Drag Racing Glossary
Breakout: Used only in handicap racing, “breakout” refers to a contestant running quicker than he or she “dialed” his or her vehicle (predicted how quick it would run). Unless the opponent commits a more serious foul (e.g., red-lights, crosses the centerline, or fails a post-race inspection), the driver who breaks out loses. If both drivers break out, the one who runs closest to his or her dial is the winner.
Burnout: Spinning the rear tires in water to heat and clean them prior to a run for better traction. A burnout precedes every run.
Christmas Tree: Also called the Tree, it is the noticeable electronic starting device between the lanes on the starting line. It displays a calibrated-light countdown for each driver.
Deep stage: To roll a few inches farther into the beams after staging, which causes the pre-stage lights to go out. In that position, a driver is closer to the finish line but dangerously close to a foul start.
Dropped cylinder: When a cylinder runs too rich (too much fuel in the air/fuel mixture) and prevents the spark plug(s) from firing.
Elapsed time: The time it takes a vehicle to travel from the starting line to the finish line. Also called e.t.
Eliminations: After qualifying, vehicles race two at a time, resulting in one winner from each pair. Winners continue in tournament-style competition until one remains.
Foul start: Indicated by a red light on the Christmas Tree when a car has left the starting line before the green light, or starting signal.
Full Tree: Used in Competition, Super Stock, and 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 .500.
Holeshot: When a driver reacts quicker to the Christmas Tree to win a race against an opponent with a quicker elapsed time (E.T.)
Index: The expected performance for vehicles in a class as assigned by NHRA. It allows various classes of cars in the same category to race together competitively.
Interval timers: Part of a secondary timing system that records elapsed times, primarily for the racers? benefit, at 60, 330, 660, and 1,000 feet.
Methanol: Pure methyl alcohol produced by synthesis; used in Top Alcohol Dragsters and Top Alcohol Funny Cars.
Nitromethane: Produced specifically as a fuel for drag racing, it is the result of a chemical reaction between nitric acid and propane.
Pre-stage: To position the front wheels about seven inches behind the starting line so the small yellow lights atop that driver’s side of the Christmas Tree are glowing. The next step is to stage and be ready to race.
Pro Tree: Used in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle, Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Super Comp, Super Gas, and Super Street, which feature heads-up competition. All three large amber lights on the Christmas Tree flash simultaneously, followed four-tenths of a second later by the green starting light.
Reaction time: The time it takes a driver to react to the green starting light on the Christmas Tree, measured in thousandths of a second. The reaction-time counter begins when the last amber light flashes on the Tree and stops when the vehicle clears the stage beam.
Sixty-foot time: The time it takes a vehicle to cover the first 60 feet of the racetrack. It is the most accurate measure of the launch from the starting line and in most cases determines how quick the rest of the run will be.
Speed trap: The final 66 feet to the finish line where speed is recorded.
Stage: To position the front wheels right on the starting line so the small yellow lights below the pre-stage lights are glowing. Once both drivers are staged, the calibrated countdown (see Christmas Tree) may begin.
Supercharger: A crank-driven air/fuel-mixture compressor, also called a blower. It increases atmospheric pressure in the engine to produce more horsepower.
Turbocharger: An exhaust-driven intake air compressor (see supercharger).
Wheelie bar(s): Used to prevent excessive front-wheel lift.