I sometimes feel like bracket and sportsman racers are drag racing’s forgotten children. It bothers me that the stands at a national event clear out when the dial-in or index classes come to the line. That’s why I’m so excited to be presenting a column to the readers of Drag Racer written from the perspective of someone who’s logged thousands of bracket passes down the quarter-mile. Perhaps you own a drag car of your own, but have only done heads-up drag racing; or maybe you’re a fan of the sport, but have never been down the track yourself. If my column helps bring some understanding as to why racers like me became involved with and dedicated to bracket-style racing, maybe you’ll take your own car to the local track and get involved in bracket racing, too.
I love bracket and index racing. I’m the guy who races at one track on a Saturday night, then loads up all my stuff and travels overnight to my Sunday track, catching a few hours of sleep in the back of the tow vehicle. Just about everything in my life revolves around this somewhat maligned and misunderstood form of motorsports. Whether it’s racing my own bracket car, or watching and covering sportsman classes for my website The Dragtime News (www.dragtimenews.com (http://www NULL.dragtimenews NULL.com)), I just can’t get enough of on-the-brakes racing.
So who am I? I’m a multi-time track champion and the owner and driver of the “DRAGTIME” ‘64 Dodge Polara, a pure footbrake bracket car. I compete regularly in Pro E.T. and have also routinely footbraked the Dodge in Super Pro, even winning an NHRA Wally in that delay box/transbrake class. The Dodge runs 10.90s – 11.00s through the mufflers, is powered by a mild 10:1 Chrysler 440 on pump gas, and is shifted with a pushbutton Torqueflite. The Dodge looks like an old-time Nostalgia car, but it’s really a deadly consistent bracket car. It’s not built to go fast; it’s built to cut a light and run the number.
This brings me to my first topic and one of the most basic differences between drag racing and bracket racing: power vs. consistency. While the drag racer is always looking for more horsepower, the bracket racer is all about consistency. If the bracket racer can get power and consistency, all the better, but power should never win out at the expense of consistency (and to a lesser degree parts longevity) in a good bracket car. This is such a major factor with having a successful bracket program, yet it’s lost on many racers and builders alike.
A good bracket car is predictable: It can handle all the power it puts to the ground without spinning the tires. In this case predictability is most easily accomplished if the car is underpowered in relation to the rear tire size and comes off the line somewhat soft, both of which will help limit the car’s tendency to spin the tires. Building a car to be intentionally underpowered and soft-leaving is a foreign concept to some builders, but it makes perfect sense for a class of racing where you can dial your own number and where predictability—not power—is the deciding factor in winning races.
An underpowered car is also easier on parts. There’s no need to try to set records in a class where E.T. really doesn’t matter, so why have a setup that pushes the parts to the limit? For example, to be a little easier on the motor I have my ignition timing set a bit on the low side, and I keep the carb jetted just a touch fat. I also shift at a very conservative 6,000 rpm. I could run my motor on the ragged edge and be quicker and faster, but a motor on the edge will not last as long. I’d rather tune it back so it’ll live for several hundred passes, which gives me many more chances to win. A broken car parked at home is not a very good tool for winning races.
These basic principles apply to any car running a dial-in format. It doesn’t matter if you run a weekly bracket points series at your local track, travel track to track to run big money Super Pro gambler races with the heaviest hitters around, or you run with a local nostalgia association: If you’re putting a dial-in on the window, you’re bracket racing, and the odds of winning a bracket race increase if your car is predictable and less prone to parts breakage.
Thanks for reading, and until next time, good luck at the track.
Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org (bbeucler null@null dragtimenews NULL.com).