Greetings fellow impalaSS, (and other B-body), Bracket racers. These tips and tricks are what I have gathered from talking to and watching the competitive Pro Bracket Racers at my local track, Maryland International Raceway. Please don't consider these tips as coming from an all-knowing drag racing King. Just squeeze something useful out of them.
Tip #1 Do not beat yourself. (The 2 most common ways to beat yourself: Red light starts and crossing the finish line 2 car lengths ahead of your opponent).
Red light "foul"
OK, I know that the track champion is staged next to me. So I'm going to react quicker to the 3rd yellow so that I can get a low 0.500 R/T. His tree comes down and he leaves...then my tree comes down...I see the 3rd yellow--GO! (RED!). The lesson is...Never Ever try to "react" faster to the tree. They say that you usually react at the same rate no matter how hard you try. So in the high-pressure race against the track champion, you need to concentrate on doing exactly what you do in all other races. Don't do anything different. See that dang 3rd yellow and "react" to it. Do not "push" the 3rd yellow...that is sorta like "anticipating" the 3rd yellow. The only way to move your hypothetical 0.600 R/T down to 0.530 is to roll the car deeper into the staging beams. But be careful, an inch too deep can result in that perfect 0.499 Red.
Too much finish line.
Always try to slow down before the finish line if you are way ahead of your opponent. Make sure that your bumper crosses the finish line first, if the race is close. Wouldn't you be pissed if you cut a 0.520 R/T and crossed the finish line first, but LOST! That happens to all the 1st time racers. To add insult to injury, the opponent is 4 car lengths behind. You ended up running 14.999 on a 15.00 dial. It is your fault man. This is bracket racing. The finish line is part of the race. Just keep that in mind. Slow down, <g>.
Make your car reliable.
You figure tip #2 would be something like, "how to dial-in", or "how to keep the rear tires from spinning". Well, I have found that a reliable car is vastly more important than anything, accept of course not beating yourself. OK, I promise, this "making your car reliable" tip is more exotic than you might think.
1. Good brakes. Have the brake fluid fresh and properly bled.
2. Good rear tires. Bald street tires provide the absolute worst traction. Bald drag slicks provide the best. <g> New street tires are usually adequate for stock and mild mods.
3. Full tank of gas. Provides for better traction.
4. Good valve springs. (Maybe a bit exotic). The weak stock springs will make your car so dang unpredictable at the top end that you will thank me after you spend a day changing out your valve springs with a new stock set.
5. Good, fresh battery. Staging lanes are notorious for making you start and stop the car umpteen times.
I lost 2 races with the help of weak brakes. I load up my SLP torque converter to 2000rpm at the starting line. The front brakes didn't hold and the car slowly crept forward. Distracting to say the least. One time the car rolled into the deep stage and then I left on my light and red lit with a 0.350 R/T. The next time my car rolled deep, and trying to compensate, I paused on my light, so as not to red light, and cut a 1.000! Needless to say I inspected the brakes and ended up doing a simple fluid change/bleed. And now I bring up the torque converter slower. (I need a MoveIt brake sponsor) <g>
Make your car consistent.
This is a biggie. You could write a book on "how to make your car consistent". But like Phil Reifschneider said, these cars are so consistent to begin with. So we are ahead of the game. In a close bracket-racing match, the win is decided by about 0.010 seconds. (I call that "10", as in 10 thousands of a second.) Now an easy win in bracket racing is decided by a margin of about 0.100 seconds. So if you see a margin of victory (MOV) of 0.100 seconds, that was an easy win. Easy? That is because 0.100 is 1 whole car length. What does this have to do with consistency? This shows that you cannot dial-in a 13.90 when your car will only run a 14.00. That is 0.100 off, and that is 1 car length for your opponent to play with. That is why 0.5xx reaction times are so valuable. If you cut a 0.530 R/T for example, and Joey Mustang cuts a 0.580 R/T, you were given a 1/2 car length head start, that is all you need for the win, as long as you put a dial-in on your car window that was realistic. Let's say hypothetically your car ran 15.10 and 15.09 in 2 time trials. So for 1st round you go conservative and dial-in 15.00 Bad idea. Take the above example where you race the Mustang and you cut R/T's like shown above. The Mustang dude hypothetically can run his number. Lets say he dials 14.00 and knows the car can run 13.98 Now since you have the 0.050 sec. advantage off the starting line, the Mustang will be trying to get his bumper past you. He passes you way before the finish line and takes only a fender for MOV. (0.030). He WINS! How? You had a better light and he still won! Ahhgg! Here is what happened. Your car can only run a 15.09 and that is what it ran. 15.090 let's say. But you dialed in at 15.000. That would be 0.090 off the dial and you were 0.030 off from perfect 0.500 R/T. Total=0.120-off. The Mustang ran a 14.010 on a 14.00 dial and he was off the throttle and on the brake before the finish line. He cut that 0.580 light. He would be 0.080 off, due to R/T and 0.010 off due to dial. That makes 0.090-off all total. Now do you see were he was able to slow down and just take a fender at the finish line? That would be 0.030 seconds. And the time slip shows MOV to Mustang of 0.030.
How to know what your car will run.
Quick and basic answer: The car will run almost exactly the same ET as the last run.
If you have the typical impalaSS, then it will run, for sake of argument,15.000, then 15.018, then 14.999, then 15.008. If the temp/humidity stay the same and you drive it exactly the same way each run, and the car is well maintained, it will not vary by more than 0.030 between each run. Now pretend that those 4 ET's are your 4 timed runs. I would dial-in for round 1 eliminations at 15.01, and expect that the car "may" run a hair quicker. So if I'm ahead before the finish line, I must hit the brakes to scrub off a spare 0.005 or so. But you may have your own dial-in strategy and you should continue to use it. This tip is not about dial-in strategy. So to know exactly what your car will run, just look at the last time slip. That ET is what your car will run, provided that you do the exact same burnout, or lack thereof, the exact same launch RPM, and roll the car the exact same distance in the starting line beams. If you have a thermometer and/or other weather monitors...then factor for the weather changes. But street class and Impala club class bracket racing usually run quick round robin so the weather will usually not change enough within the time it takes to go 4 rounds to the Finals. What if you win round 1, but you put the brake on and slowed down before the finish line? How do you know what to dial? Easy answer. Take the time slip from your last known full run...read the 1000' ET, now take the time slip from last run, (where you put the brakes on), and read the 1000' ET. Note the exact difference in 1000' ET's between the 2 time slips. That is exactly how much slower or faster your car will run next time. So add/subtract the 1000' ET differential to the last full run time slip. There is your dial-in.
(not tip), #1: Mark the finish line
at the starting line.
How will you know if you are ahead by a bumper at the finish line? You can know for sure only by looking at the opponent car at the starting line. The trick is: When you and the opponent are pre-staged, then take a moment to look at the opponent car and mentally mark a spot on his car, relative to your car. Both cars are lined up almost even at the starting line, so you know that is how things will look like if you were in a dead tie at the finish line. This helps beyond belief. I my case, the other car always looks "behind" me, when we are lined up at the starting line. You have got to have a good mental picture of what you and the opponent look like in a dead heat. So here is my starting line ritual: Do burn out. Roll up to 1st staging beam. Stop. Wait for opponent to pre-stage if not already there. Wiggle in seat. Pump brake. Make sure shifter is in low. Look over at opponent and mark spot, (just in case we have a close finish line). Roll car into the fully staged position. Look for opponent to fully stage, if not already there. Stare at 3rd yellow. Bring RPMs up to 2000. Go at 3rd yellow. Try it this weekend guys and gals. I hope this trick nets at least one win light for you.
#2: Put weight over the rear tires.
I tell ya what. It is a great feeling to go to the starting line, confident that your car is going to run the dial. This frees you up to concentrate on the 3rd yellow. That is quite an advantage. And just like Steve O. says, your car may go slower, but it will win races. I keep the gas tank at least 3/4 full. I keep a bag full of tools in the trunk. I have my battery in the trunk. I HATE loosing races because my car slipped in the 1st 60'. HATE IT, I tell ya. When the rear tires slip, that usually slows the ET by 0.2 seconds, for my car.
Listen to this true story. In the 1st 8 events of 1999:
3, were 1st round losses.
1, was a 2nd round loss.
1, was a 3rd round rainout
3, were Final Round wins or losses.
That makes for a total of 44 time slips for the 1st 8 races of 1999. Of the 44 trips down the track, 3 of them had tire spin. All 3 tires spin runs were at Englishtown during the GMHTP Mag. EFI Shoot-out. I slipped once in a time trial. Then went and filled up with $30 bucks of GT-100, then slipped for round 1 eliminations that made me run 0.096 off the dial, but a 0.537 R/T to his 0.621 saved me. Then I slipped in round 2, which made the car 0.238 off the dial. A 0.573 R/T to his 0.659 did not help. That was an easy win for the other guy. (0.100 MOV). What did I do wrong? I didn't go back to the pit and fill my trunk up with both stock rear Impala wheels/tires and whatever else. Why didn't I think of that? I don't know. But that extra 100 lb. should have helped with traction. (I would have backed off by 0.10 on the dial-in). Now this also shows that some tracks are less sticky than others. All 39 runs at MIR have been slip free, so I'm not running with a trunk full of junk there. But the point is, add the weight if needed.