• John DiBartolomeo


Is it time for a “shot clock” in drag racing?

The year was 1975 and along with a great group of friends, we traveled to Byron Dragway for what was the largest payout for bracket racing in its day, $5,000-to-win. I have to thank perennial historian Dave and Lori Schapiro for the participant decal shown here. With cars from all over the United States and even Canada, I don’t remember a car count, but it was a lot. Enough so that track owner, the late Ron Leek, would constantly berate us over the PA system with, “I have to have a pair of cars going down the track every 30-seconds if you guys expect to get this race completed.”

That “30-second” number has stuck in my head ever since. Today, it’s not uncommon at a bracket race for that number to be at least more than double that. And in reality, the slowest cars are dragsters, despite them being the quickest on the track. Think about it. They do a burnout across the line, now have to back up, maybe reset their delay boxes, etc., and then stage. And the fact of only eighth-mile racing doesn’t make it any quicker, in some cases worse at tracks where there is only one turn-off at the very end of the shut-down area.

Door cars are usually the quickest. They do a burnout; not across the line; pull up and Stage. While I’ve measured dragsters to sometimes be well over 60-seconds, door car are usually in the 40-50-second range; still above the 30-second “Leek rule” though.

It’s been suggested to me the distance between the burnout box and the starting line be extended and eliminate dragsters burning out across the line. Obviously at some tracks that’s not a possibility, but it does bring up an interesting point.

Now though it appears we have another issue in drag racing, where there are some who are seemingly taking forever to Stage, which only tends to extend the pace of play and the actual day of racing.

Basketball has a shot clock. Football does too. I believe it was this year where minor league baseball also instituted a shot clock. All of it done to speed up the pace of play, alleviating one team from hanging onto the ball for a long time without giving the other team a chance at scoring. Is it time a “shot clock,” or something similar is instituted in drag racing?

The problem can be especially frustrating at some of these high-dollar bracket races where 500+ entries show up. Think of it in this regard: If the average time between pairs is, at best, 60-seconds, and legitimately 10-seconds could be knocked off each pair, it would mean a roughly 15-percent reduction in time. At an event where eliminations take 10-hours, it could knock that down by an hour-an-a-half. And that’s just by knocking 10-seconds off each pair.

Now I agree, the numbers I’ve listed are just subjective as there are a lot of variables which come into play and affect how long a day at the races lasts. But if we could just pick up the pace, it would allow us to get done quicker. And at events where there are 400-500 or so cars, it might mean getting done at a reasonable hour; whatever that may be.

Then though, there is the question of why certain racers take longer to stage than others. It’s always been my understanding that I can’t race until we’re both staged, so I want both of us to get in quick so we can compete against one another. But everyone has their own idiosyncrasies and habits they go through prior to staging. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, but I’d just like everyone to think of the final outcome and… Get you’re a$$ in there and stage! The time you save might just get you into the cooler faster at the end of the day.

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