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What is Drag Racing?

       Most people would think that drag racing is really simple. Go straight for a quarter mile, Get to the end first!  But once you have experienced a drag race, you will know it is not that simple.  There are lots of rules and regulations governing drag racing. At any official drag strip, there are strict restrictions on what type of safety equipment you must have on your car to even get on the track.  And the restrictions get more thorough the faster your car is.
       For stock cars that run over 14.00 seconds in the quarter mile there are relatively few things to worry about.  As long as you are not wearing shorts, and you have seatbelts in your car, you are set.  When you get your cars time to less than 13.99 in the quarter mile, is the time you start to need special things like a helmet and a drive shaft loop (a device to restrain your driveshaft from pole vaulting your car down the track if it breaks).

How a Christmas Tree Works

        A Christmas tree at the drag strip is not something to hang ornaments on, or find presents under. The Christmas tree is the set of lights at the starting line. The lights all have a specific purpose which I will now explain.

Move Your mouse over the pictures below to see them animate.

Pre-Staging Lights:

       These are the lights at the very top of the tree. They are connected to a laser beam at the ground level about 4 inches from the starting line. The pre-staging lights will come on when you edge your car up towards the line, and the beam is crossed. There is one set of pre-staging lights on each side of the Christmas tree for the racer on the left and on the right. When two opponents line up on the track, they both move into position so each one triggers the pre-staging lights. They are then both Pre-staged.

Staging Lights:

       The staging lights are positioned right below the Pre-staging lights, and are similarly connected to a laser beam at ground level. But this beam is right on the starting line. After the two opponents are Pre-staged, they Both inch up until their tires break the staging beam. When both are in position, the race sequence starts.

Amber Lights:

       Below the staging lights are the three amber lights which are all in a row. The top light comes on, then the second, and then the third. The purpose of these lights is to give the racers a timing sequence for when the Green light comes on.

Green Light: 

       This means GO!  Actually, it's a common practice among drag racers to actually stomp on the gas petal when the last amber light is on.  That way, by the time the car reacts to you telling it to go, the green light will have come on, and your reaction time (the difference between when the green light came on, and the time you left the starting line) will be low.  And a good reaction time can actually help you win a race!  After Your tire clears the second laser beam, is when the timer starts for your run.  The timer stops when you pass the finish line 1/4 mile down the track.

RED LIGHT! 

       OH NO!  A Red Light at the bottom means that you left the starting line before the green light came on.  You are automatically disqualified and your opponent wins!   Don't wear your lead Shoes, and this wont happen to you!

Thanks to Curtis Fernandes, materials by permission