Here are a few tips and rules to go by for when you go to the track for the first time.
Everyone that wants to race should try to get there hands on an NHRA or IHRA rule book before going to the track..
Make sure you have along a shirt with sleeves, long pants and shoes. Check: that your seat belts works, all the fluids, tires, check for leaks, ect, etc before you leave your house. If you have a rag top or if you think your car will go 13.9 or faster bring a LEGAL helmet, like a SA2005 rated helmet. Some individual tracks require a helmet no matter your speed. Know your track rules.
When you first pull in and pay, ask where tech inspection is and when it opens. Go there before the required time and wait. If your car is fairly stock or does not have a lot done they will just make sure the battery is held down good and that the car is safe. Things like good tires, no leaks ect etc. Take all loose junk out of the car, to include anything in the trunk/hatch area (speaker boxes need to be secured or removed), before you go to tech inspection.
If you car has a lot done and you have an idea of what it will run, make sure you have all the appropriate safety gear.
Most tracks after tech inspection will then write a number on your car so they can keep track of your runs.
GO PARK YOU CAR! TURN OFF YOU’RE A/C AND DO NOT TURN IT ON UNTIL YOU LEAVE THE TRACK, this will keep you from dripping water on the track surface.
Sit up in the stands and watch. Notice how people go to the staging lanes, pull up to the starting line, pull off the track at the end of the run, and where you get your time slip.
After you have a good feel of things, get your car and pull into the staging lanes. Don’t leave your car while in the staging lanes.
When the person before you gets ready to run the guy at the tree will signal him forward. Pull up and stop were he was parked and wait your turn. You should have already turned off the stereo and roll up the windows. Make sure you have your helmet on and seat belt fastened.
Wait until you are signaled to pull forward. Never start your burn out until you are either signal by the track officials or the racers have already left the line. If you are on street tires, DRIVE AROUND THE WATER BOX (the water box area is the area where you smoke the tires) and back up into it. At most tracks, if you drive threw the water box the track people and the racers will not like you because while you are staging the water will run off your front tires on the staging area. This can make the track slick . That’s not good.
On the burn out, if you are on street tires just smoke them enough to clean the dust off of them or smoke them good for a show for the crowd. Its up to you.
Up ahead on the ground you will notice two holes next to each other in the walls (should have noticed this when you were in the stands). Pull up to the first one until the first set of top lights come on (this is pre-staging). Then pull up until you turn on the next set (you are fully staged). Once you do this be ready to race. DO NOT PULL ALL THE WAY UP TO THE TREE. You do not want to pre-stage and than stage all in motion. You pre-stage, than the other racer pre-stages; you stage and than the other racer stages. You get the idea.
When the lights come on go when its green. Don't try to go on the last yellow to get a good reaction time. No REAL racer will laugh at you for having a bad one. After a few runs you can start going on the last yellow when your nerves calm down.
Whatever side the turnoff is on, that racer has the right-of-way (turnoff on the right, the car in the right lane has the right-of-way). Unless you are WAY ahead of someone in the shutdown area (example a 12 second car beats an 18 second car, and even then be careful), don't cross in front of someone because you THINK they can slow down and follow you. They may have a problem (example NO BRAKES!) and can't stop in time. DO NOT RACE THE OTHER RACER TO THE EXIT!! There has been many an accident when people don't yield the right-of-way at a track. Best advice on this: ask the track's tech department or staging director before you make a pass.
Pull up to the person handing out the time slips. When you take the slip - thank them!
Put the slip down until you get back to the pits or staging lanes and look at it then. Don't look at slip (if you can) while sitting at the shack because people will be coming up behind to get their time slip.
Get back in the lanes when you are ready and do it all over again.
If after a few runs and the car is not hooking, you may want to drop the air pressure in your rear tries. You can start dropping one pound in each tire per run. Keep going until your times stop improving.
WARNING: DOING THIS DOES AFFECT YOUR HANDLING IN CORNERS. AIR YOUR TIRES BACK UP BEFORE YOU GO HOME! There is usually an air compressor at every track. Just ask were it is.
Its one thing if a rear end breaks but if you are worried about your car springing a leak or blowing fluids all over the track LEAVE IT AT HOME UNTIL IT’S FIXED. This keeps you and other racers safe.
Don't worry about making a mistake. If you go on a street night, most of the track workers know that most people there don't have a lot of race-time under their belt and are normally glad to help.
Here are some pictures to help
On the starting line are two beams: the pre-stage and stage beams. Each is placed about 6 inches apart from each other, and both are vitally important when it comes to starting-line procedure and recording your elapsed time.
In this series of photos, you can see the staging procedure and how the Christmas Tree operates. In the first photo, you see both pre-stage bulbs lit on the top of the tree. This indicates that you are 6 inches away from being staged, or ready to race. In the second photo, both of the stage bulbs are lit
At this point, both cars are in the proper position, and the starter will activate the countdown on the Tree. In the third photo, you see the last amber bulb on the Tree lit. On a normal street-legal night, the Tree will run on a 0.500 Full Tree setting, meaning each of the three amber bulbs will come on for 1/2 second, one after the other.
As soon as the third amber lights, most competitive racers plant the loud pedal to achieve a good reaction time.