Bracket Racing 101


Bracket Racing 101:

The Pits - Every entry is a full access pit pass for spectators and drivers. Most tracks will be laid out differently from one another and at some smaller tracks it may be important to arrive early to get a decent parking spot. When racing on street tires the last thing you want is to park somewhere that dirt or mud is getting in your tread.

The Pre-staging Lanes (waiting line) - Unless it is a time trial with no formal call-ups, your class will be called prior to your NOT just drive up. A lot of tracks will number their staging lanes 1-4, 1-8, and so on. Pay attention to the number, if your class is called to lanes 3 and 4 and you want to run lane 1 on the actual track you want to be in lane 3.

From the pre-stage lane to Starting Line - If you are running street tires or even drag radials with multiple deep treads you want to stay OUT of the water if at all possible, as you do not want water to be trapped in your tread/wheel well (it can drip down after a burnout). Wait to be waved forward to the starting line. Cars with street tires will typically do best to have someone wipe the tires in the staging lanes or spin the tires overs very briefly. Pull forward towards the tree to stage the car.

Staging the Car - If you have a friend that can serve as your "crew member" they can help to position your front tire (all of the beams are low to the ground to detect the tires, not bumpers) just in front of the first beam. At this point you can pull forward just far enough to turn on the first set of pre-stage bulbs. Do not pull directly into both the pre-stage and stage beams as some tracks initiate an automatic time out sequence for the other lane. Once the other car turns on their top bulbs you can inch forward to just trip the second pair of bulbs. You are now staged and should rev the car to the desired launch RPM. You should only be focused on the lights (learn to hear the proper rpm) so that when the 3rd yellow light comes on you go. Do NOT leave on the green light or you will have a very slow reaction time. "Treeing" an opponent gives you an advantage right from the start and allows you room for error on the top end of the track. A competitive reaction time for most non-points classes is between .080-.120 a very good racer will consistently be between .010-.040

Dialing your Car - In bracket racing you must have a dial-in (a number you believe your car will run in the next race) once you get to the first round of eliminations. If you go slower than your dial you leave room for the other racer to beat you, if you go faster you 'break-out' and automatically lose, unless: A. the opponent red lit, B. the opponent crossed the center line, or C. The opponent broke out by more than you did. There are a lot of things to consider when dialing your car:
  • Weather plays a big factor. The sun will heat the track on a hot day and can cause the starting line to be more slick.
  • Depending on your car factors like the barometer, humidity, and wind direction/strength also come in to play.
  • What were your previous runs and how are they trending?
  • Was the car still hot for any of the runs? and will it be hot/cold for the next run? (best to open your hood after your run to allow it to cool down before the next run, some people bring ice bags as well)
  • What are other drivers doing? (do you hear a lot of guys picking up or slowing down?). Ultimately it is better to sandbag and put a slower time on the car if you are not sure as you can always make the car go slower.

Driving the Top End - Here is an area that many new drivers struggle with bracket racing. Because the start is staggered based on the 2 cars dial-in times, driving near the finish can be tricky. If you are the slower car, it is often best to keep it floored through the finish as it can be tough to judge a fast approaching car. However, if you are the faster car and are approaching your opponent, you will want to get your left foot over to your brake ready to scrub off some speed if you are going around them. Do not lift out of the gas if possible, just drag the brake. Lifting can cause you to slow too quickly and allow the slower car to go back around you before the finish.

A few side notes:
The pits, staging lanes, and return roads are not areas to race, act responsible as there are families and children all around.
Be a good sport, no one likes a hot head.
Have Fun! If you make a mistake, learn from it.

If anyone would like additional content please comment or message me, thanks!
Last edited:


A few pictures from South Mountain, an 1/8th mile track in Mount Holly, PA.



Last edited:


Thread updated for clarity. If anyone wants to see new content/pictures, just let me know!


Track Monkey
How "competitive" is bracket racing? Like... wouldn't the ultimate strategy be to just idle all the way through the course. You'd get identical times (albeit in the minutes) every time? No missed shifts, wheel spin, temp variations, etc... I assume such a strategy is frowned upon?


Depending on the class there are time requirements and it wouldn’t actually work as you proposed it. It seems simple to go slow and repeat your time but even something like the wind could make your time vary considerably and with how fast your opponent would go by you it would be deemed unsafe and you would lack any ability to judge where you are in relation to the other car. I think one would struggle to have a good reaction time which is one of the biggest factors as you progress.