Kyle Seipel Guest Editorial
It’s All About the Numbers
I have always had an infatuation with the numbers’ side of bracket racing. Spending most of my childhood at Fremont Drag Strip, I tried to follow the ETs of every driver and understand the meaning of every time slip. Over time, I have gained an understanding of how to dissect what is on a time slip and how to use this information to your advantage. In this column, I will show you how to break down the variables that make your time slip vary from run to run so that you, too, can use this information to prepare for your next round of competition.
After years of studying time slips and figuring out the meaning behind the numbers on them, I have come to the conclusion that the three most important variables that dictate how your car is going to run throughout the day are as follows: track conditions, weather and wind. The first thing to establish, then, is the percentage of how much each of these variables will affect the car I’m driving that day. For instance, if I am racing a 7.60 dragster on the ¼ mile using methanol, I would place the following percentages on the three variables: 65% track conditions, 20% weather and 15% wind. Or, if I am racing an 11.50 door-car on the ¼ mile using gas, I would place the following percentages on the three variables: 25% track conditions, 50% weather and 25% wind.
To put this into perspective, I took a look at the ETs of three different winners in three different classes at the recent Autolite Nationals in Sonoma. Pro Stock’s Greg Anderson ran between 6.546 and 6.567 (.021 variance); Top Sportsman’s Mike Ferderer ran between 7.372 and 7.401 (.029 variance); and Stock Eliminator’s Jody Lang ran 12.525 and 12.633 (.108 variance). These numbers show a distinct difference amongst their three cars. Anderson’s Pro Stocker is the most efficient drag racing car on the planet. Pro Stock engines are tuned precisely, their chassis are state-of-the-art and their body styles are the most aerodynamic in all of drag racing. That being said, the likely percentages of the variables in this scenario would be 85% track conditions, 10% weather and 5% wind. Ferderer’s car is basically a mini Pro Stock car but with less power and using Q16 fuel, which is not as affected by changes in the weather as is normal gasoline. Therefore, the likely percentages of the variables in this scenario would be 75% track conditions, 20% weather and 5% wind. Applying these same principles to Lang’s Super Stock car, the percentages of the variables would be something like 60% weather, 30% wind and 10% track conditions. Because Lang’s car is on the track for a longer period of time, the weather and wind percentages are significantly higher.
So, you must first figure out what variables are most important to your car and take into consideration the track conditions for that particular day. You must also take into consideration the following variables: Is the ambient temperature going to have an affect on the track’s consistency? Is it going to be windy? Has the track been run on much lately? Once you have the answers to these questions it is time to get to work! Get the weather station ready, monitor the wind and, most importantly, keep a very close eye on the scoreboards to monitor how and what other cars are running throughout the day. I cannot stress enough the importance of watching the scoreboards. I always say, “The scoreboards tell all”. It is a good idea to try to watch cars that are similar to your own so you can get a sense of what your car might run in comparison. Additionally, if you notice a tailwind or headwind, you can confirm your findings by watching the scoreboards. Do not be afraid to jot down notes during the day. Keep in mind that you are a member of TIBR for a reason, so putting in a little extra effort to get you more round wins is definitely worth it.
There are a few things to consider regarding track conditions: On a cool day and on a track that has not been active for awhile (say, 15 minutes or longer) due to getting cars into lanes or an oil down, the first few pairs will most likely be slower because of the drastic drop in track temperature; therefore, it will take some time (and a few cars down the track) to increase track temperature. Another consideration is if you see the track being sprayed with compound followed by tires being dragged down the length of the track, it will most likely make the track faster than it was during previous runs. Also, if you run on a cold day (say, 60 degrees or lower) you will most likely speed up throughout the day as more cars going down the track results in an increase in track temperature.
While all of these variables will vary from car to car, I always encourage drivers to monitor them and not just put a dial-in on your car that your dialing software has predicted. You will become a better racer if you understand why your car runs what it does. Also, keep in mind that, in general, tracks that spend more time and effort in track preparation, prior to and during race day, will vary a lot less than a track that does minimal.
Now, let’s talk about dialing your car round to round. I think the most common dilemma is winning a round where your car ran an ET that is significantly different than previous rounds. Say for instance you run a 7.61 in round 1, a 7.62 in round 2, a 7.61 in round 3 and a 7.64 in round 4. In this scenario, you need to take a closer look at your time slip and figure out if the slow run was due to track conditions or was it just a slow run. The first thing to explore is if others slowed down during that round. If the answer is yes, then I would just dial up and attribute the slow down to track conditions and/or wind. Conversely, if others did not slow down during that round, you need to try to figure out what happened. Ask yourself—did I lose 60’ time? Was the engine at a different temperature? Was I out of the groove going down the track? Was there liquid on the track? I have seen myself and most racers just dial up and lose round 5 because they go back to the 7.61-7.62 ET and lose because of it.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that winning or losing a round is all about which driver has the best numbers/package. Take some time after the race, bring your logbook home and do some homework. Try to learn why your car did not run what you expected. Putting forth the effort to figure out your car’s patterns will only pay dividends and eventually allow for more win lights in your lane.
Good luck and see you at the races,