7/10/2013 - This week's question comes from TIBR subscriber DK2684, who asks:
I first started hitting the tree by following it down. Now I stare at the bottom, but I know several successful racers that follow and count with a rhythm(like 1 2 go)I personally think staring is more consistent but what are your thoughts on it?

I’ve heard both theories and in the past I’ve attempted it both ways. In my opinion, staring at the third amber and reacting to it lighting is BY FAR more consistent than any rhythmic/counting method. Try it on a practice tree: 99% of racers will be more consistent letting go in a reactionary fashion to the top bulb (with delay) or on a pro tree setting than on the bottom bulb with no delay. That’s because top bulb racing is strictly reactionary; there are no prior bulbs to create a rhythm. The trick to bottom bulb racing, in my opinion, is then to attempt to keep it as simple and reactionary as top bulb racing. In reality it’s no different: I try to react to the bottom bulb lighting just like I do the top bulb when racing with a delay box. The only discrepancy is that when bottom bulb racing I’ve got two bulbs that tell me the bottom is about to come on!

There are several resources on TIBR that talk about this issue in greater depth. Some of these include:

Bob Mullaney’s guest column, “Doing it Deep”: http://www.thisisbracketracing.com/guest.cfm?details=5F5409050D01

Michael Beard’s guest column, “The Footbraker’s Guide to Reaction Times”: http://www.thisisbracketracing.com/guest.cfm?details=5F5409030A02

Tutorial 20, Fine Tuning Our Starting Line Skills:

http://www.thisisbracketracing.com/members.cfm?details=5F540902090C Thanks again & good luck!


6/13/2013 - This week's question comes from Johnnybgood, who asks:
In two time trials with the same delay (1.130) you post reaction times of .011 (left lane) and -.015 (right lane). You felt good on the tree on both runs. You've raced at this track before, and there normally isn't any difference in lanes. On these two runs, the 60' times are within .004, so there likely isn't much difference in rollout. The question is this: for first round do you cover the red light or leave the box alone?

Great question Johnny, one that we all face from time to time.

Before I get into my answer, one thing that I recommend is challenging yourself to keep a "hit meter" for all of your runs.  The challenge is this: when you release the transbrake button (or mash the throttle in Footbrake applications), rate your personal reaction time (before you see the RT on the scoreboard or on a timeslip) on a scale of 1-10.  10 means that you can't react any quicker.  1 means that your eyes were closed when the tree dropped.  Note that "hit meter" in your log book.  It tends to make setting the delay box a little bit easier throughout the course of an event.

Now, since in your example you stated that you felt good on the tree in both runs, I'll assume that your "hit meter" on both runs is an 8.  The problem now, obviously, is that we have a .026 discrepency between two hits that we both felt were pretty solid.  What I would do here is cover the red light, at least in the opening rounds.  I would probably add .017-.020 to the box.  That makes my last light a green one.  It also makes my first reaction time .028-.031, which is not likely to win in competition.  I would err to that side for this reason: in order to be remotely consistent on the tree, I need to be fearless.  If I leave 1.130 in the box, I know that I just went -.015 with that delay.  As much as I want to convince myself that run is a fluke, I know from experience that I cannot go hit the tree aggressively when I know that I've brought the red light into play.  If, however, I go into the round with a 1.147 setting, I can look at the box and say to myself "OK, you've got way too much delay, so you CAN'T go red."  That allows me to be more aggressive mentally, because I feel like I have to have a great personal reaction time.

With all that said, if I manage to sneak through a round or two with lights that mirror that first time trial, I'm going to pull the delay for the later rounds.  If I have 3-4 reaction times within a pretty tight window, and that one outlier; I can say with more confidence that it was a fluke and I'm not likely to duplicate it.  At that point, I would pull that delay back out.  But until I have that data, I would err to the side of caution.  I certainly don't like the idea of being .025-.030 on the tree, but it will win more often than -.010.  Equally importantly, with the aggressive mindset, I'll be able to compile useful RT data going forward if I am fortunate enough to win a round or two without a stellar RT.

Great question!


5/7/2013 - This weeks question comes from TIBR subscriber "Rawepower", who asks:
What is your theory on peripheral vision blinders? Most people who use them just put duct tape on or under the sides of their helmet visor. I think I may have even seen pictures of your helmet with the sides of the visor blacked out. I used to think it was better to have a full field of vision for noticing things with peripherals, like a slower competitor with a slow R/T. But now, I ask about peripheral blinders because I'm thinking they might help with an issue I've been experiencing. I wear glasses with a relatively strong prescription. So, my peripheral vision is pretty poor. Sometimes I find myself getting lazy down track and watching my opponent in my peripheral vision. When this happens against an opponent of similar ET, I usually end up.007 behind, thinking I'm in front. I'm thinking that if I block out my peripheral vision, I will be forced to turn my head farther actually focus on my opponent. My biggest concern is that I'll inadvertently reduce my awareness of my opponent. For example, it'll be a lot harder to watch dragsters running me down in my 6.40 door car, as they leave the rear view mirror and enter the rear side window. I keep my belts tight, so turning around in the seat isn't very practical.

 

Great question. I do employ peripheral blinders myself for two reasons. The first is to block out potential distractions on the starting line. I started doing this at some of the smaller tracks in my dragsters because I would often see the starter and/or spectators out of the corner of my eye during the staging process. Now, even at the bigger tracks and events where it shouldn’t be an issue, I feel naked without a blinder. Secondarily, like you stated, I feel like it forces me to focus more at the finish line by turning my head and making direct eye contact with my opponent rather than getting “lazy” as you stated, and cutting my eyes and/or using my peripheral vision.

As far as your method for driving the finish line, obviously the more direct eye contact you can make with your opponent (either in a mirror or by turning your head), the better off you’ll be. Picking up an opponent visually doesn’t require loose belts, you can do so simply by turning your head and neck (maybe not out the back glass, but certainly out the rear quarter windows). Personally, I’ve never felt comfortable with mirrors, so my head is on a swivel. Just because that's the way I do it doesn't mean it's the right way; there is a great thread in our message board (mainly contributed by Bud McNasby) dedicated to the use and placement of mirrors in door cars: http://www.thisisbracketracing.com/Forum/messages.cfm?threadid=07F26A1C-9CF3-7D06-35BE412D61551656


5/7/2013 - This weeks question comes from TIBR subscriber "nomad", who asks:
My question is a relatively simple one. I've read all the editorials and they've been a help. I seem to be able to do well at the starting line and my car is extremely predictable but, I don't seem to be able to drive the stripe. I've given the stripe back at the first two division races this year. Plus, I've done it at a couple local races lately. It's not hard to see it's on the time slip. What can do to minimize this?

 

Thanks for your question. Unfortunately, I doubt that I’ll be able to provide any groundbreaking advice; at times that only way to improve is to make mistakes and try to learn from them. Finish line racing is an art form, and pages upon pages of written words are no match for real world seat time. With that said, I will share a few quick ideas…
#1: Try to be more disciplined, at least until you feel more confident at the finish line. You said yourself that your car is good and you’ve been solid on the tree. Play to those strengths. Dial more honest and/or simply don’t put the added pressure on yourself to make the finish margin super tight. Put more trust in your starting line ability and your cars consistency, and just try to make the obvious decisions at the finish line.
#2: Track your tendencies. Are you giving back the stripe when you’re the slower car? The faster car? Is your foot action solid? For me, I have a tendency to overestimate the momentum of the faster car; whether I’m faster or slower. What that means is that I tend to take more stripe than I thought or intended when getting chased, and I tend to give it back (or more accurately never get there) when I’m giving chase. I don’t have a great explanation as to why I do that, but I know that I do. So, stated simply, I compensate. As the faster car, I move my spot up on my opponent to where I feel like I’m comfortably ahead. As the slower car, I basically try to make it a tie at the finish line: when I do I usually end up getting there first by a small amount.
#3: What are you looking at down track? If you’re making mistakes trying to drive wheel to wheel, I’d recommend trying the 90* approach. If you’re making mistakes 90*, then switch it over and try to drive wheel to wheel. A simple change will break up your routinely and almost certainly require added focus (which may be just what the doctor ordered). For a more in-depth summary of both methods and some addition finish line tips, check out Tutorial 5: http://www.thisisbracketracing.com/members.cfm?details=5F5409000901
Thanks again, and good luck!


3/26/2013 - This weeks question comes from TIBR subscriber Jeepers Creeper, who asks:
Simple breakdown… When categorizing the typical opponent, what percentage of potential opponents fall into the Dialer, Driver, and Spot Dropper strategies that you outline here on TIBR?

 

Simple short answer…
1/8th mile bracket racing:
Dialer: 75%
Driver: 15%
Spot Dropper: 10%
 
¼ mile bracket racing or .90 class racing:
Dialer: 40%
Driver: 30%
Spot Dropper: 30%
 
That data is my personal opinion, which has been formed from over a decade of high level competition in just about every corner of this country, and it’s also constantly evolving. With that said, it may or may not be a fair representation of your area or form of competition. What I’ve noticed more than anything is that racing is a “follow the leader” sport. As a result, I believe that trends are typically very geographic and that they’re based on the masses following the lead of the most successful competitors in each given area. 
Are the best racers in a given area “Dialers?” If so, I think the trend is for the other racers in that area to really concentrate on their equipment, reaction times, and dial-in selection. This results in a region full of “Dialers.” 
Where I grew up, it was a group of “Drivers” who dominated the scene for years, so just about everyone was trying to race the finish line. We all tried to learn that strategy because that’s what was shown to us (usually through the lesson of hard knocks) by the winning racers.
Granted, there will be a mixture of strategies just about everywhere; but I definitely see higher percentages of each of the three basic strategies in regions where one has been proven by an elite competitor.

Thanks again for the question and for your support of ThisIsBracketRacing.com!


3/6/2013 - This weeks question comes from TIBR subscriber SC745, who asks:
I'm new to TIBR, and just began reading the tutorials. I recently lost a Super Comp round and I think I made a critical error in strategy. In my race, I was behind by .01 at the start (.015 to .025 but I did not know that of course). I was dialed for around a mid .89 and when my opponent came around me towards the end I let him go. What I did not know was that I was slow to the 1000' on the run by .02 (which I think I should have because where he caught me) and with lifting I ran a 8.93 to his 8.92. My run completion program said I would have just run a 8.92 all out so I was in a no win deal but in that instance, I should have pushed him all the way to the end right? That is what I am trying to understand.....I have a slower car in this class without a doubt and I am wondering if I need to adopt a new strategy or continue to attempt to hit the dial as I do now. I went 8.905 in the first round all out, but it did not serve me too well when I was behind as I had no way to make it up if anything happens. Your thoughts?

 

Before we go too in-depth with analysis, spend some time reviewing Tutorials 6, 7, and 8. These are the “meat and potatoes” of TIBR, and cover what we refer to as our standby “basic” winning finish line strategies. It’s not groundbreaking information; they’re ideas that you’re familiar with… But we present them in a very cut and dry format in order to provide verbiage for future discussion.
When looking back on an individual round, I like to break up the analysis into two equally important parts: Strategy and Execution.
In your round, I find little flaw in your strategy. Basically, you came into the round with the intention of implementing the “Spot Drop” strategy: you were set up on 8.89, and had intentions of killing the .01 to run 8.90, almost regardless of track position in reference to your opponent.
In the strategy department, I have little issue with this setup. On the whole, this is a winning approach, particularly against an opponent who is predominantly a “Driver.” The only potential flaws here are two questions that you have to give consideration. Number 1: are you holding enough ET to cover your worst competitive reaction time? In this instance, we need to assume that our opponent is .00x. You want to “hold” enough ET to make it appear to your opponent that you’re making a perfect run (this limits his or her options at the finish line). So, if you’re confident that you’ll be .010 or better on the tree, setting up 8.89 is optimal. If, however, you tend to vary more in reaction time, you’ll want to hold more ET (If you’re subject to be .020, you’d be better served to set up 8.88… .030? 8.87… .050? 8.85… Worse? Well, then you probably just need to get better on the tree, because you’re not going to win too many rounds worse than .050!).
The other potential flaw/variable is that your car has to be very dialable to execute the “Spot Dropper” strategy with precision. Much like the “Dialer,” the “Spot Dropper” is heavily dependent on being able to trust that the car will run the ET predicted.
Without knowing much about your personal tendencies, skill sets, or the consistency of your setup, I won’t say that your strategy had a major flaw; but those are two considerations for the future.
Execution, however, is where this race went wrong. For starters, your strategy is dependent on having a reaction time of .010 or better; so the .025 light put you a little bit behind the 8-ball from the jump. But, when you consider that your opponent was .015, you’re really still in the ballgame given your strategy (you’re .01 behind, but you should be holding .01, so you shouldn’t necessarily lose strictly by the RT difference).
In terms of your personal finish line execution, you did nothing wrong. You came into the round with the “Spot Dropper” strategy in mind, and a need to kill .01. You have to kill that .01 regardless of track position. Just because your opponent caught you early doesn’t mean that you’re slow (it could just as easily mean that he’s fast), and you can’t try to make a decision one way or another at speed: it’s pre-determined. You have to trust that you’re going 8.89, and kill .01, which you did. 
Unfortunately, your car let you down here; as you missed the target ET by .03. You were running 8.92, and when you executed your spot drop, you ended up with a 8.93 ET. That is an error in execution in its own way; not on you as a driver, but on your setup, or ET prediction.
Even with the starting line disadvantage, you likely would have won this race had you been running the 8.89 like you thought. Your opponent appears to have been holding more ET than you were. So, he’s got a .01 advantage at the starting line. If you’re running 8.89, he catches you and tries to pace you to the finish line. Even if he’s doing a GREAT job by staying .005 ahead, when you execute your “spot drop” and kill .01, he’s almost certainly going to be .015 ahead at the finish line. Now, your .025 and 8.90x beats his .015 and 8.89x. 
On the flip side, you probably would have had a hard time winning with the 8.93, but if you were just a little bit closer to the ET prediction and had a .00x reaction time, the math would likely have worked out in your favor as well. Let’s say that you’re .005 to his .015. And let’s say that you’re running 8.910 and drop to 8.920. Same deal: if he’s doing a great job at the stripe before you drop, he’ll likely take .015 at the stripe. Your total package is .025 (.005 rt and 8.920), to his .015, take .015 (which puts him at 8.895 with the breakout).
Now, the million dollar question is this: Was your loss more a result of poor strategy or poor execution? You may have been able to do yourself a favor in strategy by holding a little bit more ET (8.87 or 8.88) as you suggested, but overall I think you can chalk up the loss to poor execution. Unfortunately, we’re not going to win many rounds (regardless of strategy) when we miss the dial by .03 or more; and your odds of victory almost always increase with a superior reaction time.
Regardless, it’s all food for thought that you can analyze and digest in an effort to improve the next time you hit the track. That, in the end, is what it’s all about.


1/23/2013 - This weeks question comes from TIBR subscriber Eric Bowling, who asks:
What size nitrous kit would you recommend for finish line driving in a slow door car, say 6.80's-7.10's in 1/8th mile?

 

I fear that the average bracket racer errs to the side of caution when selecting a nitrous kit and/or installing the pills. In my experience, by the time I realize I need the nitrous, it’s pretty late in the game. What I want to do with it is this: change the complexion of the race. Basically, I want to be able to go from a wheel behind to a wheel ahead at the press of a button. Doing so requires a bigger kit/pill than most folks think.
I run a Nitrous Express plate system, simply for cost, ease of installation, etc. A direct port “fogger” is better/more efficient, but I doubt many bracket racers want the added hassle and expense.
On my dragsters, I just automatically install the biggest pill that the plate kit offers (generally 400-500 hp on a plate system). On a car like yours, you can probably get away with a little bit less (obviously 400 hp of nitrous has more effect on a 600 hp engine than on a 900 hp engine), but I wouldn’t start with anything less than a 250 hp setup.
When I tell people, “just put the 400 hp pill in it,” they tend to freak out and think they’ll blow everything up. In reality, we’re using the nitrous for a very brief period of time, at high rpm. It’s not nearly as hard on the motor as spraying for 4+ seconds right at the hit. A big pill late in the run isn’t a huge burden on the engine; I’ve done it for years and never had a problem that I could attribute to nitrous.
Tips: I always stick to the fuel curve (jetting) recommended by the manufacturer. If anything, I tend to err a little bit to the rich side (NX spec sheets will offer a “conservative tune-up, a safe tune-up, etc.). On jetting, I tend to go as conservative as possible (keep in mind, you don’t want to go too far; several engine builders have told me that a rich nitrous setup can be nearly as destructive as a lean one). I’d also recommend tying in some sort of timing retard that just pulls timing when you spray (this isn’t completely necessary for what we do- unless you’re going to hose it all the way down the track, but I feel better about it nonetheless).  I’d also wire in a wide-open throttle switch so that you can’t mistakenly tap the button driving through the pits (I’ve done that), or inadvertently fill the motor with nitrous when it’s not running.
If you’re “spot spraying” or spraying on a timer, bottle pressure and volume are critical to consistency. Put a pressure gauge in the car and stabilize it (within 50 lbs.) for each run. Pressure is regulated by heat; when the bottle is hot, pressure is high. To release pressure, use the purge valve. To build pressure, heat the bottle (bottle heaters are available. Open flame torches are generally frowned upon/prohibited. I’ve also used a heat gun with success).
As for volume, I remove the bottle and weigh it prior to each day of competition (unless you’re spraying every round, I don’t think checking it between rounds is necessary). Keeping the bottle topped off is key. On a 25 lb. bottle, I refill mine when it gets to 21 lbs. or so (otherwise it’s hard to keep the pressure stable, and you’ll get more compressed air than liquid nitrous when you do spray).

One other note that I have learned from experience… Install an inline shutoff valve (I just use a ball valve that I picked up at the local hardware store), within your reach as close to the solenoid as possible (as short a line as possible). After each run (in the shutdown area), I close the valve and purge that short line to the solenoid so that there is no nitrous pressure at the solenoid. A lot of people don’t do that, and I didn’t for years… Then I had a solenoid stick and fill the motor with nitrous. When I started it KABOOM: it blew the hoodscoop 50 feet in the air, bent the carb butterflies up around the shaft, ripped 12 teeth off the flexplate, and scared the heck out of me! Not an experience that I want to relive… It’s a cheap fix.  You’ll waste a little nitrous, but it’s worth it!


1/10/2013 - This weeks question comes from TIBR subscriber Still Cruisin, who asks:
I'm use to running Super Street or high 9's in Super Pro, at 138 mph max. I will be moving into a low to mid 7-second category at 180 mph. My question is, how does one compensate for the huge difference in mph using the spot drop? The higher mph will cover 123 ft/sec vs. 94 ft/sec with the slower car. That's a 31% increase in speed at the traps. My mind has everything figured out at the 94 ft/sec speed, so dropping say .02 will be very different. I guess the answer is trial and error and repetition? On the same note, what if you are running both cars? Any tips on how to flip from one mindset to another? PS: I can't seem to find your 2012 Q&A Archives. Have you hidden them somewhere?

 

Still Cruisin,
Yes, the increased speed is definitely going to create a change, most notably in your spot drop procedure. Obviously, since you’ll be covering ground more quickly, your spot drop will have to come a little bit earlier on the race track with the 7 second car than it did in the Super Street application. So, if your .02 drop in the S/St car is, say, at the MPH cone, you’ll have to execute the same drop about 30 feet earlier in the 7 second ride to kill the same .02.
 
Like you said, seat time, repetition, and trial and error will be the key. With that in mind, I will give you some optimism; it won’t be as difficult as you think. Don’t get me wrong, it will take some time to get used to the speed and to get comfortable judging the finish line at all. But once you do, the finish margin will be easier to tighten up (at least on cars of a similar speed). This goes back to the same fundamental you described in your question: you’re covering ground that much quicker. Where a .01 finish margin at 138 mph was roughly 24” of track position, the same margin will be roughly 32” at 180 mph. So, if you’ve been consistently tightening up the finish line to .015 with the Super Street car, you can expect that same margin (in terms of distance) to tighten up to about .010 with the fast car, once you get accustomed to the speed.
 
The other factor that no one considers is the idea that faster cars are actually making more power… All the way down the race track. As I illustrated earlier, your spot drop will have to be adjusted for the added speed. But, when racing beside and opponent, the amount of ET that you kill (and calculate mentally) while staying ahead will actually be pretty similar. Generally speaking, the same “rip” of the throttle at the same position on the race track will kill similar ET in the 7 second car as it will the 9 second car. Why? Because although the slower car is covering less ground per second (meaning that a change in momentum should have a greater effect), it’s also making less horsepower (meaning that the change from wide open throttle to idle is less discrepancy than on a higher horsepower machine). In the end, the two basically offset, which is nice because it means that the two cars won’t generally demand a completely different driving style, which makes jumping from car to car much easier.
 
There will certainly be nuances from any one car to another. I’m of the opinion, however, that driving both in the same event simply forces us to concentrate and focus on those nuances, which over the long haul will make us much better drivers.
 
Thanks again for the question and good luck!
 
P.S. The 2012 archive issue has been resolved, you can now view all of the recent Q&A’s by clicking the links below. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!
Luke
 


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