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This section is going to cover what is Bracket Racing and due to memory restrictions, only a few basics of strategy. I am personally not some World Beater at Bracket Racing, I've won a little and lost a lot, however I always enjoy the friendly competition and have studied the sport a little bit, thus maybe I can help out somebody with the following information.

Bracket Racing is simply put... Handicapped Racing.... it means regardless of how much faster or slower your competitor is compared to you, based upon your dial-in time (The time you think you are going to run without going quicker than this posted time) you are going to be handicapped to your competitor.

In other words not unlike your local betting line on a football game, if you were betting on the Rams against the Raiders last year(1999), you more than likely had to give away 8 points or so, thus the Raiders in essence had an 8 point lead before kick off, bracket racing kind of works in the same way to help even up the odds a bit.

In other words if you took your trial or test passes and you ran 12.30 every pass... then when it is time for eliminations, you may select to write 12.30 on your front and rear windows in a visible fashion so the track officials can see it. This is your projected et without going quicker than this time. If you ran a 12.29, you would break out, thus you would lose the race on a disqualification.

If your competitor dialed in a 13.30, then his tree is going to start exactly 1 second before yours.... so you gotta catch him and pass him before the end of the 1/4 without running quicker than 12.30, and he wants to run 13.30 or slower but yet stay ahead of you at the end of the track.

 Left laneRight lane
car# 1011
dial in: 12.3013.30
330 foot5.0505.750
1/8th mph88.0083.00
1000 ft et10.30011.200
1/4 et12.32013.310
1/4 mph111.00105.00
Win Left Lane: .040

In this situation, you would have found that neither one of you redlighted and that you passed him at the very end of the track and probably put about a solid fender on him going through the traps. Neither one of you broke out, therefore because neither redlighted either, there is no disqualification to either racer, thus, whoever crossed the finish line first won the race. You beat him, even though he ran closer to his dial-in time than you, you had a better reaction time which over compensated for you being off 2 hundredths off your dial in time versus your competitor only being off 1 hundredths off their dial time.

In other words, I like to think of things in terms of packages. You brought a .070 second package to the table which would be very competitive in any non-electronic bracket class. Your package is simply the total amount of error... in this case it was .050 reaction time error and .02 dial-in time error = .070 seconds total error.

Your competitor had .1 reaction time error and .01 dial-in error, thus his total package was .110 error, which also isn't bad, but not likely to win you every round either.

I believe to be competitive in each round you need a total package of .1 or less... anything more and you are going to have problems in any given round. If you are serious about bracket racing, you might want to consider creating a racers log and charting your progress in keeping your total package on an average below .1.... not just in competition, but in time only practice rounds. Write down a time to yourself and then try to hit a good light and chart it. .1 package rounds by no means guarantee you a win, I've hit .520 lights and ran my dial to a hundredths before and still lost, but it will mean that you are a competitor that cannot be taken lightly.

Things you should probably work on to build yourself a respectable package:

Motor Consistency is of course extremely important in a bracket race, if your motor runs a 12.30 one pass and the very next pass you run a 12.60..... and you don't know why.... you are in trouble !! Make sure your ignition system is in good working order as well as your fuel delivery system. They can be the first culprits in inconsistency.

Of course tires are extremely important, if you have a car that runs in the 14's or quicker your racecar is capable of spinning at anytime with street radials. At the very least you need BFG, Mickey Thompson or Nitto Drag Radials. In some classes at events they require that you not only run a DOT approved tire, but also a radial, so those 2 tires become your only 2 choices. I personally prefer the BFG tire over the Nitto, simply because they are a little stickier and more consistent than the Nitto's.... however to the Nitto's behalf, they last twice as long as the BFG's. However, if the class requirement is only running a DOT tire regardless if it is a radial or not, then the DOT approved Mickey Thompson ET Streets (bias ply) would probably be my pick. (In fact they are now) They are stickier than both BFG and Nitto of the drag radials, and in addition, they are a wrinkle wall that has flex, therefore, they seem to recover much quicker when you do have spin as opposed to the BFG or Nitto which typically stay in a full spin much longer.

Once you have a motor and chassis that reliably stick to the pavement and get you down the track, then the next main consistency dial-in concern is the weather. Changes in the weather will change your et's without a doubt. I would venture to say if you ran 1 day at 60 degrees with a barometric pressure of 30.2 and the next day you ran in 100 degree weather with a barometric pressure of 29.60 on the same track, the difference in et could be a staggering 1/2 second difference. Believe it or not we can actually have weather that almost duplicates that at Pomona.... I have seen it so cool and overcast in the morning when we first start racing that you have to wear a jacket, and by midafternoon, its so hot and sticky you don't have enough clothes to take off.

Point is, you have to get to know your car, I personally believe carb cars have more of an influx of times with the weather than the computer controlled late model fuel injected cars... simply because our ecm's work dynamically with our motors. However, it does effect our cars, maybe just not as dramatic. I do not have any clear cut answers to anybody for the amount they should adjust per 10 degrees or point of barometric pressure, you simply just have to get to know your car, every motor reacts differently to this variable. Considering you will typically receive between 2-4 trial passes before eliminations start in a bracket race... I recommend you put them to good use. Chart the outside temperature, perhaps get a barometer report before going to the track as well. Some tracks actually show the temp and barometric pressure on the et slips, however at Pomona and Carlsbad they do not. If you have an airport close by as many race tracks do, most airports have an automated weather report that includes the station barometer that you could call periodically during your day of racing. Through Summit you can purchase a host of doohickies that help out such as a weather station, in addition they offer computer calculators that will help you calculate how much time to add or subtract to your projected dial-in et. I have not personally tried these devices as of yet, thus it would be un-fair of me to comment on them. I do know that many people swear by them. If anybody has something good or bad to say about them, feel free to drop me a comment and let me know how they worked out for you.

Another variable that will effect your dial in time is Motor temperature, once again this is something that will vary from car to car so it is impossible for me give you a clear cut # to adjust based upon the temperature of your car. But it is universally known that a cool motor makes more power.

If my motor is around 190 versus 160, I personally will add around 2-4 hundredths of a second to my dial-in depending on other variables. With your car this # could be greater or nothing at all. You want to try and race your motor at the same temperature always, but this is next to impossible, especially if you are winning in brackets, thus you get to a point near the finals that you are almost hot lapping your motor. So practice and observation are what will win races with this minor adjustment.

Another area to improve your total package is of course the much discussed "Reaction Time". Reaction time is defined as the amount of time you reacted to the lights and got your race car to trip the et start beam. In other words, your brain can wait until the green appears, and tell your foot to floor it at the exact moment that the green light appears, but their is a delay from the brain to the foot, and of course the car was told to move, but the motor doesn't know it yet, and finally the wheels are told to move, and then they have to move approximately 12" or less to break the et starting beam (12" or less depends on how deep your stage was) All this simply means, is that if you wait until the green before you floor it, you have more than likely already lost the race. Most cars within the 11-14 second et range your brain needs to tell your foot to floor it at the moment the last yellow lights. Of course once again as in all things this is a variable, that changes from car to car, depending on how deep you stage, how quick your foot is, how good your traction is, and how quick your car is. A low 11 second car may need to wait until the middle of the last yellow light, where a 14 second car may need to hit as the second yellow light shuts off. There is only one way that I know off to hit good lights.... Practice with composure!! You will find out where your car best performs and go from there on trying to hit consistently tight lights.

A few tips, never pay attention to your competitor at the staging light in competition, I recommend you always know what the dial-in time is of your competitor for the simple reason you won't be mentally startled when he jumps 2 seconds before you, or doesn't go when you go, but do not constantly check out the condition of his lights, just focus on yours. When the lights go down, your eyes should go in a rhythm as well with the lights. However, once you get going, by all means pay attention to your competitor. Try to repeat your preoperation the same method, time after time, however do not get caught in a rut where you feel you must always stage first or last... just be ready the second you are staged for the simple reason your competitor may already be staged. While it doesn't happen very often anymore, occasionally you will have a competitor who will try to take you out of your ritual, typically by taking his merry ol time staging, thus you get antsy, and are always taking your focus of your lights, and become more concerned with what your competitor is up to. Never get caught up in this, simply relax your body, and keep your eyes and mind focused on your lights.

Most racers prefer to get their converter off idle, thus they power brake the motor just a little, you do not want to change this ritual if it what you are used to, and you simply never want to get in the habit of somebody who stages their converter up to the rpm where the brakes can no longer hold the car. You have too much margin of error doing this, even a little foot tingle can accidently kick the car forward through the starting et beams before the lights have even started, thus you lose. In other words, start your mild power brake the second you get staged, and never get in the habit of staging at 3000 rpm with a 3000 rpm or less torque converter... Even the best brakes are not going to hold the car. I personally stage at approximately 1200-1400 rpm, I am just simply getting the motor off idle, which typically provides cleaner more consistent launches in my opinion. (I have a 3000 rpm torque converter) Even on a good running motor, flooring your car from off idle will occasionally cause a very slight stumble... that of course can greatly effect both your et and reaction time.

The last thing I have to say about reaction time is that I highly recommend you practice staying off the redlight. You will not win the race if you redlight !!! I tell myself before every race that if my competitor is going to beat me, he is going to have to earn it, I'm not going to hand it to him. If you do not redlight, you will find yourself going that occasional extra round even if your package is pretty poor. I have not conducted a study, but I would venture to guess that approximately 20% of the time a bracket racer redlights. Therefore, it becomes simple logic, that if you stay off the redlight, your win percentage has the opportunity to increase by up to 20 percent.

Whenever I hit a .500-.520 light I consider it a mistake on my part simply because I am cutting it too close to the red side. (I don't mind these mistakes too much though) If I hit a .520-.560 I am on my lights that day... not too close to the red side... but a safe competitive number.

One other staging consideration is the rollout, or in other words how deep you go into the lights. Some people like to deep stage, this is where they actually stage so deep into the lights, they are taking the top bulb off, or in other words the tires are right against the start beam. Thus they base their launch off the last yellow disappearing. This is not good for et's, but if that is what the racer is used too... then he should stay with it. Staging as light as possible is my method, I simply light the top bulb, and then bring my converter up to where I want it, and then gently release a little bit of the brake pressure to slowly inch forward and barely light the second bulbs. This typically gives me around a 10" rollout, and typically better et's too, however, in bracket racing this doesn't matter as much, its more about what you are used too. If you accidently stage very deeply, the first thing you'll notice is that your reaction time will be considerably quicker... to the point that you may even redlight. (One other note, if Deep staging is your choice, you must right the word "Deep" on your windows above or below your dial-in time so that the starter will see your intent of taking the top bulb off. Therefore, he will not pre-maturely start the tree before you are staged.)

So after all of the talk above, you have come to the conclusion it doesn't matter how fast your Vette is in bracket racing, because its handicapped, and you have an equal chance of winning... well not exactly.

We've all been to Vegas or Atlantic City and played blackjack before, the dealer has a distinct advantage... that advantage is that you, the player have an opportunity to break out first, thus losing the game before the dealer has even looked at their cards. Thus the same goes true for bracket racing, if you are the faster car, your competitor's lights start first, and they have the first opportunity to redlight.... if they redlight, before your lights have even started... too bad.... you win. Once they redlight the race in effect is over, even if you redlight too, as long as you didn't break the et starting beam before they did you win. The first to disqualify loses, and the faster car never has the opportunity to redlight first. Thus, having one of the quicker cars in your class is desirable. In addition, there is another definitive advantage in my opinion, and that is that the race is in front of you.... after they have launched, you know how far they are ahead of you the whole race... they are right in front of you, where your competitor has to keep his eyes on the road in front of him with only occasional glances back to gauge where you are. What this means is that it is easier for the faster car to make adjustments right before the traps. You can better gauge if you are indeed going to catch him or not, and if you need to get off the throttle right before the traps, because you are safely passing them, and you want to knock some et off to eliminate the danger of breaking out of your dialed in time.

In addition, the faster car will in many cases sandbag away a tenth or two ..... what this means is if the faster car knows his car will run 12.00 flat, but he dials a 12.20, he pretty much knows that no matter what he is going to catch his competitor before the traps, but he risks the danger of breaking out because his racecar can run much quicker than the dial-in, so what they do is catch the sandbagged victim and then fender race them the last 300 feet of the race. Fender racing is simply catching your slower competitor early and feathering your throttle to the extent that you maintain a lead of a bumper to half car on your competitor. What the faster car is doing is simply trying to land his car within a tighter window of your total package. In other words if you are the slower car and your total package is a tenth, and based upon a tenth of a second is roughly 16 feet at 110 mph, Your faster competitor has a 16 foot window to beat you in, provided his reaction time wasn't over your total package, and you are not on a breakout pass. If both competitors break out, the one who broke out by the least amount wins the race. Fender racing takes a little practice, but in some cases can be very effective in advancing another round.

The Dial-In

Obviously a very important aspect of bracket racing is the Dial-in time that you select. The Dial-in time is the et that you will strive to run as close to, but without going quicker than this time, which in turn would result in a Breakout. A breakout is when you run quicker than your dial-in time, and results in disqualification. If both race cars breakout of their dial-in time, then the racecar that broke out by the least amount wins the race.

What you dial-in for your et is strictly up to you. Typically at most bracket racing events, you will receive between 2-4 trial passes to determine your dial-in time. If you for example ran 13.15, 13.06 and 13.22 with your 3 trial passes. You then obviously see that you have decision to make. Some people make the mistake of dialing in a quicker time than they have run all day... such as a 12.99.... because it looks better to them on their windshield. This is a big mistake. One of the rules I follow when I dial my time..."Never dial a time you cannot run today" Last year we had a fellow racer run low 13's in all of his 3 trial passes. He then proceeded to dial-in 12.69 on his windshield. I questioned him on this, and his reply "3 weeks ago at another racetrack I ran 12.69"..... I'm not kidding or exaggerating the #'s on this. Needless to say, he was easily dispatched off in the 1st round. (Wish I could have raced him in the 1st round)

In the above example of running 13.06, 13.15 and 13.22... the safe dial is a know you can run this et and it was your last runtime as well. You have to consider all of the other variables before you actually write this # on your windshield, such as weather changes and motor changes. Then based upon this information you then write your #. For example, maybe since your last trial and eliminations, the outside temperature has risen 10 degrees, thus through your experiences with your motor, you have found that your motor runs 2 hundredths slower per 10 degrees of heat, therefore your new dial-in time would be 13.24

As a rule of thumb, I rarely give in dial-in advise at the track. I'd hate to give the wrong opinion to a racer, and then they lose. Thus, I'm going to follow the same advise here on this web page as well, and just finish this portion of this page by listing a couple of my personal dial-in rules.

* Never dial a time you cannot run today.

* Dial soft when you are the faster car... typically I only dial right around 1/2 tenth soft on a good hooking track. But if you are on a slippery track, dial 1-2 tenths soft to accommodate for a spin. But if you hook, be prepared to dump some serious et. (Easier said than done)

* Dial hard when you are the slower car... typically I will be pushing my Vette right through the lights. (Its harder to back-in to your competitor is the reasoning)

* If the track is sloppy, dial soft. Typically I will dial what I think I will run with a spin, plus a 1/2 tenth.

* Know your competitor's dial-in before dialing yourself in, if possible. If you happen to know your competitor and know what they are capable of running and you notice that they are dialing soft by a few tenths and you are the slower car. You may want to dial slightly soft yourself, cut a good light, and get out of the gas yourself at the last possible minute and push them into a breakout.

* Pick a strategy and stay with it. Consistency in all facets is the key to winning bracket races.

The last thing I want to say.... don't take anything I've said above too seriously... and just make sure you HAVE FUN !!!! Thats really what racing of any type is all about....

There are many, many other aspects to Bracket Racing, including track top end racing tactics.... but there are memory constraints on this page restricting how much content I can have.. so thats it for now.

The author of this document is Todd Drane (BeachBum).

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modified: December 31, 1969 - 7:00 pm

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