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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Q&A: Chicago Style Drags and Match Races

By Bill Pratt

Frank Schuster's Hot Rods from Hell machine in 1997. James Morgan photo
Frank Schuster's Hot Rods from Hell machine in 1997. James Morgan photo

Hi gang. A few folks have written lately with kind words about our match racing stories. Thanks. Some questions have come up, however, regarding just what constitutes a "match race" and what constitutes a "Chicago Style" drag race. Here is the way I see the two activities. Please feel free to drop us a line if they do it differently where you race.

A two out of three match race is just that. You usually have two cars (like we did with the pro streeters, pro mods, and jets at MIR last weekend). The racers make three runs; whoever gets two of the three runs (or all three) is the winner. In the old days, racers used to petition promoters not to make them make a third run if they won two straight. Now that there aren't three to four dates a week for the touring races to make, that pretty much goes by the wayside. 

Sometimes, a quicker racer will purposely lose the second round in order to even up the match. The idea is to build a semblance of equal performance (even if it doesn't exist), and of course, to keep folks around to buy souvenirs and eat drag dogs.) Most racers hate to lose even one match, however, and will do all they can to put their opponent out in two straight runs!

A "Chicago Style" race is one where a number of cars run either one or two rounds, and then the two quickest cars come back for a final. Sometimes the other cars race in "consolation" matches; sometimes they don't. Chicago Style rules vary to some extent, but the above is the basic idea. In a TRUE Chicago Style event, the boundaries of each lane are ignored. That is to say, the race is "first to the finish line," regardless of whether a racer runs over the centerline or crosses the outer boundary. (The Hot Rods from Hell altered circuit observes this). Redlights are always observed, however.

A two round Chicago Style match happened recently at Capitol Raceway in Crofton, Maryland (which I reported as a Story of the Day). Six cars were booked in. They all made a first round run (with the pairings provided by the circuit director, Bunny Burkett). The two quickest cars from the first round were considered the "finalists." All six cars came back for a second round, with the four slower cars running each other first. Following that, the "final" was held between the two cars that were quickest in the first round. 

Essentially, Chicago Style shootouts are simply qualifying efforts for a final. By the way, rules vary as well about who qualifies for a final round. Some say it has to be the two quickest cars. Some say it has to be the two quickest WINNING cars. In Bunny's organization, they go by strict performance. This meant that at MIR a few weeks ago, Sam Leland beat Mike Preslar on a holeshot, but Preslar still went to the final.

A three round Chicago Style race merely extends the qualifying time, if you will. The cars will race one round, with pairings determined by the circuit director. The circuit director then will mix and match the cars and run a second round. After two rounds, the quickest two cars return for the final. Usually, the other cars return for a third round as well, to compete in "consolation runs." 

But this is all determined in advance (the number of runs each car will make). The promoter/track owner pays for the number of cars and the number of runs each car makes. The circuit director usually sets up how the show will go. This is always discussed with the promoter and the promoter might have some input as well...

Hope this clears some of this up! If they do it differently where you race, drop us a line. Or if you have a memory of match racing or Chicago style racing, let us know! We want to run your stories!

Bill Pratt


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