How to Bracket Race
In a heads-up drag race, the first car to the finish line wins. With bracket racing, that also holds true - sometimes. Here's the gig: The beauty of bracket racing is that it doesn't matter how quick or how slow your car is. You choose the e.t. your car can run consistently, and that's the number you write in shoe polish on the widow. That number tells the tower your handicap, and is usually called a "dialed-in" number.
Let's say you dial in a 14.20 et while your competitor dials a 13.00. Since his car is quicker by 1.20 seconds, you get that much of a head start. Theoretically, if both cars run right on to dial-ins, it should be a dead-even race. But that rarely happens because of the disparity in reaction times.
Reaction time is the dine it takes you and your car to react to the Christmas Tree and actually move off the starting line. Drag racing is a combination of a quick reaction time to the green, and getting to the finish line first.
A perfect reaction time is expressed as a .500 light (or .400 second on a Pro Tree). Let's say our competitor had a .550 reaction dine and he ran a 13.10. You had a .520 light but ran slower against your dial-in with a 14.32. You won the reaction nine contest with a .030-second advantage, but he ran .020 seconds closer to his dial-in (he ran .10 second slower while you ran .12 second slower that the respective dial-ins). Overall, you arrived at the finish line .010 second before your competitor and won!
To make it fair, racers cannot run quicker that their dial-ins. Suppose you'd run 14.19 on that 14.20, running .01 second quicker than the dial-in. This is called "breaking out", which means you lose. However, there's also the distinct and common possibility that both cars will break out. In this case, the car that breaks out to least wins. Let's say you ran a 14.19 with a 14.20 dial while your antagonist ran 12.96 against his 13.00. Since he broke out by .04 and you broke out by only .01 second, you would win regardless of who arrived at the finish line first.
This leads us to Bracket Racing's Golden Rule: Consistency Wins Races. As you can see, there are dozens of variables affecting your performance-as well as that of your car. The racer who conquers as many of the variables as possible will win more races.
Reprinted without permission, from "Brutal Bracket Basics", HOT ROD pg. 94, June 1997