04  Dec
The Schedule
Makes it worth all the stress

Makes it worth all the stress

The Schedule: A Typical Race Day Itinerary

I’m going to give you a schedule of what we typically go through on an event day. Mind you this is a typical day. There are some days that Murphy’s Law is in full effect and others that go without a hitch (these are few and far between).  Your schedule would be a little less intensive for testing days as well. I’m going to do a bigger event like KOTS which is an all-day event.

8:30 AM

This is about the time you wake up, shower, get dressed etc. You put on clothes that don’t matter and that are already coved in oil stains. Then you either put on more clothes or pack a bag with more clothes. Layers are key. You’re going to be there from morning until well after the sun goes down; there can be a big variation in temperature changes, so better to be prepared. If you plan on racing you have to be wearing long pants when you’re driving, even if it is 100 degrees. Finally you’re ready to leave the house.

9:30 AM

If you’re like us, you don’t keep your car and trailer at your house. We hook up the trailer and load up the truck.

A few things you might bring:

  • Cooler
  • Drinks
  • Food (burgers, hot dogs, buns, ketchup, mustard etc.)
  • Tools (all but the one you’ll remember you forgot once your already at the track and have to have the buddy that was late grab for you)
  • Your bag of extra clothes
  • Grill (if that was your responsibility)
  • Charcoal for above mentioned grill

10:00 AM

Leave to get the car from the shop where it’s kept. If it’s kept at your house you can skip this part and move on. About a 20 minute drive later you load the car in the trailer and hope you didn’t forget anything.

10:30 AM

FINALLY breakfast. I bet you were thinking you didn’t get to eat. Our crew usually stops at the Phoenix Restaurant right off US 94 in Kenosha. It’s right on the way to the track for both the Wisconsin people and those coming from Illinois. It’s not the best breakfast place in the world but its decent,

Sometimes your options are limited.

Sometimes your options are limited.

cheap, conveniently located, and they don’t get mad when a group of 15 people dressed in matching shirts walk in unannounced, so it’s perfect. During breakfast conversations usually cover any money owed and said money is usually collected. There is also the ever constant good hearted smack talking. A plate of pancakes and a few cups of coffee later we head out for the track.

11:30 AM

The track opens at 11:00 AM. We are always “going” to be there at 11 when it opens, but we are always there late, I still haven’t figured out how. So we get there around 11:30-12 and find the parking spot saved in the pits for us by a friend who did actually get there on time. We unload the truck and take the car off the trailer and get it to tech. We say our hellos and start setting up. The awning and chairs are set up, someone gets the grill started and the ice in the cooler. Everyone relaxes and has a drink; water for drivers, beer (or whatever your poison is) for spectators. This is when you realized that tool you forgot and call your friend who was later than you were. Then we wait for the drivers meeting scheduled at 1.

1:00 PM 1:45-2:00 PM

One thing you will learn is that the drivers meeting is never on time. If they say noon, assume 1:00. Chances are you’ll still be a little early. During the meeting the event staff makes sure all the drivers are present. They also go over a few rules, then draw names. There is a moment right before they draw names where you can call out another car if you want. Sometimes there are call outs sometimes not. Once all the names are picked the racing starts.

2:00-11:00 PM

RACING. Rounds and rounds of racing. With eating and fun in-between. Usually the racing is done around 10-10:30. If it’s done earlier like 10:00 PM people get some grudge racing in after. Some of these races are for redemption for something that happened during the event; others are just for fun. Bigger events draw out people who you don’t see every week, so this is sometimes your only chance to race them. The track usually closes around 11 and people load up and leave; unless you’re us.

11:00 PM-12:00 AM

We load up and then we stand around and talk, and talk, and talk. Don’t get me wrong, I love to chat and catch up with people. After about a half hour I’m over it. I’d rather go sit down at an IHOP or a bar and have a drink and talk. My back can only take so much standing still. But to each their own. I can just count on being the very last trailer to leave the track, about an hour after they shut the lights on us.

12:00AM-??

Once we leave the track 7 or 8 of us decide to get some food usually at IHOP since it’s one of the few places still open. Sometimes we decide on the bar if it was a particularly bad or good day. Once we’ve had our fill of whatever we decided on we finally head home and to our beds. All in all it’s an extremely long day but the amount of thrills and fun you have make it all worth it.

It feels good to win. Our buddy's car after he won 1st place at KOTS.

It feels good to win. Our buddy’s car after he won 1st place at KOTS.

 

Posted by Courtney Knowles, filed under The Schedule. Date: December 4, 2014, 1:49 am | No Comments »

Illegal Street Racing

We’re just going to start this off with street racing is ILLEGAL. I do not condone it and I do not do it. It is extremely dangerous and you can go to jail for it. That being said it does happen. There are a few events, like KOTS, that try to persuade street racers to get off the street and in to the track by making “street like” events. Even with these events there are those who still race on the street. And if you think it happens just like in The Fast and the Furious wake up; that is not what street racing really looks like. So here’s a few things you should know about street racing.

The Who

BMW M3
BMW M3

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 1,047 racing deaths from 2001 to 2008. About 150 people a year. People of all types, from 13 year old kids to 47 year old men. Some were actively involved in the race and some were innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time. Spectating a street race can be just as dangerous and just as illegal as racing. Most states you can get a spectating ticket.

The Where

Some street races are well planned. Drivers meet ahead of time and agree on stipulations and bets are placed. Some races can shut down a street and only people there to race or watch come through. They usually take place on back roads or industrial parks where there is little to no traffic. Others are spontaneous. You see a fast looking car at a stop light and you give each other the look and you know it’s going to happen. These races are even more dangerous because there are tons of bystanders. These bystanders don’t know there is a race happening and they don’t know the rules. Innocent people can get hurt.

Look out for cops, they cruise local known street racing spots.

Look out for cops, they cruise local known street racing spots.

The When

Street races can happen any time any day. They are more common in warmer weather and at night. That’s why states like Florida and California have such big street racing scenes. They have the perfect conditions almost all year round. Most Midwest street racing happens from May to October; when the salts off the road to when the salts back on the road. Any kind of racing around here is dictated by the weather.

The Who

Honestly who can know for sure why someone decides to street race. My best guess would be the rush. Not that driving 100 mph down the track isn’t a rush, but that added thrill of getting caught pushes some people to leave the track for the street. The track is prepped and a controlled environment. The street is messy and

Negotiating before a street race.
Negotiating before a street race.

unpredictable. The street is also an equalizer; a slower car has a much better chance of beating a faster car on the street then at the track. It’s easier to go fast at the track where it’s prepped and consistent. The inconsistency of the street equalizes things.So I said before that I don’t condone it and I don’t do it, but I have seen it and I get the rush. I know what it’s like to drive down the track and I couldn’t imagine that times ten. It is also a social thing. A gathering of people who all watch and joke and talk a little smack; it’s fun, like a party. So I get the draw, I really do. But as I grew up and realized how insanely stupid dangerous it is I’ve kept my distance. Which is my suggestion to you, keep your distance.

NEXT: A DAY AT THE TRACK; A CASE STUDY

Posted by Courtney Knowles, filed under Street Racing. Date: December 3, 2014, 8:14 pm | No Comments »

15  Nov
Local Tracks

Local Tracks

Now when I say local it can be a relative term. Some of these tracks are a 20 minute drive from where I live in south eastern Wisconsin. Others are a few hours away in Illinois, Indiana or Michigan. Since we live in the Midwest tracks are seasonal. If you get the urge in say January when its 20 below zero and there’s 2 feet of snow, you can always take a road trip down south.

Local Tracks

  • Great Lakes Dragway
  • No Limit Raceway
  • Milan

Great Lakes Dragway

A "foot race" at the Grove.

A “foot race” at the Grove.

18411 1st St

Union Grove, WI 53182

Great Lakes Dragway or as we call it “The Grove” is our home track. It’s where we go to test cars to make sure they’re running right, and it’s the closest track to us. I may be a little biased toward The Grove for that reason.

During race season The Grove is my home away from home. We are there almost every weekend and at least 2-3 days during the week. It’s a great track. Good bathrooms. Seriously, I could rate tracks on their bathrooms alone. Being a girl I always look for clean bathrooms, and when going to tracks they are few and far between. There is also a consession stand along with a bar. The food is alright, pretty editable and priced well.

Along with maintaining the bathrooms, the upkeep of the rest of the grounds it good. The Grove is the longest continuously operating drag strip in the country. No other track has stayed open longer and never closed. The conditions of any track can vary from year to year, day to day, even hour to hour. As time goes on just like on the roads, the track can deteriorate. New concrete or asphalt needs to be poured. As the season gets later in the season, you get cooler nights and dew. The track needs to be dragged to keep it sticky, make sure it’s not wet. It’s important that it is flat and smooth. When cars are going 200+ mph even a small bump can be disastrous. During events they always have an ambulance and EMT’s prepped and ready to go in case anything happens. Always prepared. They are an NHRA sanctioned track.

No Limit Raceway

2695 West 50 South
Morocco, IN 47963

About 2½ hours from the Grove, around the lake into Indiana is No Limit Raceway, or as some people call is US 41. This is one track that you do not want to have to go to the bathroom at. If you have to go, hold it. Better yet make friends with someone who has an RV with a bathroom and use theirs. No Limit has their good days and bad. Their track is usually maintained pretty well. There is a concession stand here, but it’s not all that great. On the bright side that usually means there is someone cooking some good food on the grill. This track draws a different crowd than the Grove. To use the word seedy might be a bit harsh but you don’t leave your stuff laying out or your trailer unlocked. They have recently changed owners so maybe it will be a change for the better.

Milan Dragway

The best mode of transportation at the track.

The best mode of transportation at the track.

10860 Plank Road
Milan, MI 48160

About a 6 hour drive from the Grove is Milan, MI.  Milan is a beautiful track. Everything is maintained really well. The bathrooms are big and clean, the grass is always cut; the track is prepped to the perfect standard. They have all the up to date safety technology. There is always an ambulance on standby with certified EMT’s. One thing that sets Milan apart from the other two tracks the size. Milan is huge. It is also an NHRA sanctioned track so they adhere to all of the NHRA’s rules and regulations. Milan caters to all different types of racers: Grudge racers, Class racers, Junior Dragsters, etc. They carry several types of fuel. Convenient to use if you take a few more test passes than you’d planned. While the Grove is my home track and it holds a special place in my heart, Milan is just one of those tracks that you wish was your home track. The Grove is my favorite, but Milan is a close second.

 

NEXT: ILLEGAL STREET RACING

 

 

Posted by Courtney Knowles, filed under Local Tracks. Date: November 15, 2014, 4:25 am | No Comments »

01  Nov
Betting

307477_543500455683767_844113555_n

Rain or shine, track day is track day.

Betting

Some people can make a living off betting on drag races. Whether it is their own car or a friends or a complete stranger’s, you can bet on or against it. But you have to have someone willing to bet against you. I’ve seen races where there are thousands of dollars on the line. I’ve also seen races where nothing is at stake but a cheese burger and a can of RedBull. That is the beauty of betting at the track. You can make a wager of whatever you want as long as you have someone willing to wager the same.

On The Line Betting

“On the line betting” is betting literally on the starting line. You will see a huge crowd of people with money in their hands pointing to one lane or another yelling, “I got left lane” or “I got right lane.” You better get a good look at who you made the bet with because after the race is done if you won you better find him, if you lost you better be able to be found. Common track courtesy says the loser finds the winner, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Betting on the line tends to be on the smaller end. Most people are betting anywhere from a dollar to $50, however you do get the random person looking for someone to take a $500 bet. Sometimes he even gets a taker. I’d say betting on the line is the most fun. You can risk whatever you want and have a little fun gambling. You don’t have to worry about knowing much about the cars, it’s only a dollar risk and you have a 50/50 chance of winning.

Group or “Crew” Betting

1514998_10100975806118815_1540018526_n

IQC Christmas Party 2012

I guess now would be a good time to describe “crew” a little further. When I say crew I mean a group of friends who associate with one another, but it goes further than that; it is like a family. We have Christmas parties and everything. Some crews are centered around a certain shop. Others like the one I am a part of, IQC, was started by a few friends with a passion for racing. The racing community as a whole looks out for each other. Whether you’re from the same crew or not, most racers will go out of their way to lend a hand. Okay back to the betting. Most of the races that are upwards of $1,000 have multiple people putting money on a single race. So the race may be for $1,000, but you personally only have $100 on it.  So multiple people give money to whomever is “most trustworthy” and that person holds it for your crew. If who you bet on won you’ll get double your money back, if you lost you obviously get nothing. Bigger bets like that you might want a little more knowledge about the cars involved. If it is a completely lopsided race, meaning there is a clear advantage one way, you don’t want to waste your money. At the same time, if it’s someone from your crew it’s always nice to support them. hopefully they wouldn’t be stupid enough to take a lopsided race or they have good enough friends to tell them not to.

So you can bet against or with complete strangers you find on the line or friends in your crew. You can take a huge risk or a little one. Either way it is a lot of fun and you have the potential to make some money. Not many people take the betting super seriously but when there’s a lot of money at stake look out; people can get crazy! And remember if you’re not willing to lose it don’t bet it. Always have fun!

NEXT: DIFFERENT TRACKS

Posted by Courtney Knowles, filed under Betting. Date: November 1, 2014, 4:23 pm | No Comments »

18  Oct
Setting Up Races

Setting Up Races

 

 

When I talk about setting up races, it will be grudge races. In most other types of racing the race is already set. There is no negotiating, you either fit the rules or don’t. Grudge racing you can negotiate for pretty much whatever you want. Ideally you want an even matched race, but everybody wants to win. The racer you want to run is trying to be as sure as possible he or she is going to win. There are a number of ways to make races more even.

Asking For Land

One of the ways to make a race more even is to ask for land. That means that one car (the assumed slower one) will be given car lengths. Someone measures out however many cars they’d agreed on; the cars then line up staggered, giving one a head start.

Giving the Hit

When you give someone the hit what you’re saying is that you won’t leave until they do. For someone who has not so good reaction times this could be a huge advantage for their opponent. It could give someone anywhere from a couple hundredths of a second to .5 of a second.

Flagger

There are different ways to start a race and depending on what your best at, you could ask for a specific way.

  • Pro tree: all 3 yellows and then the green.
  • Sportsman tree: each yellow individually lights and then the green
  • Instant green: no yellows, just an instant green light.
  • Arm drop: someone stands in the middle in front of both cars and holds their arms up. When their arms drop that’s the signal to go.
  • Flashlight: someone stands in the same spot as arm drop. Instead of holding his arms up and dropping them, the flagger lights a flashlight. When the light comes on that’s the signal to go. The flashlight is usually held on the top of the flaggers head.

Lane Choice       

Most of the time one of the lanes at the track is running a little better than the other. It may be stickier, or have a more even paving. If you’re giving someone the hit, it is easier to look out your left window to watch them, than through your car out the right window. So you would want the right lane.

Power Adders

For cars with Nitrous Oxide as a power adder, you can stipulate that it must be turned off or disconnected. Cars with superchargers and turbochargers can’t really be removed for one race. To compensate for those power adders one of the things above can be applied.

1/8 Mile and ¼ Mile

Usually cars run a quarter mile, 1320 feet. Sometimes they run an eighth mile. Nitrous cars tend to make a lot of power right away and then ride it out to the end. On the other hand, turbo cars tend to build power over a longer distance. A nitrous car racing a turbo car may ask to “go out the back door” or go all the way to the quarter, because he knows the turbo car won’t have enough time to build more power. Sometimes cars can get a little loose and move around towards the end of the track, so going to the eighth mile can eliminate the skating on the “big end” or second half of the track and reduce the potential for crashes.

Drag racers spend obscene amounts of money on their cars, trying to make them faster. Grudge racers spend the obscene amounts of money, but also an obscene amount of energy to keep their motor builds and times a secret. Whenever you’re at a grudge event or anywhere there are grudge cars you should never look under someone’s hood without their permission. Chances are you won’t get it. Like I said it’s all about the hustle. Keeping times and car builds a secret allows for all these negotiations to happen because no one really knows 100% what anyone else’s car runs. It’s what makes this all so fun.

NEXT: BETTING

Posted by Courtney Knowles, filed under Setting up Races. Date: October 18, 2014, 6:36 am | No Comments »

A Few Kinds of Drag Racing

All drag racing consists of two cars lined up side by side, and racing down a quarter mile track. But there are different types of drag racing that have different ways of accomplishing the same outcome: winning. Winning doesn’t mean the same thing in every type of racing.

Grudge Racing

Grudge racing is a lot of talk. Talking about what your car may or may not have; talking about what you think or heard someone else’s has. You can usually tell a grudge car by what painted in the rear window. Those cars will usually have a zero with a line through it, which means “clocks off”.  So all that signals who won the race is the win light at the quarter mile mark; no times are ever posted. It doesn’t matter who went faster, it only matters who got to the finish line first. Grudge racers are very VERY secretive about what is under the hood of their cars. It’s all about the hustle, but will talk more about that and grudge racing in general in “setting up races”.

Bracket Racing

Bracket racing is all about consistency. Every car has a time that it is dialed into, and that is the time you say you’re going to run. So if you have a car that you consistently go 12.0 in you would make that your dial in time. Unlike grudge racing, you can have two cars on the line that go drastically different times. In bracket racing it matters who crosses the finish line first, but the “tree” (the signal of yellow, green, and red lights that tells a racer to “go!”) drops at different times depending on your dial in time. Car A has an 11.3 dial in time and car B has an 11.0 dial in time. The tree will drop .3 seconds later for car B than car A providing a handicap.  If both cars ran exactly what their dial in times were they should cross the finish line at exactly the same time. This is next to impossible as the timing system is calibrated to measure to the .00000001 seconds, but you get the general concept. You are competing against yourself as well as the car next to you. You win by crossing the finish line first and running the closest to your dial in time without “breaking out”. When you break out it means that you went faster than your dial in time. If one car (A) is 1.0 second slower than his or her dial in time, and the car (B) they were against was 0.001 seconds faster than their dial in time, car A wins. Even though car B was much closer to its dial in time, it broke out so it’s a loss for car B. Car B’s driver may have had a slightly better reaction time than usual and it threw the time a little off. In the event that both racers break out, whoever was closer still wins. It’s a balance to decide your dial in time. You want to give yourself a little wiggle room so you don’t break out, but not too much that you can’t get close enough to it. If you ran 12.0, you’d maybe make your dial in time 11.9. It’s realistic to get very close to, and has enough room if you maybe run a bit faster that day; remember it’s okay to go .1 second slower, it’s not okay to go .1 second faster.

Index Racing

Index racing is almost the same as bracket racing except you have an index that you enter into. So every car has the same time goal. If you enter an 11.0 index, every car in that index is trying to get as close as possible to 11.0 without breaking out. You have some cars that run 10.80’s and some that run 11.20’s. Racers will either slow down or try and speed up their cars to meet the index. So while in bracket racing you set your own dial in time, in index racing every car in the index has essentially the same dial in time.

NEXT: SETTING UP RACES

Posted by Courtney Knowles, filed under Types of Drag Racing. Date: October 13, 2014, 5:26 am | No Comments »

11  Oct
Safety

Track Safety 

 

Whether your racing or spectating safety is the number one concern. There have been many accidents that could’ve been avoided had the safety rules been followed.

Racer Rules

There are certain measures that are required (these times are in the quarter mile):

  • Any car that runs over 150 mph must have a parachute.
  • Any car running 7.5 – 9.99 seconds in the quarter mile must have a window net.
  • Any car running 10.99 or quicker or exceeding 135 mph must have a roll cage.
  • Every driver must wear a helmet.
  • Drivers of cars going 13.99 or quicker must wear an SFI approved protective jacket; the quicker you go the more SFI protective clothing you must wear. (Shoes, pants, gloves etc.)

These are just a few NHRA rules, and most major tracks are NRHA or IHRA sanctioned. Racers are required to tech their cars before going down the track. This means a racer must have their car checked over by track workers well versed in the NHRA or IHRA rules.

Spectator Rules

Every track and every event may have different rules spectators must follow. Every person is required to sign a waiver before entering the track. This waiver states that the track is not responsible if anything happens to you. Most tracks have a no alcohol on the line policy. The track we go to most often, Great Lakes Dragway in Union Grove, doesn’t allow you to bring in your own alcohol but you can purchase it on property. They also don’t allow people to stand on the line during races however; event that rent out the track and have their own insurance don’t have to adhere to all these rules. A popular street event, KOTS is one of those events where you will see dozens of people standing on the line.

Most spectator rules are common sense. You have to be aware of all of your surroundings. If you are not familiar with how drag racing works, you should familiarize yourself before going. You should know the basic rules and what to expect. Even if every safety rule is followed to a tee, accidents do happen. Drag racing is a dangerous sport so be careful!

NEXT: DIFFERENT KINDS OF DRAG RACING

Posted by Courtney Knowles, filed under Safety. Date: October 11, 2014, 6:38 am | No Comments »

23  Sep
Welcome!!

 Welcome!

 

Just another "normal" pass!

Just another “normal” pass!

 

Intro

Hi! My name is Courtney and I’ve been drag racing cars for the past 4 years. I’ve only been racing 4 years, but I’ve been going to the track and in the scene for about 10. Over that time I’ve learned a lot and I know firsthand how complicated some things can be. This blog is to tell newbie racers and spectators or anyone interested, a bit more about this sport we love. I’m not going to tell you how to install power adders or even change the oil, were not that serious here. If you’ve ever wondered why the cars aren’t starting at the same place or, why sometimes you see times light up the board and sometimes not. Those are the kind of questions you’ll get answers for. This is simply to give information on the things you see going on at the track, and hopefully give everyone an idea of how drag racing works.

Basic Background 

Drag Racing can find its roots in the deserts of California in the 1930’s. Back then cars topped out at about 100mph, a far cry from today’s racing machines. There are different types of drag racing, but all start with two cars lining up at the start and trying to get down the track the fastest, or most consistent. What started as an unorganized gathering of cars turned into the NHRA or National Hot Rod Association. The NHRA sets rules that regulate racing and make it safe, however, it is still a dangerous sport and people die every year while drag racing cars.

Safety, even if it is maybe the most boring topic, is the number one concern. So I’ll try to make it bearable!!

 

Next Week: Safety

 

 

 

Posted by Courtney Knowles, filed under Intro. Date: September 23, 2014, 3:01 pm | No Comments »