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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Let's Level the Playing Field for Redlight Starts

By Steve Taylor

This is a proposal for a "worse redlight loses" program because the technology is here. The time has come to level the playing field. 

When the Christmas tree was first introduced in the early Sixties, the first car to breakout was disqualified. This continued for a couple or more years until racers started complaining and the system was changed to disqualify the car that broke out the most. 

Now, in the case of both vehicles making their runs under their dial-ins, the win goes to the driver who breaks out the least. Why should redlights be treated differently? 

With dual foul infractions, shouldn't the worse offender be disqualified? The NHRA rulebook states during competition, only one red light will light, thus eliminating only the first offender. With updated software, it would be simple to disqualify the worse offender. 

The redlight will NOT display until the system has determined the first and/or worse offender or until the last car has left the stage lights. 

With the worse redlight program, racers running in handicap categories get a full countdown of one amber at the time until the green light comes on. This will happen REGARDLESS of any single or dual foul starts. Both green lights will display on each run and if there is a foul infraction, the redlight displays in that lane to indicate that the driver has been disqualified. Again, the redlight will not display until the timing system has determined the first and/or worse redlight infraction. 

If the first driver has a 0.496 reaction and the second driver's reaction is worse, the redlight will display at this time and the win light will display in the lane of the winner. 

If the second driver's reaction is 0.496, the run is official and the race to the finish is on. The fairest start has been accomplished. There will not be any displays of redlights. 

When the reaction timer for the second driver reads 0.497, the redlight displays for the first driver and the win light is displayed in the second driver's lane. 

This sequence is NECESSARY because the system can't wait for the second car to leave the stage lights. If the second car broke, or the engine shut off, the first car with a foul start could cross the finish line with the opponent still in the stage lights. 

There will NOT be any distractions from redlights with this sequence. 

The feature will be program activated where the race can be run with either redlight option. It would be similar to the AutoStart feature, which can be ON or OFF. 

In the Super and Rod classes, the first and worse offender of the redlight loses. During Class Eliminations at selected National events and in S/SS Eliminations when two cars of the same class are paired, the first and worse offender of the redlight is disqualified. 

Racers would have a better understanding of the worse redlight program if it were used on a trial and experimental basis at their local track. Most races wouldn't have a dual foul infraction according to documentation from local tracks' race printouts. Some racers need to understand that unless they are the fastest competitor in the class, the first redlight rule can disqualify them. In eighth-mile competition if a driver is dialed 5.10 and the opponent is dialed 5.05, if the 5.10 driver has a .499 reaction, the opponent will win with a .450 reaction. 

Interested tracks could experiment with the option with their regular racing programs. The Junior Dragsters could compete with the option during eliminations. These future racers haven't been indoctrinated to the first redlight rule and would readily adapt to the program. If a track has a Street or Trophy class, the worse redlight option could be used in their eliminations. Most tracks have a test and tune night and if a gambler's race is contested, this would be the ideal race to introduce the worse redlight program to the hard-core racers. If a track has a high school drags race or a high school drags weekly program, the option could be used. These are excellent ways to introduce the option to the sport of drag racing. 

If tracks and racers are interested and would like to try the worse redlight option, gambler races with half the money going to purchase the updated software can be held. Half and Half tickets could be sold with half the money going to purchase the software. These are two excellent ways to raise the money without any expense to the track owner/promoter. 

After a couple of years or so of trial races, racers would probably enjoy the fairness of the worse redlight rule. NHRA and IHRA could make a rational decision on the redlight rule. It will probably take several years for the worse redlight to become the standard rule of the NHRA or IHRA Starting System. 

The only issue with this proposal is fairness for all Sportsman racers. 


Steve Taylor 
38-year drag race veteran



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