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The Wikipedia definition of the term “bracket racing” consists merely of, “a form of drag racing that allows for a handicap between predicted elapsed time of the two cars over a standard distance, usually 1/4 mile or 1/8 mile.” I don’t know about you, but if I weren’t really familiar with the sport, this wouldn't teach me anything useful about how to cut a decent light, dial the car, or worry about top end game in a real race. A recent experience at Las Vegas Motor Speedway racing the Tony Rowe Enterprises Bracket race had me thinking about what it would be like to attend a race as a complete beginner, with no crew chief or prior knowledge about the sport of bracket racing.
When I started racing a little under two years ago, I had Richard to offer the basic procedure for racing in time trials and a standard round of eliminations. Unlike some beginning racers, I didn’t have to figure it out for myself. As time went on, we became more confident and felt more comfortable about asking questions. And after people realized that I wasn’t just a casual weekend racer, they started giving me good advice that helped me win rounds. But what would it be like if you knew absolutely nothing about bracket racing? You just heard about an event at your local racetrack and wanted to see what it was like. Well I put myself in this person’s shoes last Saturday night in Vegas as we were getting ready for round one of eliminations at race number seven of the Tony Rowe Enterprises Bracket Race series.
We were sitting in the pit discussing dial strategy when a young man comes over to talk to us. At first we didn’t see him, and he walked away, probably discouraged that we didn’t want to pay attention to him. After I realized that he came over to talk to us, I went over to his pit where he very politely asked me what he was supposed to do next. I couldn’t figure out what he meant. I thought maybe he was joking around. "What do you mean?" I asked him. He wanted to know what the next step was since time trials were over and eliminations were starting. I told him he needed to write a dial on his car. “What’s a dial?” he asked. I felt for this guy. It takes a decent amount of courage to ask anyone, let alone a female for directions, especially in a place where he’s "supposed" to know what he’s doing. So I explained to him that he had to predict what his car was going to run based on what it had ran in his two time trials. He borrowed our dial marker, wrote his 11.60 on the window, and hoped for the best. And I went back to my pit wondering how he was going to do. I think he won round one.
After we got back from the race that weekend Richard and I talked about how cool it would be to have a class added to a racing series that was geared specifically for introductory bracket racers. This class would be designed to answer all of the questions a beginner may have about what to do at the track. One of things I hate most about some college systems and government agencies is how difficult it sometimes is to learn the next step in a process. What drives me crazy is this idea that we’re supposed to already know how to do it, and if you don’t know, there’s no hope for you. I’ve found this paradigm present at drag strips too. There have been a few times at certain street legal test and tunes that the announcers have made fun of those who aren't knowledgeable in track procedure. And instead of properly instructing the racers, they make fun of them for staging with their back wheels or driving through the water box.