A drag race is a contest that takes place on a controlled racetrack usually between two vehicles racing side by side in a straight line at a designated, typically on a quarter-mile and sometimes an eighth-mile drag strip. In most drag racing categories, the first vehicle to the finish line wins.

A typical drag racing event is made up of a series of individual two-car races called eliminations. Winners of each two-car race advance until only one winner remains.

NHRA offers two types of drag racing: heads-up and handicap. Heads-up racing is the easiest to understand because both cars leave the starting line at the same time, and the first to cross the finish line wins. Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle, Top Alcohol Dragster, and Top Alcohol Funny Car race heads-up.

In Handicap racing, the object of the game is to predict how many seconds it will take your car to get to the finish line, then try to run as close to that number as possible without going quicker, or "breaking out." The driver who comes closest is the winner. Handicap racing allows cars of different speeds to race one other because the slower car gets a head start. In some categories, the driver chooses his or her own handicap, or dial-in/dial-under. These are Super Stock, Stock, E.T. bracket, and Jr. Dragster classes. In other categories, the class handicap is predetermined and may not be changed. These classes are Comp, Super Comp, Super Gas, and Super Street. In Super Comp, Super Gas, and Super Street, breakout rules apply.

Drag Strip Timing and Scoring System Layout


Christmas Tree Starting System

FULL TREE: Used in Competition, Stock, and Super Stock, for which a handicap starting system is used to equalize competition. The three amber bulbs on the Christmas Tree flash consecutively five-tenths of a second apart, followed five-tenths later by the green starting light. A perfect reaction time on a full Tree is .000.

PRE-STAGE INDICATOR LIGHTS: Yellow bulbs warn drivers that they are approaching the startling line and the “staged” position.

STAGE INDICATOR LIGHTS: Signal drivers that they are on the starting line ready for a run. These yellow bulbs come on when the front wheels of a race car interrupt the beam from a light source to the photo cells. These same photo cells start the timing equipment.

THREE-AMBER STARTING SYSTEM: All three amber floodlights in a driver’s lane flash simultaneously before the green light comes on. This is called a “Pro start” system. Racers running in handicap categories get a countdown of one amber light at a time until the green light comes on. The Pro start system runs with a .4-second difference between amber and green lights, while the handicap system runs with a .5-second difference between bulbs.

GREEN LIGHT: This is the one that makes it happen. Once the green light is flashed, the driver in that lane is free to make a run. Any time a green light is shown in a driver’s lane it indicates that a fair start was accomplished.

When a car leaves the starting line before the green light comes on, or, in some cases, is staged too deeply into the staging beams, the red light will flash in that lane. It indicates the driver in that lane has been disqualified. During competition, only one red light will illuminate, thus eliminating only the first offender.

What to expect at the drag races
When you spend a day at the drag races, you'll see much more than the action on the track. Because every ticket's a pit pass in NHRA Championship Drag Racing, you'll be able to watch racers and crews up close at work, meet them, and get their autographs. You'll also be able to participate in interactive displays and see between-rounds entertainment such as stunt shows and high-speed video highlights on the ACDelco Vision JumboTron screen.