Good street racing cars for Beginners
There’s no easier way to get out of the stands and onto the track than drag racing. Nobody’s born knowing how to drag race though, and everybody was a newbie once. Going to the track for the first time can be intimidating – nobody wants to look like they don’t know what they’re doing, and a lot of what’s going on is mysterious to the uninitiated. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. You don’t need a specially prepared race car or a bunch of training, but there are a few simple things you can do to make sure your first time is a good experience. Since we’re always interested in getting new people out on the dragstrip (as we rarely are good enough to beat anyone else but a first-timer, to be honest!) here are our Top Ten Tips for your first trip to the dragstrip.
1. Watch and Learn
Chances are that you’ll probably see drag racing in person as a spectator before you do it yourself for the first time. While the racing is the main attraction, pay attention to the other things going on – how cars get called up from the staging lanes, how the guy running the water box positions cars for their burnouts, what hand signals the track staff uses to direct drivers, and most importantly, how the tree and staging beams work. At every test and tune session at every track across the country, there is at least one guy who drives right through the staging beams and pulls up right next to the tree, or gets confused and launches the car straight out of the water box. Don’t be that guy! Learn the process by watching from the stands before you see it through the windshield.
2. Get Ready for Tech
For most people, the first time they run the quarter (or eighth) mile, they’ll be doing it in their street car. Generally speaking, if your car is safe enough to drive to the drag strip, it’s safe enough to race, but you will still have to pass tech inspection before they let you run. The safety rules are based on how quick your car is, but unless you’re running something like a Z06 or turbo Mustang, the requirements are pretty straightforward. Under the hood, make sure your battery is secure, your throttle has two separate return springs, and that you’re not leaking anything. Check your tires for bald spots or cord showing, make sure your OEM seat belts are in good condition, and clean everything out of the inside of your car that might become a projectile in case of an accident.
Inspecting your car yourself before you get to the track will avoid unpleasant surprises in tech.
If your car is slower than 14-seconds flat in the quarter mile, you won’t need a helmet, but even if you don’t it’s still a good idea to have one of your own that meets Snell 2000 or better standards – look for a sticker on the back, or inside the liner on the energy absorbing material to check yours. Some tracks offer loaner or rental helmets, but they’re usually exactly as nasty to wear as you might imagine, so bring your own.
3. Bring the Right Clothing
In addition to making sure your car is ready for the track, you need to be ready too. You can’t race wearing Daisy Dukes, a tank top, and sandals, no matter how sexy you look (girls, this applies to you as well!). You need closed-toe shoes, long pants, and at least a T-shirt. We’ve never done it ourselves, but we’ve had a few friends who have needed to make emergency runs to Walmart to get a pair of sweatpants because they forgot this rule. Additionally, if you have nitrous or a non-factory supercharger or turbo on your car, you may also need a jacket that meets SFI 3.2A/1 standards, which are widely available for less than $100.
She’s gonna need long pants to go with that sweatshirt…
While on the subject of clothing, you’re going to spend a lot of time in the lanes waiting to run, fooling around with your car, or sitting in the grandstands watching other people race, so be prepared. Sunscreen and shade are essential for long summer days at the track, and nighttime races can get chilly in the spring and fall, so make sure you have what you need to be comfortable. You’ll also want to bring water and maybe even a cooler full of snacks; staying hydrated is important, and track food and drinks are often expensive and marginal in quality.