Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
May 1, 2008

In Our April '07 issue, associate MM&FF scribe Frank H. Cicerale explained the ins and outs of drag racing. Over the years, we've seen a lot of stupid stuff happen at the track, most of which is easily avoidable. So we decided to compile a list of 25 tips to make your track experience more enjoyable, both on and off the strip.

Once you have these under your belt, or in your head, page over to Neil Van Oppre's event calendar, as he'll show you where and when the big Mustang drag racing events are happening. After you've gotten past the normal test and tune session, a great place to get your feet wet in a competitive setting is in Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords own True Street class, which is held at NMRA events all over.

1. Check Your Nuts
If you're going to be traveling in your vehicle at a high rate of speed, you should check your lug nuts with a proper torque wrench, especially if you've swapped your tires for a set of sticky rubber bands. Oh, and don't drop the torque wrench or it can lose its accuracy.

2. Chained To Your Stang
Stay with your car when you're in the staging lanes. You never know when the track officials will need to make a change in the run order and call your lane. If the lanes are packed, your car may hold up all of the others behind you while you're at the concession stand or in the can.

3. Heroes Are For Hollywood
Racing for most of us is a hobby. Even if it's your profession, it's not worth taking unnecessary risks on the track. Your friends may tease you about lifting off the throttle when your car gets out of shape, but anyone who knows anything about drag racing will commend you for doing the smart thing-that, and your car won't have to go home on the back of a flatbed. Another thing is that if you feel something may be wrong with your car, pull over to the side of the track as safely and quickly as you can. If you just threw three rods out the side of the block, your quick reaction and move to the side of the track will expedite cleanup so everyone else can continue.

4. Be Prepared
As the Boy Scout motto points out, if you plan ahead, you can save yourself trouble later on. Did you air up the slicks in your back hatch in case the track doesn't have any? Did you bring the jack and the correct lug wrench? Do you have enough gas to make your runs and get back to the nearest gas station? Did you check the track schedule to make sure there were no last-minute changes or cancellations? Did you bring a dial-in marker or white shoe polish?

5. Shed The Pounds
Make sure there are no CD cases and iPods flying around in the cockpit while making your runs. Secure everything in the glovebox, center console, a friend's car, or just leave the crap at home. You need only your safety gear and driver's license. Speaker boxes can be both good and bad. Make sure they're secure, but consider testing with and without them, as the lightweight back end of your ponycar might benefit from some extra ballast.

6. Respect Your Host
Be kind and courteous to the track personnel. They're there to ensure your safety first and foremost, as well as the safety of the other racers. Keep an eye on the track workers from the time you enter the staging lanes until the time the light turns green, and obey all commands from them as they may be able to see something that you can't, not to mention the fact that it's their house you're visiting.

7. Peripheral Ponies
In addition to the many gauges you're looking at, shifters you're shifting, and traction you may be fighting, be sure to keep an eye out for the guy or gal in the other lane. They could lose control of their car, and if you never look, you won't see them coming over into your lane until it's too late. This also goes for the shutdown area, as you'll want to keep track of the other car so you don't cross into it, or vice versa.

8 John Force Wannabes
Unless you're racing in a top-level professional class such as Pro Stock, Top-Fuel, or Funny Car, don't carry your burnouts across the starting line. In a street car, burnouts should not last more than 10 seconds, and your car shouldn't move more than a foot or so forward. If you can't control your car in that amount of time, then you might need to visit a driving school such as Roy Hill's or Frank Hawley's.

9. Shade-Tree Tech Inspection
Make sure your car is in good running order before you get to the track. Check the fluid levels, lug nuts, tire wear, and battery hold-down before entering the gates. If your modifications have gone hand in hand with the sanctioning-body rulebook, then you should breeze through tech, and the official won't have to give you the Heisman.

10. Practice Makes Perfect
If you're just starting out, the most important thing is to make as many runs as you can to perfect your launch skills and shifting technique. Concentrate on lowering your 60-foot time, and don't worry about cutting a light, as it doesn't make a difference when you leave the starting line when you're going for low elapsed time. With a stick-shift car, you can practice your shifting in the staging lanes while you wait. Just make sure your drivetrain has been warmed up so the synchronizers in the transmission are lubed up when you grab that gear. Once you're fairly good with leaving the starting line, then you can practice your reaction times. Heck, you can do that at home with a practice Tree.

11. Be Professional
Good driving begins with good mental preparation. If you think like a pro driver, you'll act like one, and you might one day drive like one. If you take your driving seriously, you won't show up to the track wearing sandals and a tank top. Wear a helmet, even if your track doesn't require one. Sooner or later it will, and you'll already be used to wearing one. Remember, you'll probably be doing in excess of 90 mph, and there are concrete walls within 10-20 feet of you.

12. Sweating Is Good For The Pores
Don't run the air conditioning while you're at the track. HVAC systems feature a water drain to expel the condensation on the car's evaporator, and this typically drains out beneath the car. If you roll up to the starting line and the track officials see something dripping, they'll back you up and send you to the pits to fix it.

13. Shaft Play
Driveshaft loops are cheap insurance against potentially hazardous situations. Those two little links that join the transmission with the rearend are your U-joints. Most people give them about as much thought as the cigarettes they throw out the window, and yet they're every bit as critical as the engine and suspension. Driveshaft loops cost less than $50, are easy to install, and are an excellent safeguard against pole-vaulting your Pony through the air or kicking out your 8.8 after the U-joint fails.

14. Speed Is For The Strip
Most tracks have a speed limit for the pits. There are lots of spectators, children, and sometimes even animals around, so don't be testing and tuning on your way to the staging lanes or coming back down the return road. You'll look like a moron and you might run someone over. Wouldn't that kill your e.t. in a hurry?

15. Know Your Surroundings
We can't tell you how many times we've seen people stage their cars with the back wheels. If you can't see the clocks, then you probably need to move your seatback up from its summertime cruising lean to an appropriate driving position. There's no drop in e.t. for getting to the starting line first, so take your time, creep up to the line, and watch for the timing equipment and the stage bulbs on the Tree.

16. Shallow Waters
If you're going for low elapsed times, then shallow staging is the best way to accomplish this. Once you trip the top pre-stage bulb, ideally you want to roll forward just enough to make the stage bulb below it flicker on. It won't make much sense unless you understand how the timing equipment works, but the further away from the finish line you are, the more head start you get before the timing clock starts the count.

17. Dirty Thoughts
Believe it or not, the dragstrip is a dirty place. Aside from the fact that the pavement reflects the sun back up at you and you can get a full tan while wearing a sombrero, tire smoke actually has small particles of molten rubber lofting amidst the clouds, and it's easy to get covered in that and other grime. Bring some sunscreen and something to wipe yourself down with once you get dirty.

18. Baking In The Sun
While we're on the subject of sunburn, keep your tirepressure gauge handy and check it frequently. Tire pressures can rise quite a bit in direct sunlight, and you'll want to not only utilize the precise tire pressure for maximum e.t., but also make sure they're even from side to side.

19. Jack It Up
If you bother to bring a jack to the track, bring some jackstands, too. The hydraulic seals on floor jacks occasionally fail, and if they do, you don't want to be under the car without some stands.

20. Rev-Limit Abuse
Don't sit in the burnout box with your engine hanging on the rev limiter. You'll be cutting power at a time when you actually need it to keep the wheels turning. It's a safety mechanism designed to save your engine, and if you use it to make up for a lack in skill, you'll end up going even slower in the end.

21. Drag Racing Is A Solo Affair
If it's your first time racing at the track, leave the crowd of friends at home. That way, you can concentrate easier and won't have to hear your pals talk trash. If you've been to the track before, you don't need all of your buddies up at the starting line watching you make your hit. Unless you're behind the wheel of a seven-second car, there shouldn't be anyone at the starting line aside from the other competitor and the track starter. Depending on the track staff, you may need someone to help position you in the burnout box, and that's acceptable if you're strapped in with a harness, as it may be diff cult to see where you are. Excess people impede the flow of cars and, more importantly, emergency vehicles, which may need to get down the track in a hurry.

22. Safety First
Don't skimp on the safety equipment. It's your life that you're trying to protect. Enough said.

23. Don't Be Afraid
To ask questions, that is. The track workers are there to help you and will answer any questions you have. It's also a good idea to survey the track before you run. Find out which way the track turnoff goes, where the return road and timeslip booth are, and the location of the scale. Knowing the lay of the land will get you back to the staging lanes that much quicker, so don't hesitate to ask.

24. Cars, Not Carts
Check with your local track to find the rules regarding pit bikes and fourwheelers. Many tracks have age limits for motorized vehicles, while some don't even allow them.

25. Have Fun
Drag racing is all about enjoying your mean muscle Mustang and having fun going fast. Leave your problems and attitudes at the door, and everyone will have a great time.