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Your first time to the track: What to Expect Guide

You've finally decided to take your car to the track and see what it (and you) can do. Do you know where tech inspection is? Which lane out of those staging lanes is yours? Why is the starter waving at me?

There's more to "going to the track" than meets the eye and this guide will give you the basic information you need to prevent embarrassing yourself.

1. When you arrive at the track you may wait in a long entrance line. You are most likely waiting with racers and spectators waiting to pay admission. Once at the gates you'll pay the admission fee and the racing fee and be given an entrance form. The entrance form asks for basic information about you (name, address, car, license plate, engine) and includes an insurance waiver. Once through the gates, the spectators will turn and park; the racers will continue through to their pits.

2. The pits are usually a very large and open paved area, similar to a parking lot. Some tracks may line the pits to define spaces. Pick an open spot and park there- if you need to prepare your car for the track (remove belts, change tires, etc.) This is where you'll do it. At this time you might place your street tires or folding chair or other item (preferably easy to see) at the back of the space to mark it as yours.

Now that you're in your pit, fill out and sign your entrance form and place it underneath your windshield wiper. If necessary, prepare your car for the track.

3. Make your way toward tech inspection, which should be clearly marked with directional signs. If the line here is long, don't worry. If the line is short, congratulations! Youíve picked a not-so-crowded track. pop your hood using the latch, but do not open it all the way. Roll your window down as if you're placing an order at the drive-through.

When it's time for your car to be inspected, the inspector will first take your entrance form from under your windshield wiper and check to make sure you've filled it out correctly. He or she will then come to the driver's side and ask which class you're running (probably "street"). If you're unsure, the inspector can suggest one for you. The inspector will walk to the front of the car and open your hood (this is why you popped it) and check to be sure you are in compliance with local track rules. Once again, the level of inspection will vary from track. the bare minimum requirement is typically a coolant overflow bottle, which you should have from the factory.

You will likely pass and the inspector will close your hood, walk to the passenger side of the car and write your car number and class abbreviation on the window, using a white "shoe polish" marker. Donít worry; it comes off very easily.

4. If you're ready to race, find the signs directing you to the staging lanes. These will also be clearly marked. There will be a flag person standing at the entrance to the staging lanes who will direct you, based upon your racing class, to the correct lane. Follow their directions!

Youíre likely in for another long wait. At this point you might shut your car off and talk to friends, but try to stay near your car as your lane may start moving faster than you think. Always watch which lanes are moving and which are standing still as the track will race one class (which may comprise 2 or more lanes) at a time.

Here are some rules of thumb for staging lane courtesy:

A. Pay attention to which staging lanes are moving.
B. Pay attention to which staging lanes are moving.
C. Pay attention to which staging lanes are moving.

Are we clear on that? Good :D

D. Do check out other peoples' cars and start a track friend network. They might have something you need, and you might have something they need.
E. Don't blast your music.
F. Don't rev your engine.
G. Don't harass people in slower classes.

Simply exercise a little bit of class and decorum and you'll be fine.

5. When it looks like your classes lane will start moving, return to your car and fire it up. Watch the person ahead of you to see which track lane (right or left) your staging lane is using. When you get to the head of the line, the starter will indicate which cars may proceed onto the track. When it's your turn, the starter will probably point at you. Proceed onto the track and drive around the burnout box. There will be one car in the lane ahead of you, already staged and waiting for the green light. Wait for their race to begin before beginning your burnout. There's no need for a huge show as nobody watching cares and if you take too long in this step, you will aggravate the racers behind you.

6. Perform your quick burnout (just enough to clean the sand, oil, water, etc.) and drive toward the starting line. There will be another starter standing near the staging beams so when you get near him, you are almost ready to stage. Look at the tree between the two lanes. there will be a set of small yellow lights at the top of the tree and another set of identical small yellow lights directly below the first set on each side of the tree. Slowly and carefully move toward the starting line until you see the top set of yellow lights illuminate. you are now pre-staged. Even more slowly and carefully creep forward until the bottom set of yellow lights illuminates. You are now fully staged. You will not move again until it's time to race!

Consult the How to Stage section of the frequently asked questions page for a detailed illustration of how the staging system works.

7. Hopefully you've noticed whether or not your opponent is fully staged. If he is, the race will begin very soon. If they are not yet staged, wait patiently and don't move forward or backward.

Watch the tree for the countdown lights (also yellow but larger than the staging lights) to illuminate. They will illuminate, one after the other, at a constant interval of one half second. When the third and last yellow light goes out, it's time to hit the gas!

Keep your car pointed straight toward the finish. At the end of the measured 1/4 or 1/8th mile there will be a set of cones to indicate the timing beam locations. Stay in the gas all the way through and past the cones into the shutdown area. Your first race is over! While congratulating yourself and calming down, apply even pressure to the brake and watch the car next to you. Once again, the pit return lanes may be on either the right or left hand side of the track. Local rules apply, but typically the lane adjacent to the pit return lane has right-of-way when turning in.

8. Drive slowly down the posted speed limit of the pit return lane, looking for the timing shack. Pull up to it and stop. There, the attendant will hand to you your time slip. Return to your pit or the staging lanes and review your slip.

You are now a drag racer!

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