track official what is necessary to advance to the next round. If they say that I just need to take the tree, I’ll do so and back up. If there is any question or confusion about it; I’ll idle down to the finish line.
Another factor to consider is that in a lot of the big dollar bracket events the ladder and/or lane choice is based on reaction time. So in those instances, most racers will go through their burnout routine and staging process and hit the tree to maintain lane choice. At that point, generally they’ve built up too much momentum to efficiently stop and back up, so they’ll just coast to the turnoff.
Complex answer to a simple question (my style)… Thanks again!

11/29/2012 - This weeks question comes from TIBR subscriber "Anonymous", who asks:
I have two unrelated questions to ask. My first question has to do with reaction times later in the day as the sun goes down. For my second question, I would like your opinion on what you would have done in my in a particluar situation.


I have two unrelated questions to ask. My first question has to do with reaction times later in the day as the sun goes down. I am a foot brake street class racer and have always listened to everyone around me saying that you will see the LED bulbs sooner at night time and how they almost always add delay when the sun goes down. So I have always tried to adjust accordingly by lowering launch RPM or front tire pressure. My lights almost always seemed to be worse when I did this, so I started not changing the car at all and my lights still seem to get worse from previous rounds in the day light. For example I could be .025-.040 through the first 3 or 4 rounds of competition and then in the last couple rounds slow to .06-.07. I know this could be caused by a number of things and maybe it’s just a lack of focus on my part. I do feel as if I stage very consistently as I bump in very shallow every pass. I just wanted to know your opinion/experience on reaction times after the sun goes down in box and no box competition.
I would like your opinion on what you would have done in my shoes for my second question.
It’s the last race of the year and you are in the semi-finals of a local bracket race in the sportsman class. If you win the race you are the points champion for the year. A comparison of like runs and weather would put you running between 8.72-8.74 in the first 3 rounds of 1/8th mile competition. In round 4 you dial an 8.76 versus an opponent you know that is holding at least .04. You win the round because he gives the finish line back to you by .0008 seconds. You ran an 8.769 on your 8.76 and scrubbed maybe enough to kill .01. The next round your competitor has been inconsistent all day and you noticed they just made an all out pass to a 8.68 on a 8.54 dial in (looking up their previous runs show they didn't kill any MPH compared to previous runs). They dial an 8.69, what strategy would you adopt here?
This is what I mistakenly do. I dialed an 8.78 hoping to be the driver because we are very close in MPH (they’re only 1 mph faster) and because my car throwing me a slow # that last pass worries me a bit in dialing honest. It was only 25 minutes between rounds and I was afraid my trans and converter was still holding some heat and maybe would cause the car to run slower from previous run of estimated 8.759. I knew I was late when I left, but by 60' I had a really good feeling that they were later because of track position. By 330' I was a decent amount ahead and this just gave me more confidence in my strategy of taking the stripe by a small margin. I start to kill some before the 594 and I bring them closer to my stripe on my window as I use the 90* rule especially with virtually no MPH discrepancy. I bring them to what I believe is a couple feet and keep it there electing to not kick the throttle one more time and I look up to see their win light glowing and my chance at track championship gone. I was late as I expected but had a .006 advantage. I killed 4.5 MPH and ran a 8.777 on my 8.78 as they ran a 8.703 on their 8.69. I took the stripe by .022 which I was very comfortable with. With my opponent only having a .092 package it is very upsetting knowing that is what potentially stopped me from winning a track championship. I would just like to know what method would you most likely have adopted before the run started, and what would you have done different going down track knowing you were holding what you thought was very little and thinking you had the starting line advantage. Thanks!
Thanks for the questions and your involvement in TIBR. Here are my thoughts, one at a time.
1.)    What you’re seeing at night is not uncommon, and for me personally it’s much more exaggerated in bottom bulb competition. Let me attempt to explain from a box racers standpoint first, then I’ll tie it back into No Box competition. Back in the day, prior to LED bulbs EVERYONE was faster at night than during the day. With the old incandescent bulbs, you could see the bulb coming on (warming up), so the darker the surroundings, the easier it was to see it coming. LED bulbs are either on or off; there’s no warm-up period. As a result, light conditions don’t make nearly as much difference as they did with the incandescent bulbs. Personally, in box competition it’s rare that I need ANY difference in delay from day to night. Personally, I hit the tree best at dusk or in shaded conditions (maybe .003-.007 better than day or night), but my day to night reactions are pretty similar. The only exception to this rule comes when I race at facilities that are poorly lit. At some of the little bracket tracks, the tree can be really dark at night. So much so, that when the stage bulbs light, they really flood out the top bulb (because there is no direct light on the tree). As a result, I have a hard time actually picking out the bulb until it comes on. So what happens (at least this is my explanation) is that I’ll have a slight delay after the bulb lights as my eyes actually FIND the bulb, then allow me to process that it’s on and react to it by releasing the button. The result is a slower reaction time at night than during the day (by as much as .01).
That situation is multiplied for me in bottom bulb competition, because there is more light to deal with from the tree. I’ve been to several small tracks where the tree is so dark that I feel like I’m staring into a black hole trying to find the bottom bulb. As the tree starts down, the light from the above bulbs just floods out the bottom of the tree and makes it worse. I’ve actually caught myself trying to find the bottom bulb as it lights. At these tracks, where I see .01 variance (slower) from day to night in Box competition, I’ll often see .03 variance in bottom bulb competition.
In short, you’re not crazy. If you’re consistently seeing a drop-off in RT at night, it’s not because you’re constantly losing focus. It’s an eye sight issue. Either find a way to light up the tree or compensate by raising your launch RPM or adjusting tire pressure, etc. at night.
2.)    As for your situation… I don’t really see a great flaw in your gameplan, and to be honest it sounds as if you got very unlucky. If I were you coming into the round, my thoughts would have been this…
My opponent just ran .14 over their dial-in, and as best I can tell they did so wide open. So their car just threw them a loop. I have to assume that at some point they ran 8.54 (their dial-in last round), and they just ran 8.68. So their car has moved .14, maybe more throughout the day. Judging from the information you provided, my car is MUCH better than that. So I would use that to my advantage.
When my opponent dials 8.69, I would (mistakenly, by the way) assume that he or she could certainly run faster than their dial: their previous runs say that they can breakout by anywhere from .01 to .15. Given that idea, and the fact that we’re close in ET (which not only should allow me to do a good job at the finish line, but also should allow my opponent to do a good job if I hold it on the floor), I’m going to dial up, probably similar to what you did, to a 8.78; maybe even a touch more (depending on my confidence in my car), to 8.79 or 8.80. But for the purpose of this conversation, let’s just say I stick with 8.78. I feel like I’m holding anywhere from .02 to .04 based on recent runs.
My inkling here is that my opponent will not make a good run; they’re completely guessing at the dial-in. The trick is to not let that inkling effect my own execution; I feel like I can make a solid run, and they likely cannot. But if I “slack off,” then I’m likely to make myself just as bad as my opponent. So I still want to be aggressive on the starting line.
With my 8.78 dial, I feel like I have to kill .02-.04, and I’m really entering the round thinking more along the lines of the “Spot Dropper” than the “Driver,” simply because I expect my opponent to be breaking out. Unless I have a significant starting line advantage, I really don’t expect to be ahead when I visualize this round.
Given that idea, I likely would have been a little bit confused as the race progressed. Putting myself in your shoes… I felt late. I can go .02-.04 under, and I think my opponent can break out as well. I really SHOULD NOT be in front as we head down the track, but obviously I am. It’s a gut instinct at this point; again all of the important indications (pre-run analysis and our perception of reaction time) point to hitting the brakes and giving up the finish line… But track position really dictates that we should take the stripe.
Likely, just like you, I would have elected to go ahead and cross first. It’s easy to say in hindsight, but I would have probably been more aggressive at the finish line. I say that simply because a big part of me doesn’t even want to cross first; the indicators really say I shouldn’t. As a result, when I make the decision to stay in front, I’m going to try to make it stupid close (I’m probably more likely to give it back here than to take too much and break out). 
Overall, I feel like you got very unlucky. In can’t really flaw your strategy at all: I would have looked at it a little differently coming in (as I’ve explained above), but my gameplan would have essentially coincided with yours. In terms of execution, you made some minor mistakes: you obviously would have liked to have had a better light, and tightened up the stripe a touch more.  But if you had told me all of the background information, then said that you would be .073 and take .022, I would have said: “That wins that round 80% of the time that your opponent isn’t under.”
It just so happens that your opponent ran .01 above here, a much better run than I would have anticipated, and it sounds like your car sped up and was running a quicker ET than you figured. From a strategy standpoint, I don’t think you did anything wrong. If there is any lesson to be learned from the round, it’s to never take an opponent lightly (not that you really did), and to always maintain aggression at both ends of the track; regardless of your perception of your opponent coming into the round.
Thanks again, and good luck next season!

10/15/2012 - This weeks question comes from TIBR subscriber Jerry132Z, who asks:
Luke, I really enjoyed reading your take on the NHRA sportsman championship odds last season as it came down to the wire. I realize your perspective may be a little different this season, as it looks like you’ve got a chance to win the title in Super Comp and/or Super Gas. Regardless, I was hoping you could give a similar breakdown of everyone’s chances in the sportsman categories.

Thanks Jerry,

As always, the NHRA points chase is intriguing. And, as a numbers (and racing) junkie, I keep up with it pretty closely. Had I answered your question prior to last weekend, there were several more possibilities than currently exist. Today, if my math is correct Brad Burton has clinched his second championship in Stock Eliminator, and my buddy Jeff Lopez has locked up the Super Gas crown. Congratulations to each of them; they’re certainly deserving champions!
That means that Super Stock and Super Comp are still undecided. Just like when I was presented this question last year, the Super Stock chase is the most intriguing. Last season I said Jackie Alley was the favorite at 4:1, and she ended up making me look pretty smart!
This year, Joe Santangelo is the leader in the clubhouse at 612 points. Joey is done earning points, and that’s not a total that traditionally earns the title, but I think it has a decent shot to hold up this season. With that said, no less than 8 drivers still have a mathematical chance to overtake him for the championship.
Of the contenders, Jimmy DeFrank has the best chance. He can earn points at the Las Vegas divisional, where he’ll try to improve a 52 point outing, and the World Finals, where he’ll attempt to throw out a 40 point performance. He needs 40 more points to match Santangelo. That’s no small task, but he is Jimmy DeFrank! 
Bryan Worner is currently third, and could overtake Santangelo with a final round appearance at the Las Vegas divisional. With that said, Las Vegas is a long way from Worner’s Pennsylvania home, so there’s no telling as to whether or not he’ll even make the trip. Ken Etter has a shot as well; he’s currently 72 points back, but he’ll improve a 2nd round loss at both Vegas events. Defending champ Alley is still in contention: she is 93 points back, but can improve a first round loss in Vegas and a quarterfinal in Pomona. 
If you’re looking for a dark horse, keep an eye on TIBR contributor and 2011 BTE Power Rankings Champ Jody Lang. Jody is currently 111 points back, but he can earn points at every event remaining on the schedule. His biggest chance to make up ground is at the divisional, where he’ll improve on a first round loss. His chances are slim, granted, but don’t tell him it’s impossible. He watched his own seemingly insurmountable lead evaporate last season when Santangelo did the unthinkable. It would be quite the story for Lang to return the favor!
East coast racers Joe Lisa, Brad Zaskowski, Fred Bartoli, and James Antonette are all still in contention mathematically, but all are long shots and none are currently entered in the remaining races out West.
My odds for winning the title:
Jimmy DeFrank: 3:1
Joe Santangelo: 3:1
Ken Etter: 5:1
Jody Lang: 15:1
Bryan Worner: 15:1
Jackie Alley: 25:1
Everyone Else: 40:1
Super Comp is a little bit easier to figure. Al Kenny has led most of the season, and he still has one event left (the Las Vegas divisional) at which to improve his score. Coincidentally, he has the same total as Santangelo in Super Stock: 612. Just like in Super Stock, 612 is not a total that historically wins the Super Comp title, but just like Santangelo, I think the odds of that number holding up for Kenny are pretty decent (plus he essentially controls his own destiny at Vegas).
If my calculator is working correctly, the only drivers with a chance to overtake Al are Stefan Kondolay, myself (I know that guy) and Val Torres. Kondolay has the best chance, as he can gain points at all three remaining events. He’s currently 40 points back, and has to improve on a third round loss at either national event, or a 4th round loss at the divisional. Meanwhile, Kenny will attempt to improve on a second round loss at the division race.
I have a mathematical shot: if neither Al, Stefan, nor Val surpass 622 points I would win with a final round appearance at the divisional in Las Vegas (assuming it’s an 8 round race, which it historically is). Torres will need a deep run at each of his last two races to take the lead, and he’ll need some help in the form of the others failing to improve in order to win the title.
A month ago, I would have said Kondolay was the favorite, but now I think it’s swinging back into Al’s favor. Regardless, everything will likely hinge on the Vegas division race. If I were laying odds, I’d say:
Al Kenny: 2:1
Stefan Kondolay: 2.5:1
Myself: 10:1
Val Torres: 20:1
Hey, that 10:1 is the same odds I gave Joe Santangelo of winning the Stock Championship at this time last season, so you just never know!!! : )
Seriously, thanks for the question and your interest in ThisIsBracketRacing.com!

9/18/2012 - This week's question comes from TIBR subscriber Chad Covert, who asks:
Luke, I know you have switched to everything being operated electrically versus from Co2 (shifter, throttle stop) What are your main reasons for the switch and as far as consistency how has the change made your program better? I've run inline stops for 10 years and was recently going to buy the Dedenbear TS6 just because I simply guage what works by how many i see at the track and what the "big guns" seem to be using. I've been told that I should switch to electric just for the lessened risk of failure or inconsistency. Is the disc style under carb setup better than an inline in your opinion? I guess all in all im just asking what you think is the best option for a 175mph dragster in Super Comp to help it back to back the best way possible.


Thanks for the question, and sorry for the slow response.  In my opinion, any plenum-style (under the carburetor) throttle stop is more forgiving than a linkage-style stop. With a lot of fine tuning, I know linkage stops can be really predictable and consistent, but it seems like it’s a lot easier to get out in left field. In my experience, the plenum-style stops are much more fool-proof and easier to get a baseline with just about any combination.
As far as the air vs. electric debate, I honestly see little to no difference in terms of on-track consistency. The main reasoning behind C02 for most racers is the ability to “bleed” the stop open and/or closed and slowing the opening/closing rate of the stop. A lot of racers think this is necessary with high HP cars. It’s not. Maybe 20 years ago it was, when we were kicking off in low gear with 15” wheels on suspect race tracks. I have electric stops on both cars, and they slam open at 250-300’ down track. My dragster runs 7.0’s wide open, and has an aluminum block (less weight on the rear), and it’s never spun or shook the tires coming off the stop.
The only advantage that I can see to the C02 setup is that it should be slightly easier on the electrical system of the car. Electric solenoids (t-stop and shift) draw a lot of amperage, which could, in theory, rob other devices of necessary power. I’ve never actually traced a problem back to this personally, but I can see the voltage spike on the data logger and it is concerning.
For me, however, that concern is outweighed by the ease of operation with electric systems. In the past, whenever I’ve run C02 systems, some silly issue or mistake has cost me at least one round per season (forget to turn the air bottle on, air bottle leaks empty, line is punctured, fittings snaps off, etc.). Electric is fool proof: if my junk starts, the t-stop is going to work.
As far as the specific style of t-stop, I don’t personally have any experience with the TS-6. I currently run the standard TS-5 on the ’vette and I’ve got a Sunset electric stop on the dragster. I’ve been very happy with both, and honestly don’t see any significant difference between the two.
Thanks again, I hope that helps. 

8/2/2012 - This weeks question comes from TIBR subscriber Jimmy D, who asks:
Luke, I have what is probably a strange question. I consider myself an average racer; I win my share, a couple races each season on average. I’m usually in the top ten in points at our local track, and even won the track championship in 2007. The reason for my question is this: I have one particular opponent that I simply cannot seem to beat. Whatever I do, he seems to do it a little better. If he makes a mistake, I make a bigger one. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good racer. I don’t feel like I should beat him every time we race. But I don’t feel like he should beat me every time we race either (and he has). Any suggestions?

Thanks for the topic. We all have opponents like this; that we just have a poor track record against for whatever reason. My only suggestions are to…

A.) don’t change your gameplan or do anything elaborate to try to beat this particular opponent. Race him (or her) like you would anyone else. As much as we talk strategy here on TIBR, the vast majority of races are decided by solid execution, regardless of strategy. So focus on what you do well, and make a good run.

B.) Try to race this opponent! Most racers will shy away from pulling up beside good racers, or racers they have a poor track record against. Huey! For one thing, you’ll never challenge yourself and improve if you continually pair yourself with racers who you feel are inferior. In this instance, you just have to get past the mental block of thinking “I just can’t beat this guy.” The only way to do that is to beat that guy! I’m not saying that you need to make a display of chasing him to the lanes, but don’t shy away from the opportunity or the chance to run him. I guarantee that if you race enough the odds will work in your favor: eventually you’ll see a win light. And once that happens, he’ll no longer be the opponent you “can’t” beat. He’ll just be another racer, just like the rest of the field that you beat 65-80% of the time (depending on your individual round win percentage).

Everyone goes through this, and for whatever reason we all tend to keep score to some degree. I can think of several racers who I feel are every bit as good a racer as I am, if not better, that I have a great record against. I can also think of several racers who I feel like I should beat as often as anyone, that I’ve got a very poor win percentage against. Generally speaking, there’s no riddle to that: I just made above average runs vs. some opponents, and below average runs vs. others. In other words, usually the outcome of those races hinged as much (or more) on my performance as on anything that happened in the other lane. So focus on what you can control and make the best lap you can every round. Over the longterm, the odds and percentages will fall into place.

Thanks again and good luck!

6/29/2012 - This week's question comes from TIBR Subscriber Sammym, who asks:
I've had a problem since I started footbraking with reaction times, I'll have a few good lights and maybe .00x. I'll adjust tire pressure and starting line rpm but I can not keep myself from backing off mentally which will put me .100 or worse, I know it's a lack of focus I just need some footbrake advice. How do I back off without getting lost?



Thanks for the question. I know it’s easier said than done, but the key to successful bottom bulb racing is to discipline yourself to do the same thing every time. It’s no different than top bulb racing. Remember the quote from John Labbous, Sr. that I included in my top bulb column (Tutorial 19)? Something to the affect of: “The key is to figure out how much delay you need in the box so that you can’t red light. Then you try to red light every time you stage!”


The same principle is true in bottom bulb racing. You want to mash the throttle the instant you see color in the third amber. The key, obviously, is to adjust your car to make that “spot” competitive. Your goal is to hit the tree exactly the same every single round. Then simply adjust your car (launch rpm, air pressure, etc.) to get to the desired reaction time. The cardinal sin in bottom bulb racing (really any type of racing) is to try to make mental rt adjustments. As you illustrated, very few racers have an accurate mental delay box!

In Sal Biondo’s column, he referred to something he calls “Robot Mode,” where he tries to take all emotion out of the equation and simply release the button when the light comes on; like a robot. That’s the key; to somehow remove your brain (your doubts and fears) from the process. Be aggressive, don’t be afraid to red light, and challenge yourself to do the same thing every round, regardless of the situation.

I’m sure I didn’t say anything you don’t already know, but I hope some of that helps your situation. Take care and good luck!!



5/30/2012 - This week's question comes from TIBR subscriber Dennis Bargeron, who asks:
Luke, I have been trying a new style of racing here lately. I believe it is what you call the driver. I have always been the dialer type and maybe carry one number. I usually try to keep my margins. 01 or less. This works probably 80% of the time the other 20% I find myself giving the stripe back .008 or less. A lot of this has to do with stomping the brake on the line and losing track of the closing rate. What I’m asking is with me footbraking a 6.7 door car what would be a decent amount to carry and how much stripe should I aim to take. Also, how much can I pull up what Michael beard wrote on this site a few years back on bottom bulb racing?


Thanks for the message. First off, all members can access Michael’s column and any guest tutorial column by clicking on the “Guest Tutorial” icon in the Member Center Menu.

Back to your original question… First off, you’re doing a great job if you can consistently keep finish line margins to .01 or worse. In doing so, you will occasionally give back the finish line. Don’t be too hard on yourself in those situations: giving it back every now and then is just part of being aggressive. With that said, obviously we want to keep those mistakes to a minimum.

As the “Driver,” the amount of ET that I “hold” is very dependent on the speed of the opponent that I’m racing. We’ll use your car as an example. Let’s say that we’re running 6.70’s at about 100 mph. If you’re anything like 95% of racers (myself included) you do the best job when you’re the faster car by 10 mph or less: this allows you to pace your opponent, and you’ve usually got enough power/momentum to recover if you realize that you’re making it too close.

With that in mind, our goal is to make the difference in speeds at the finish line under 10 mph whenever possible. Manipulating our dial-in based upon the speed of our opponent is the key to doing that.

Let’s say, for example, that we hook an opponent dialed 6.95. The average 6.9 car probably runs somewhere around 95-97 mph. Perfect! We have that slight mph advantage. In this instance, we don’t want to get real carried away with holding a ton of ET. If we hold too much here (.05-.10), we’ll pass our opponent too early in the run, and we’ll drive past them. This essentially makes us the slower car, as we have to back into this opponent, forfeiting the mph advantage that we had coming in (to make it close, we end up running less mph than our opponent; which makes our job at the stripe more difficult). Instead, I would recommend holding a smaller amount in this spot, like .02-.03. This way we catch our opponent later in the run, pace them, and cross the finish line slightly in front. In doing so, we’ll usually match our opponents mph (assuming they hold it wide open through the finish line behind us).

Now, let’s say that we hook an opponent dialed 8.20. This racer probably cross the finish line at about 85 mph. So we have a 15 mph advantage. That’s not an impossible difference, but it’s certainly tougher than a 5 mph discrepancy. In this spot, I would encourage you to hold more ET. What this does is allow you to catch your opponent earlier in the run, lift earlier in the run, and slow down to a speed close to that of your opponent (which allows you to more accurately judge the finish line). In this spot, I would be more inclined to dial up .04-.08. By doing so, I should catch my opponent early enough to coast to them, pace them, and cross the finish line slightly in front, at probably 2-5 mph higher than my opponent (assuming they hold it wide open behind).

Using the same principle, I’d advise against holding a bunch against faster cars. Let’s say, for example, that you have to face a 6.00 opponent, who can run about 115 mph. Now, you’re giving up 15 mph. That’s not impossible, but it’s more difficult to do a good job at the finish line than in a heads up scenario. The last thing you want to do here is to hold a ton: the more mph you have the kill, the greater the speed difference will be at the finish line. If, for instance, you were to dial up .05 here, you’d have to kill somewhere around 10 mph to hit your dial-in (depending upon where on the track you kill it). By doing so, you take the mph discrepancy from 15 mph to 25; which just makes your job tougher. In this case, the more mph you can run, the easier your job will be.

So, in this spot I would lean more toward holding a smaller amount, like .01-.02. Over time, obviously you’ll want to change it up occasionally based on your opponents tendencies and their knowledge of your general strategies. But as a basic outlook, I always advise holding more against slower opponents, and less against faster ones. The goal is to make the finish speeds as close as possible, to make your job at the finish line easier.

Thanks again,


5/15/2012 - This weeks question comes from TIBR subscriber Danny Stanton, who asks:
My son drives my car,and normally has very good lights in time trials. In eliminations he struggles when leaving last ,which he normally does. What suggestions do you have to improve his abilities in this area of concern. Of course this is handicap (super stock) racing with a .5 full tree.


Thanks for the topic here on the JEGS Q&A and for your interest in TIBR in general. Focusing on the tree in a handicap situation as the faster car is one of the most difficult things in all of racing. There are a ton of potential distractions. You’ve got your opponents tree counting down, their red or green bulb, their stage bulbs going out, their car leaving the line, and in some cases (with much slower opponents) their car actually driving into view behind the tree. It’s very difficult to tune that out.

In fact, for me, it’s nearly impossible. So I use some blinders to help my cause. I don’t “block” the tree in typical terms; when racers refer to “blocking” they usually are talking about some type of apparatus that helps them block the top bulbs so that they can only see their bottom bulb and react to it. While that strategy has some merit, I personally am not a fan of it. I feel like I’m better and more consistent if I focus on my bottom bulb but still see all of the lights on my side of the tree come down in my peripheral vision.

What I do try to block, however, is my opponents side of the tree. On my bottom bulb cars, I have clips screwed to the overhead roll bar, and I slide a piece of cardboard in the appropriate clip to block my opponents side of the tree (this way, I don’t see their amber bulbs, green or red, or stage bulbs). That gets rid of a lot of distraction and allows me to focus better. It takes a little bit of getting used to, as you’ll have to close on eye in order to block out one side of the tree.

In addition, I use some small blinders on my helmet (I have an extra shield, but this can be accomplished with tape) to limit my peripheral vision. This blocks out a lot of the extra potential distractions on the starting line, including my opponent’s car leaving the line. In fact, between the hanging blinder and the helmet blinders, I can generally position my head so that I completely block the other lane of the race track. By doing so, it makes every run a time trial (in terms of the tree and reaction time).

I would strongly suggest doing the same thing to anyone buttom bulb racing with a handicap start. It does take some getting used to, but in the long run I think it’s a much more consistent approach that is easier to master run after run.

I hope that helps, and thanks again for your interest in TIBR!



4/25/2012 - This week's question comes from TIBR subscriber Dylan Kiser, who asks:
What advice would you give for actually tightening my finish line window as far as making it close?




Thanks for the question. Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula for making the finish margins close; it’s trial and error, and I think that for the most part efficiency comes with experience.

With that in mind, try not to get too frustrated with yourself when the number at the bottom of the ticket isn’t what you wanted to see (or thought that you saw on the race track). Just try to learn from the experience and get better going forward. What has helped me immensely over the years is to always try to predict the timeslip before I see it. What was my light? What was the finish margin? Knowing that, what were the likely ET’s? That sounds like a ton to process, and at first it is. But the more you do it, the more proficient you get, and at some point, you don’t even need a timeslip to tell you what happened.

That theory, in general, is what I would impress upon you more than anything. Each and every time you go down the race track, challenge yourself to determine the finish margin PRIOR to seeing the timeslip. Who crossed first? By what distance? Then, put that distance that you see into the increment (time) that you’ll see on the ticket. At first, you may not be able to predict the finish margin within .03 consistently. But if you constantly take that picture in your brain, and compare it to the number you see on the ticket, eventually you’ll put the two together very well. In time, you can “see” a couple thousandths at the finish line, and predict nearly any close finish margin within .005 or so.

To me, that’s the first step in becoming a really good finish line driver (with consistently close finish line margins). You have to be able to see the difference in track position before you can do anything to alter it.

Actually altering track position to make those finish margins consistently close is another topic altogether, but it requires a lot of the same disciplines. It’s trial and error, and it takes keen attention to detail and a willingness to accept our mistakes and learn from them.

I know that wasn’t a particularly direct answer, but I hope that it helps you. Thanks again for the question and your interest in TIBR!


3/15/2012 - This weeks question comes from TIBR subscriber 69CamaroSS, who asks:
The 2012 season is getting fired up. Any predictions for this season’s BTE Power Rankings Champion?



What a loaded question! I think we could make a list of 50 drivers and be fairly confident that the champion would come from the list; but narrowing it down much farther than that is nearly impossible. Our past champions Dan Fletcher, Gary Williams, and Jody Lang are each great drivers who had an excellent season. As evidence of the parity at the highest levels of our sport, none of those three have another top ten finish in the power rankings standings. So picking the racer that will have a standout season in 2012 is tough.


It’s very early, but Todd Ewing and Sherman Adcock have already put up impressive numbers. Last season was the first time that the winner didn’t eclipse the 100 point mark. The top mark is very unpredictable; Fletcher won it with 155 in ‘09, then Williams put up a ridiculous total of 179 in 2010. Lang won last season with just 96.

If you want to pick a champion, the obvious contenders have to be John Labbous, Jr. and Peter Biondo; they’re the only two racers that finished in the top ten of the Power Rankings every season. From a consistency standpoint, you would lean toward the racers who have posted great scores over the history of the program. We combined the power rankings for 2009, 2010, and 2011 to give a quick look at the most successful competitors over the three year span. The combined totals look like this:

1.) John Labbous, Jr. 270

2.) Dan Fletcher 262

3.) Edmond Richardson 243

4.) Peter Biondo 242

5.) Gary Williams 218

6.) Jason Lynch 214

7.) Luke Bogacki 214

8.) Nick Folk 202

9.) Troy Williams, Jr. 188

10.) Jody Lang 180

Each of the three past champions appear on this list, but there is certainly no guarantee that the 2012 champions name will come from those ten. Who will have a big year? Your guess is as good as mine! This would make for some compelling discussion on the American Race Cars “Strategy Session” message board here on ThisIsBracketRacing.com!

One thing is for certain; the champion will end the 2012 season very happy. Like each past champion, the 2012 TIBR Driver of the Year will earn a new Top Dragster or Top Sportsman power glide transmission courtesy of Bill Taylor Enterprises. The runner-up will take home a BTE converter of their choice. The rest of the top ten finishers will earn great prizes courtesy of Todd’s Extreme Paint, Auto Meter, Mickey Thompson Tires, Moser Engineering, K&N, and ThisIsBracketRacing.com. To earn prizes, top finishers must be TIBR members.


Members and visitors alike can keep up with the BTE Power Rankings on ThisIsBracketRacing.com by scrolling over the TIBR Resources tab and clicking on “2012 BTE Power Rankings.”


Thanks again & good luck to all subscribers in 2012!



3/2/2012 - This weeks question comes from TIBR subscriber Reggie175, who asks:
My 18-year-old son wants to learn how to bracket race. He’s grown up around the sport, but never shown any interest in driving himself until recently. He never raced junior dragsters. Heck, he’s never even driven down the track. I want to teach him and help him get started. I’ve got 20 years of racing experience, but saying and doing are two different things. Where do I start?


I actually did a private school recently for the daughter of a racer friend of mine who was in a similar position. The goal that you should have in mind is to take the learning process step-by-step to accomplish three things:

1.) Develop comfort on the track

2.) Understand not only “how” to perform on-track tasks, but equally importantly “why” we perform on-tack tasks in certain ways.

3.) You’re starting with a clean sheet of paper, so with proper instruction you can avoid creating bad habits (that he would have to learn to overcome later)

I would suggest starting in a street car or a very simple, slow race car. The initial instruction should be very basic, so the less intimidated your son is with the actual vehicle, the better. I’d also recommend setting up some time with your local track operator so that you can have the track to yourself. I’m not saying that you need to rent the track for a day, but I’d ask if you could come out early on a test ‘n’ tune day just to work on burnouts, routine, and staging (you don’t necessarily have to go down the track until the actual race day starts). In the introductory stages, actually making the run is almost the reward for successfully completing the pre-race routine.

Once you’re at the track (in all honesty, you can practice a lot of this stuff in the pits or in your driveway to get him comfortable with the general ideas), you want to break the run and pre-race routine into small, specific parts. Start with the burnout. This is likely the most awkward part of the entire routine (as it goes against the way the average person drives daily), so it will probably take a little getting used to. Be sure to emphasize the importance of consistency, explain where you want him to start the burnout, and make sure he understands how the line lock works (if used).

Then let him do as many burnouts as necessary until you’re both happy and comfortable with the burnout procedure. Once that happens, we can move on to establishing a pre-race routine. My suggestion is to make this a logical process by creating a written list of objectives. Your son has some background knowledge of the sport, and he knows himself, so let him take part in creating this list.

Basically, what you’re trying to do is to create a mental checklist to review prior to staging each round. The checklist should include things like: review instrumentation, check the dial-ins, reference the groove & make sure you’re lined up in it and aimed straight down the track, make sure the car is in the proper gear, take a deep breath, etc.

To brush up on the importance of a positive routine and get some additional ideas, review Tutorial 3.

Once you’ve established the written routine, challenge him to think through it in the car (without the car running and away from the race track). You want to see him go through those mental progressions.

Once he’s comfortable with that, the next step is to develop a precise staging technique. This is an area that you want your son to not only execute with precision, but to also understand “Why” he’s doing it the way you’re teaching. Staging can be a difficult subject to explain because of the math and intangible aspects; but take some time to review rollout and emphasize the need to stage the car in as shallow a position as possible and duplicate that process every single round. For some pointers, review Tutorial 2.

Once your son understands how important and crucial consistent staging is, and understands that he needs to place the car into the beams as shallow as possible, it’s time to once again take it to the track. Watch him closely as he begins to establish his staging process. At this point, just have him stage over and over with constant instruction. Once he gets it right, have him do it some more!

Once you’re both happy with the staging process, let’s back up and put it all together. Let him do a burnout, go through his pre-race routine, and stage all at once (just like he’ll do in competition). Since he’s performed each task individually, he’ll likely be able to put it all together pretty quickly. Go through the entire routine a few times before you mutually determine that he’s ready to make a run.

At that point, you want to move on to focusing on the tree and the starting line, then concentrate on down-track progressions and fundamentals. It’s the same deal; just compartmentalize your teachings into as small a part as possible (it’s easier to digest that way). Take your time in progressing through the learning process. Have him go through his burnout, pre-race routine, stage, drop the tree, and let him launch the car and lift. Let him do that a few times to begin to get into a rhythm on the starting line and get used to the acceleration of the car. Once he’s comfortable and you’re happy with every facet of his routine, let him go to 330‘. Then 660’. And so on until he’s comfortably and confidently making full runs.

At some point as his career progresses, he’ll obviously want to improve his starting line skills and begin to understand finish line techniques and strategies. That time will come, but much discussion of it in the introductory stages will likely be very overwhelming. Keep it simple and take it one step at a time.

I hope that helps, thanks again for the topic!


2/7/2012 - This weeks question comes from TIBR subscriber 26kc33, who asks:
How do you figure out the weather for your E.T. without a weather station?

I depend on a weather station at events that are contested over multiple days; like national and divisional events or the ET finals (any event where we don‘t necessarily get a time trial the day of each elimination round). However, I rarely take the weather station out of the trailer at bracket events, where I can make several passes in a single day.

At those events, generally speaking conditions don’t change significantly enough between runs over the course of the day to warrant a weather station or predictor (keep in mind I‘m discussing events near sea level; I realize weather swings are generally more dramatic at altitude). When there is a significant change in conditions, it’s usually obvious (day to night, or a front blowing in, or a significant wind change). In that instance, I will do one of two things… 1.) Just go by feel and my knowledge of my combination, or 2.) watch the scoreboards (to see how much cars with a similar combination to mine are moving in ET). I know that’s not scientific, but it is how I’ve always bracket raced.

Is there value to a weather station when bracket racing? Sure, and I’m not trying to say that it’s a waste of time or money. What I see more often than not, however, is racers using the weather station as a crutch--and depending on it to predict every variable of an upcoming run. That’s not a solid judgment. In today’s average bracket vehicles and at typical bracket facilities, track conditions and vehicle setup have a much more significant effect on consistency (and predicting a dial-in) than any change in weather 99% of the time.

As a result, my dial-in (or more accurately, my predicted ET) will be based largely on track conditions, round trends (what everyone else is doing), and my feel for the weather; generally in that order. Kyle Seipel did a much better job than I did of explaining this in his Guest Tutorial column last summer. Check it out in the guest tutorial section.

I hope that answered your question. Thanks again, and good luck in 2012!



1/6/2012 - This weeks question comes from TIBR subscriber Camaro581, who asks:
Hey Luke, I love the new Q&A from 12/20. I have been a bottom bulb racer since I started racing and just ordered a Pro Cube to give top bulb a shot. Any advise to someone just starting out with a delay box?

Here’s the good news… In my opinion, it takes MUCH more focus on the starting line to be a competitive bottom bulb racer than to be a competitive top bulb racer. With that said, obviously there are some new things that you have to consider and adapt to. I’ll try to hit some basics…

1.) Staging routine & mechanics: You shouldn’t have to alter your current Footbrake routine much at all when going top bulb racing; the vast majority of the things that you currently do to prepare the car and yourself to perform will translate to either category. Your staging process should be similar as well. Many top bulb racers prefer to stage at a dead idle, which in most cases is fine. Others (like myself) bring up the rpm slightly to bump the car in. At one time, there was a mechanical reason not to stage at idle (transmission pump pressure, carb stumbles, etc.); but with today’s technology, in most cases it should not matter. So stage at whatever rpm you feel comfortable (and they may require a little trial and error; but it’s something you can do in your driveway).

I suggest getting into the habit of “covering” the transbrake button with your thumb or finger (whatever method you’re using to press the button) when you pre-stage. The thought process here is to rest your hand over the button so that once you stage you don’t have to look away from the tree to reference the button: you just press it in. This way your vision doesn’t ever leave the tree.

Since you’re new to top bulb racing, discipline yourself right from the start not to engage the transbrake until BOTH cars are staged. If you get into the habit of setting the button as soon as you stage (regardless of whether or not your opponent has staged), it’s a very difficult habit to break. And, like we’ve talked about here before, I feel like you take better advantage of the autostart system and avoid physical tension by waiting to set the button until both you and your opponent have staged, regardless of who stages first.

Once you’re staged and set the transbrake button, there’s another part of your routine that you should give some thought to now, before you hit the track. When are you going to “chip” it (when are you going to press the throttle)? Some racers like to chip it as soon as they set the transbrake. Others wait until they release the button to put the car on the starting line chip. With the advent of “Pro-Stage” (K&R) and “Auto Start” (Digital Delay), you can set up a linkage throttle stop that does this for you; but if your car is going to be multi-purpose (footbrake and/or top bulb), then you don’t want to mess with a linkage throttle stop. Since you’re starting with a blank page (no top bulb experience), my recommendation would be to remain at your staging rpm until you release the transbrake button, then push the throttle to the floor and let the motor go to the starting line chip. If nothing else, this helps retain more consistent transmission temperatures.

2.) Delay Settings: Odds are, you’re not going to hop in the first weekend and be John Labbous. While it’s still racing, top bulb racing is a little bit different and it’s going to take some getting used to. Try to implement the ideas I talked about in the last Q&A. For every run, denote a row in your log book for your “hit meter” and your “bottom.” The “hit meter” is a scale of 1-10 on how good you felt about your reaction time when you let go of the button. “Bottom” is the delay you would have needed in the box to be .000 that round (so if you had a .022 reaction time with 1.030 in the box, that run’s “bottom” was 1.008). It will probably take some time before your “hit meter” corresponds real well with your actual reaction time, but challenge yourself to do that and improve. The “bottom” just allows a quick reference for the least amount of delay you can have in the box without actually setting yourself up to red light.

Your delay setting will vary according to the variance that you show throughout the day. Starting out, it’s not uncommon to have a .04 window between your best and worst reaction times. Does that mean you need to set up to be .040? No. It just means that you’ve got some variance, so you’re probably not ready to set up to be .005. I’d suggest running enough delay to make your best RT .010-.015 depending on how good you felt (“hit meter”) on your previous best. With more practice and increased focus, you’ll see improvement. When that window gets down around the .02 range, and you’re more confident in your “hit meter,” then you can get a little more aggressive with the delay setting.

3.) Bump Down and Bump Up:

At first, leave these unhooked or zero them out. Your initial goal should be to discipline yourself to focus and hit the tree every round; not to be dependent on a bump-down. Now, as you develop and you begin to see your “hit meter” line up more accurately with your actual reaction times, you’ll start to have runs where you say… “I knew I was late,” or “I knew I met it coming on.” When you get to that point and those thoughts correspond with a tardy (or early) reaction time, then you’re ready for a bump down.

I’ve always recommended starting out with a big number in the bump-down/up, like .015 or .020. You want to teach yourself not to hit it unless you KNOW that you missed the tree (or anticipated it to bump up). It’s not a button to be taken lightly; it’s a second chance when you know you’ve made a mistake. As you progress, you’ll get more accurate with your “hit meter” and RT prediction when you release the button; then you can start to reduce the bump-down toward a number like you see most of the touring bracket racers run (.004 to .010).

Hopefully that helps to give you some food for thought coming into your first delay box experience. I’d also recommend plenty of visualization and practice away from the race track. Sit in the car in the shop and take yourself through the staging process; when to set the button, when to hit the throttle, and most importantly when to flip the proverbial “Focus” switch to its highest setting.

Thanks again and happy new year!



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