As most Drag Racers know, “cutting a good light” can be the difference between winning and losing.
The rider with the best reaction time has a big advantage. This is why many Drag Racers spend so much time working and practicing on their outings. Some of the best Drag Racers go to special facilities where they work on hand-eye coordination to gain an advantage over their competition.
But there’s more to getting your drag car off the line faster and more consistently than your opponent than just hand-eye coordination. You also need to take into account all the details that make up the Total Reaction Time.
First, here is some background: the typical Drag Racing starting line “Christmas tree” consists of stop lights (letting you, the driver, know that your car is on the starting line), 3 yellow lights and 1 green “Ahead” light. . The lights count down in yellow, yellow, yellow, then green with 0.5 seconds between them, 2 seconds total. Because a typical total reaction time is about 0.5 seconds, most Drag Racers use the last yellow light as a signal to go (release the clutch or transmission brake switch). Then when the car is started, the green light is on. If you wait to see the green light, you are actually 0.5 seconds late. However, if YOUR actual total reaction time is 0.499 seconds instead of the 0.5 seconds between the last yellow and green, you’re leaving too early for .001 seconds, “Red light” and off the hook. A CRITICAL aspect of any practice tree is understanding all the “lag times” that make up the total reaction time. The total reaction time is the time since the lights come on in the tree and the car discovers the staging beam, starting the ET timer. The total reaction time is made up of: your human body’s reaction time to the lights, the response time of your vehicle, the RollOut time, and any delay times from the electronic delay box. The response time of your vehicle when you give it a signal (for example, when you release the parking brake button) and the vehicle begins to move. This can be comprised of a rim flank, suspension and driveline “wrap”, transmission fluid lags, or linkage movement in a clutch car. The “RollOut time”, which is the time required to go from the ready position to discover the light that starts the ET timer. If you discover this light before the green light, it will “red light” and lose.
Given all the variables and lags that go into Drag Racing’s reaction time, it’s not enough to practice “just” your human reaction time. You must understand the effect of all other reaction times and how they affect Total Reaction Time. For example, if your human reaction time is too slow, maybe you can go a deeper stage or change the diameter of your car’s front tire to reduce the RollOut time to compensate.
There are many practice trees online, but they have very limited options. There are also some miniature practice trees with lights and buttons, and even full-size trees, but most of these are quite expensive. Plus, if you want to track your progress, you have even fewer options.
This is why many people prefer computer programs that have many options to give you a more “flexible” practice tree. Many Practice Tree programs have options for Vehicle Delay and RollOut Time. Some even let you go into details like changing the staging depth, stagger, and front tire diameter to see the effect on RollOut time. Also, since it’s on a computer, you can connect manual switches or foot pedals for a more realistic feel. And computers are good at logging data, so you can keep track of your progress for future analysis.