Borrowed this from another gentleman, thought it would be good info for the drag racing newcomers.....
1. If you don't know, ask! Everyone at the track knows what it is like to be a first timer. After all, nobody was born there.
2. If you can find someone that has gone, go with them. If not, then go to watch your first time. Pay the extra $, and get on the pit side, you aren't going to learn much otherwise! When you are ready to try your luck, most tracks have "test & tune" nights, or "street nights" where it is open for anyone to make as many passes as they want. This is a great time for newbies to get out and try it without being under pressure.
Front Gate to Finish Line
1. At the pit gate, pay your entry fee, and get your "tech card".
2. Find a pit spot. The pits get full later, so don't hog up a ton of spaces. Remove any loose items in your car, and fill out your tech card.
3. When the announcer calls for tech inspection to be open, listen, and go where you are told. If you don't understand, ask someone. If you get there after tech has started, the attendant at the entrance can tell you where to go.
4. Usually, even a relatively highly modified late model car can pass tech easily. If you're running a 13.99 or quicker, you'll need to have a driveshaft loop and a helmet with you. If you are doing better than a 11.99, things get substantially more complicated. The tech inspector will write your cars number on your side and front windows where it will be visible to the tower.
5. When the announcer calls for staging lanes to be open, pull into your proper lanes. Smaller tracks only have two. Bigger tracks have differant classes split to differant lanes. Again, ask, or refer to any documentation that you were given when you paid your entry fee.
6. Once you are in the lanes, stay with your car.
7. When it's time for the cars in your staging lane to pull forward and be positioned to race, a track official at the front of the lanes will direct you. It is very, very important to pay attention! Watch the track officials at all times for proper direction.
8. After you have been paired up out of the staging lanes and pull up next to the timing tower, be ready to go. The track official at the water box will check to make sure your windows are rolled up, seatbelts are on, and if it is after dark, your parking lights are on. Even on a well lit track, it is hard to see you at the other end if you have turned off or not. It would be a bad thing if you broke at the big end of the track, and they sent a pair of Pro Gas Camaros because they thought the track was clear!
9. Go around the water box. Do a short burnout (If you track allows it, some tracks do not) to get the dirt off of your tires and heat them up a bit. Hold the brake with your left foot, and goose it with your right for a couple of seconds. You don't want to get near the water. It will run in your tread, be thrown into your wheelwell, and drip on your tires and the track the whole run. This is very dangerous for the "Big Boys" running slicks behind you, and could get you removed from the track. Also, dont do your burnout in the water, as it tends to throw water all over everyone and everything within 50 yards of the starting line! The car in line behind you will be very annoyed.
10. Another thing that could get you removed is running your AC. Water condensation drips onto the track.
11. When you are told to, Pull your car toward the staging beams. They are not located next to the christmas tree! Watch other racers to find where they are located. When you get close, the top set of lights (pre-stage) will come on. Now, slowly creep forward until the next set come on (staged).
12. Take your time! Nobody will rush you! The starter knows the regulars, and he will realize you are a new face. It is considered a courtesy to wait until your opponent has pre-staged before you stage.
13. Find the yellow light just above the green, and concentrate on it! Go when this last yellow comes on! If you wait till the green, you will get a terrible reaction time! .500 is perfect, .400 on a pro tree.
14. If you feel things get out of hand (massive wheelspin or whatever), just back off for that run! There'll be others! Also, if it's your very first time down the track, you might not want to give it 100% the first time. The track is a lot slicker than most roads, so be aware and be careful.
15. Stay in your lane at all costs. As you get close to the finish line (several car lengths ahead of the Crapstang), keep it on the floor! The first set of beams you see set up are to start the MPH timers. Find out exactly where the end of the quarter mile is!
16. If you are in the right lane, and the track turn off's are on the left, then the other car has the right of way. Do not turn in front of another car! At the Texas Motorplex this year, a guy in a street car was racing a 10 second car. The 10 second car had trouble on the line, and the street car got to the finish line first, but the 10 second car was now on the way. The street car went for the first turn off, and turned in front of the other car that hit him running around 120 miles per hour. That story should get anyones attention.
17. Proceed up the return road, and stop to get your ET slip. Now is not the time to read it, wait till your in your pit. There are a lot of people (kids) walking around, so go slow!
In most professional forms of drag racing, the first one to the finish line wins. However, in bracket racing, that isn't always how it works out. Usually, cars are separated into four "brackets": Super Pro (7.50 to 10.99 seconds), Pro (11.00 to 11.99 seconds), Sportsman (12.00 to 13.99 seconds), and Street (14.00+ seconds). Since each of these categories contains a wide range of E.T.'s, you are handicapped based on a time that you predict you will run. This is called your "dial in". The person who runs closest to their dial-in without going faster wins the race. If you go faster than your dial-in, you "break out" and automatically lose the race.
For example, if your Impala runs a consistent 15.10 and the Camaro you are racing dials in at 14.20, you would get a .90 second head start. If you both got to the finish line at exactly your dial-in, the race is a tie. In practice, this never happens due to differences in reaction times and vehicle performance.
The staging lights also measure how long it takes you to leave your staged position. This is called your reaction time. On test-n-tune nights, it isn't a big deal, but in bracket racing it is very important. You must be consistent in your launch (via reaction time) and your car must be consistent in the quarter mile (via dial-in). Your reaction time is usually expressed as a number indicating how long you leave after the last amber light comes on. A perfect time would be .500, which is exactly when the green light comes on. If you get under .500, you "red light" and lose the race. If you take longer than .500, you will take longer to get to the finish line, which can lose the race.
There are also different ways to "stage" in bracket racing. All strips use the standard "Stage" and "PreStage" lights on top of the "christmas tree" lights. These lights are tied to two light beams that go across the track, one immediately after the other. When your wheel breaks the first beam, you are "pre-staged". This lets you know that you are getting close to the starting line. As soon as you inch forward to the second beam, you light the "stage" lights. As soon as both lights are lit on both sides of the track, the starter will begin the race.
The key to winning the race is a low reaction time and a consistent performance by your car. Every millisecond difference from your dial-in and a perfect .500 reaction time hurts you. If you run faster than your dial-in, you automatically lose, so if you feel you are running too fast (as often happens as the night gets cooler), you might want to slow down just as you are approaching the finish line so that you don't go over your dial-in. You might also want to do this if you are fairly sure that your opponent has broke out.
Eliminate variables between runs. Keep your car in the same configuration, do you burnout and stage the same way, shift at the same points, and do everything else as consistently as possible to win a bracket race. Compensate for changing track conditions using your dial-in (you can change it after each race). Also remember that slower cars are often more consistent, so you don't need to try to eek every last HP out of the car for a bracket race. Have fun!