The Christmas Tree
Roy Hill is on hand for each run. He personally coaches each student on where to put the c
They call the pole with signal lights to start a race the Christmas Tree because the colorful lamps resemble the symbol of Christmas. In the past, the pre-stage and stage lights were yellow bulbs, now they are blue LEDs hooked to a computer that will automatically foul a driver who does not stage 7 seconds after both pre-stage bulbs are lit and one of the two cars is staged. This prevents a driver from burning down the other car while the opponent is staged and on the limiter waiting to leave. The Tree is connected to the staging beams, and when both cars are staged, the starter will flip a switch and start the countdown to the green light. After the burnout, Hill will direct you into the groove with quick left and right corrections and stop you right before the pre-stage beam. He will flick you the OK sign through the windshield, and you are on your own.
The Staging Beams
Knowing where you are in the staging area will help you win. There are four beams total at the starting line: pre-stage, stage, guard, and lock-in. The pre-stage beam lights the top half of the LED circle on the tree, indicating to the car in the other lane and the official starter that you are ready. At zMax Dragway, the stage beam is 7 inches away from the pre-stage beam, and when both lanes have lit both halves of the circle on the Christmas Tree, the starter will activate the tree. If the eliminator uses a Pro Tree, all three amber lights will flash simultaneously, followed four-tenths later by the green. On a Sportsman Tree, the three lights will flash in sequence, five-tenths of a second apart, before the green. The reaction time has no effect on the elapsed time, but sitting at the line is called leaving late and will allow the car in the other lane to beat you to the finish line. The object of the game is getting there first.
While we were taking the class, Bob Tasca III helped us with some starting-line pointers.
At the school, professional Top Fuel drag racer Bob Tasca III was on hand to give us some advice. "Roll in and light the first beam," Tasca says. "Lightly lift off the brake to light the second, instead of lifting off the brake and hitting it again. If you lift then see the second light before you hit the brakes a second time, you are too deep."
Staging deep means more of the tire has crossed into the stage beam. Since in drag racing you leave on the third yellow, a tire at the edge of the beam is more likely to foul the car by leaving the starting line before the green. A good, repeatable, reaction time is between 0.040–0.060, meaning the car left the starting line less than six-hundredths after the green light came on. Leaving before the green light comes on turns on the red light, and you automatically lose the race—unless the guy in the other lane does it too, and worse. A red light is indicated by a negative number reaction time on the timeslip.
Shallow staging adds mph, essentially giving you a running start, but slows the overall reaction time. The driver with the lowest reaction time gets the holeshot. When two cars run the same speed and e.t., a holeshot will win the race.
Deep or shallow, you must line the car up the same way each race. "The crew chief's info must be consistent," Tasca says. "That can get you lane choice, and you win more races with lane choice."
The guard beam is there to prevent something low on the car from triggering the finish line beam before the front tire, thereby shortening the track. If the stage beam is still blocked and the guard beam is broken, you get a red light. The lock-in beam is 1 inch before the stage beam and prevents a red light if the car rocks backward after the stage beam is lit. Hill will both line you up in the groove and put the car right in front of the pre-stage beam; the rest is up to you. Know your car, know where you are in the 133⁄8 inches between the pre-stage beam and the guard beam (this will vary per track), and you will win races. Try not to bump the car into the staging beams—as always, smooth in the race car is smooth on the track. Floor it on the last yellow.
The electric eyes are in the black box. When your tire leaves the stage beam, the e.t. tim
Back off if something goes wrong. If you get out of the groove, if you lose traction, if you are headed for the wall, you are expected to lift and end the run. Leaving the line in someone else's 10-second race car will show everyone if you can handle it. A lot of guys involuntarily lift on the first pass.
To get a license, you must get a sign-off on two eighth-mile runs, two 1,000-foot runs, and two quarter-mile passes. Hill will be watching for mistakes, and it is up to him to determine your ability to drive the race car safely. "I am looking for a driver that can control himself mentally and control the car physically," says Hill. Did you listen? Are you braking correctly? Are you straight on the track? Are you doing the burnout correctly? If you look like you are capable of controlling the situation to Hill's satisfaction, he will sign off on your run.
If you get to the quarter-mile in the 10-second car safely, Hill will move you to the 8-second car so you can earn your Class 4, Type B license to drive cars that run 7.50–9.99 in the quarter-mile with less than 125 inches of wheelbase. If you get to this point, the only real difference is how hard the car leaves and how the car builds speed at the top end. If your eyes are locked on a point on the horizon and you are relaxed in the car, the additional speed will seem effortless. Do it all right, and Hill will sign the paperwork and submit it to the NHRA. The license will come later in the mail.
The 5.4L has plenty of power with the big Whipple in place to get to 8.50 and beyond. The
Push the button and the fun begins. Conservative estimates indicate more than 800 hp to mo
There are a lot of mental tricks Hill uses to get you to think about where you are. The qu