Frank H. Cicerale
February 21, 2007

You're at your buddy's house bench racing, and as legitimate members of the horsepower club, you talk about camshafts, cubic inches, and dyno numbers. A heated debate ensues over which power adder is best, which ultimately leads to the comment, "Oh yeah, let's race!" As you sit there, you meekly realize there is one minor problem to backing up the claim that your 750-rwhp, supercharged Mustang is the baddest in the land. You've never been to the dragstrip.

If you've always wanted to drag race but were afraid because you didn't know how, consider this your cheap drag racing school.

Before we delve into the detailed portion of our class, like anything else, you need to know the basics. First and foremost, a drag race is a competition between two cars on a track where they are able to run side-by-side. The race begins from a standing start, obviously at the starting line, and is a quarter-mile or eighth-mile in length (depending on the facility). The layout of a dragstrip is congruent, as each has a main entrance, staging lanes, a pit area, a refreshment stand, bathrooms, and, of course, the track surface itself, which consists of the prepared strip, the shutdown area, and the return road.

Before you take that first trip, call or check out the track's Web site and get some information such as which days you can run and what the start and end times are. You might even be able to pick up a track schedule at your local speed shop, or get put on the track's mailing list so the schedule gets mailed to you automatically. You don't want to show up in your Roush Mustang on Camaro Day, Mopar Weekend, or at a major NHRA national event. Find out other things such as prices for both participants and spectators, and what categories will be run that night. If it's a normal street-legal night, it's a run-what-ya-brung deal, so you can make as many runs as you can within the allotted time. If there are specific categories being run, check with the track and see which class your car will fit in so there is no hassle of trying to pick a class at the gate.

Stopping at the main gate and purchasing your tech card is the first thing you do when you show up at the track. Prices vary depending on the day of the week and the classes that run that day, but expect to pay between $20 and $30 to take a few jaunts down the quarter-mile.

The first thing you need to do once you get to the track is to stop at the main gate and buy your tech card. This is your ticket to race, and the entrance fee ranges from track to track and event to event. "For our regular Wednesday and Friday night programs, it is very affordable to race," says Old Bridge Township Raceway Park's Paul Bailey. At Raceway Park, for example, racing on a Wednesday night will cost you $28, and on a Friday night, $24. If you make three runs on a Friday night, you are spending $8 a run. With that said, most tracks are prepped so the line will be sticky and you can concentrate on driving, without the worry of police or other distractions.

Once you get through the gate, find a pit space for the night. If you have a question as to where to camp out, ask an official before you leave the gate or while you are on your way in.

Now it's time to get cracking. If you have to swap the street tires for slicks, safely jack up the car and switch the tires. If you brought everything with you, chaining the tires to an immovable object such as a light post will keep potential thieves from making away with your rolling stock. This would be a good time to pop the hood and allow the engine to cool down, and to check tire pressure. Keep in mind that the pit area is your home while you're at the track, so don't be afraid to take things out of the car that could roll or move around.