This page is intended to be a general forum for discussion related to racing Buicks. I do not profess to be an expert on the matter and welcome any and all comments including constructive criticism.
I began racing my 71' SS454 El Camino about ten years ago and when the fear of permanently damaging this classic became overwhelming, I drug out my trusty old 68' Chevelle which had been languishing in storage for 10 years. At first it struggled to get into the sixteens with its tired old 327/4-spd. After much trial and error I settled on a 454/turbo400 combination. With 9.2:1 compression, oval port heads and a trusty TCI transmission I have managed a best of 11.70 @ 115 MPH. This is without nitrous and is still fairly streetable. I have included the major components of the drivetrain on this page if anyone is interested in duplicating it. Like all muscle cars I will never have it "quite" finished and am embarking on a quest for the 10's. I hope to do it without the bottle, but time will tell.
So, whether you own a 17 second driver or a 9 second rocket I'm sure we can all benefit from sharing our knowledge. The tech tips will be changed every few weeks and I encourage anyone who has recently modified their Car in the pursuit of quicker ET's to write about their experience and e-mail it to me so we can share it with the world. This includes chassis mods, engine swaps, suspension modifications even parts combinations that work well together (as long as you're willing to give your competition your well guarded secrets). If you have some "war stories" or personal racing experience you'd like to share that may be of some benefit, bring it on!!!Back to Contents
The following list should answer a few of the more common questions concerning what may be required to race at your local track. It is presented as general information only and you should always refer to the official NHRA rule book or your local track before heading out to race.
Unless otherwise required by your class:
Faster than a 9.99 you need a chassis sticker and have the car reinspected every 3 years.
Drivers of all 13.99 or quicker cars, and co-drivers in 14.00 to 14.99 second cars, must wear a helmet meeting Snell 85, 90,or SFI 31.1,31.2 specs. see general regulations10:7
10:7 as outlined under class requirements, drivers in all classes must wear a helmet meeting snell of SFI specifications.
Drivers of sportsman classed and et cars (14.99 or quicker) must use a helmet meeting snell 85, 90, 95, or SFI 31.1, 31.2, 41.1 or 41.2 specs. exception: Effective 1/1/2002, Snell 85 helmets will be discontinued.
Drivers of pro-sportsman and professional cars must use a helmet meeting snell SA90, or SFI 31.2 specs. Acceptance of SA90 helmets will be discontinued 1/1/2001.
Modification to helmet/visor/shield are prohibited. The use of snapped or button on bubble shield is restricted to motorcycle rider/driver and as additional protection with the use of goggles in other classes. All helmets must have the appropriate certification sticker affixed inside the helmet.
If you have slicks, you must have a drive-shaft loop. If your car runs 12.99 or quicker, you will need a drive shaft loop, even if you are running street tires.
If the battery is relocated, to the trunk for example, you must have an external cut-off switch on the back of the car which cuts off the electrical system and must also stop the car from running.
According to the 1997 NHRA Rule book General Regulation 10:5, Driver Restraint Systems, on pages 178:
A quick-release, 3-inch shoulder harness meeting SFI Spec 16.1, including crotch strap, is mandatory in all cars in competition required by the rules to have a roll bar or a roll cage. Driver restraint system must be clearly labeled as meeting SFI Spec 16.1 and be dated by manufacturer. System must be updated at two-year intervals from date of manufacture. All seat belt and shoulder harness installations must be mutually compatible, originally designed to be used with each other, and produced by the same manufacturer. Cars using OEM or OEM type seat may route crotch strap in front of seat instead of through seat. Only those units that release all five attachment points in one motion are permitted. When arm restraints are worn with a restraint system that utilizes a "latch lever", a protective cover must be installed to prevent arm restraint from accidentally releasing the latch lever. Protective cover not needed if system uses "duckbill" latch hardware. All harness sections must be mounted to the frame, cross member, or reinforced mounting, and installed to limit driver's body travel both upward and forward. Seat belts may not be wrapped around lower frame rails. Under no circumstances are bolts inserted through belt webbing permitted for mounting. Check manufacturers instructions.
Well, I figure a good place to start is with the basics. The following is a combination of old articles and things I've learned the hard way. This time I'll talk about getting staged. Again, I don't claim to be an expert and I welcome any input based on your personal experience. As with all aspects of racing there are a basic set rules that, if followed, will keep you from looking like a chump.
Pick your spot: Be sure to pick a spot in the pits that your sure no one else is using and is not blocking someone else. I've seen people nearly get into fights over this one. Related to this issue is the number one way to piss somebody off (And it happens all the time). When your in the staging lanes stay with your car! The abuse you will get from your fellow racers when you block the lanes is brutal! It will ruin your day.
When your pulling up to the lights, resist the urge to burnout in the water box unless you really need to. Nothing looks goofier than a 17 second car trying to power brake a burnout on street tires. Unless you are running a low 14 sec car or are using slicks, its usually a waste of time anyway. Oh, and pay attention to the starter. Don't pull up until he signals you.
Here's a good one. Pay attention to where the staging beams are. I don't know how many times I've seen someone go to nearly the 60' mark before they realize they've passed the beams. The folks in the stands will be rolling in the aisles! On some tracks if you roll past the staged light you're disqualified. Many tracks employ a courtesy rule that requires that the first car entering the pre-stage light wait until the second car is prestaged. Once the second car is prestaged the first one stages and is followed by the second. This helps to minimize starting line games. I prefer to pre-stage first in order to allow myself a few more seconds to get ready.
A personal note:
I perform a ritual each time I prepare to stage. I go through each of the steps necessary to properly stage my car (this varies for every car, mine is a non-electronic bracket car) in the same order every time. This helps ensure that nothing is missed.
This gets you up to the lights and staged. (Staging is a whole article in itself and that's the next tip).
What are all those little yellow lights on top for anyway?
Staging could best be defined as locating your car in the proper location on the track and initiating the countdown process which culminates in either a green or red light... and the red light really sucks!
What the cool lights mean:
Staging Beams (not illustrated) - Two little beams of light just off the ground which shine across the track, these beams trigger the pre-stage and stage lights on the christmas tree when broken by your front tires.
Pre-Stage Light - The pre-stage light is illuminated when your front tire interferes with the first of the two beams, the pre-stage beam. This the start of the staging process. From this point on there ain't no turning back.
Stage Light - 18 inches down the track from the pre-stage light is the beam that triggers the stage light. This light is turned on when your front tires break the second beam. When this light comes on your car is basically staged and ready to go... But wait, there's more! It's never that simple. I'll explain in a minute when we discuss a couple of types of staging.
Amber lights - These are the middle three lights that "count down" once the starter flips the switch. They are spaced .500 of a second apart on a sportsman tree which is the one you will be using. The two types of tree's are "sportsman" and "pro" trees. The sportsman tree counts down, while on the pro tree all three ambers flash on together, followed by the green light .400 seconds later. This is why a .500 reaction time is perfect on the sportsman tree and .400 is perfect on the pro tree.
Green light - the go light. Usually, if you see this light you've probably already lost the race. The key here for most cars is to leave as soon as the last amber lights up. It usually takes about a half second for you to react and your car to respond to that action. If you leave on the green your reaction time will be at least a full second. The green light is triggered .500 of a second after the last yellow. A common misconception here is that the clock starts when the green light flashes on. It ain't so. You can sit on the starting line for an hour after the green light comes on, the clock won't start, but you're reaction time will really bite! It ( the clock) doesn't start until you move past the beams.
Red light - This light stinks! Anytime you see it, your day is over. It means you rolled out of the lights before the green came on. That's it, it's done.
There are two ways (At least) to stage, Shallow staging and deep staging.
Shallow staging is accomplished when, after breaking the pre-stage beam, you creep forward until your front tire just breaks the stage beam. The instant the stage light comes on you stop and hold your car there. This accomplishes a couple of things. First, it increases your MPH by giving your car an additional foot or more of track before you start the timing clocks. Believe it or not this makes a measurable difference. Secondly, if you're having a problem red lighting, it'll give you a little additional time before starting the timer. This effectively increases your reaction time. The other end of this spectrum is deep staging. I prefer to shallow stage because more than once I've crept forward just a tick and rolled out of the second beam and red-lighted. To me red-lighting is the worst way to lose a race, ain't nothing you can do about it once it's happened. Better safe than sorry.
Deep staging is risky business and not all tracks allow you to do it. Basically it involves rolling forward, after you've lit the stage light, until you roll out of the pre-stage light beam and the pre-stage light turns off. The risk here is going too far and red lighting or decreasing you're reaction time to the point a red-light is inevitable. Either way you lose. Best leave this one till you've got a lot of runs under your belt. During time trials is a good time to practice this art form.
Ok, you've followed the rules, you look really cool and ya' got your Chevelle staged... But, I've forgotten something important and that will be the next topic.
Next up - Dialing in
Shoe polish ain't always for your shoes!
Dialing-in defined: Selecting your estimated elapsed time based on previous performance and other constantly changing external factors. These factors include but are not limited to the following:
I could go on forever, but the bottom line is that you should keep the shoe polish handy, because due to constantly changing factors you Dial-In will be changing nearly every round! Even psychological factors come into play. Some days you'll be smooth and consistent and your dial in will change very little. Other days you'll be all over the place with your ET's forcing you to dial in conservatively to avoid breaking out ( Breaking out means that your ET is less than your dial-in).
Compensating for these elements requires you to understand how they affect you and your car. For example as the air cools toward the end of the day your engine will make more power requiring you dial in little faster. Also, as daylight decreases, you're eye's response time to the Christmas tree will decrease, forcing you to adjust your time. I guarantee you'll see a lot more people red-lighting and breaking out after dark.
On to the mechanics of this subject!
Unlike class racing, in Bracket racing there is a huge discrepancy between the performance levels of any two cars. It is not unusual to have a large disparity in ET's between the left and right lane. Many tracks try to minimize this by breaking the bracket racers into classes (eg. 12.00 - 12.99 and 13.00 to 13.99). Even so, a 12.95 Chevelle might be up against your 12.02 Buick GS (Fords don't count in any class!!). In order to make a close race out of it, each racer selects a "Dial-In" time. Dial-In's are the cornerstone of Bracket racing. Even if you cut a perfect light (See Tech tips #2) if you can't run close to your dial in you are going to lose! If your car was so consistent that it ran exactly the same ET every run then your job is simple, scribble that number on your window and you'll win a hell of a lot of races. In the real world however, no matter how hard you try your ET will vary from run to run. Really consistent cars may vary only a few hundredths but usually your looking at a tenth or two and that's where the work begins.
The fundamentals of dialing in work like this. You dial in a 13.05 and your opponent dials in a 13.25. When the starter flips the switch to start the countdown process your opponents countdown starts .20 seconds sooner than yours (13.25 minus 13.05 equals .20). So he leaves .20 sec sooner than you. Theoretically if you both have exactly the same reaction times and your cars both run exactly on their dial-in you will cross the finish line at exactly the same time. Well, in reality this will never happen, so who whoever runs closest to their dial-in, with the reaction time factored in of course, without breaking out wins.
Let's say you made three time trial passes. Your times were 13.31, 13.07 and 13.21. What this means is that while your car is fairly consistent, you need to be careful picking your Dial-In. You know your car is capable of at least 13.07 and as you go a few rounds night time will be soon setting in. As the air cools and the tree becomes brighter you can count on your car potentially running a few hundredths quicker. The safe thing to do here is to dial in a 13.05 to minimize the chance of breaking out and if you cut a good light and are ahead of your opponent around the 1000' mark you can always tap the brakes for extra insurance.
Sometimes you might be tempted to deliberately dial-in a lot slower than you know your car can run. This is known as "Sand bagging". This is a little risky. Here's the thinking behind this one. Your car runs a best of 13.07. You dial-in a 14.00. This puts you the 14.00 class where you find yourself running a car dialed in at 14.25. Your car is a more than a full second faster than your opponents. When you leave you can run him down and pace yourself a fender ahead and cross the finish line first and win. The down side to this is that if the other car runs close to his dial in your almost assured of breaking out and losing. It really isn't worth it. Sandbagging can only be effective if you have a better reaction time than your opponent. You are better off perfecting your reaction times.
Dialing in takes a lot of time and effort. You need to understand your capabilities as well as your car's limitations. Take your time and learn to be consistent and you will win races!