The following is a small guide on How To Drag Race a Street Car. Street Car in this context means a domestic or import car that can be bought from a dealer and run stock or modified with aftermarket parts; i.e. not cars that are built specifically for the sport of drag racing.

If you're looking for a guide on drag racing a race car (top fuel, etc), you've got way more money than me and you can probably afford your own coach.

Making an effective show at the drag strip requires an amount of know-how and lots of practice. The goal is to accelerate from a stop to a predefined distance (see drag strip for a complete treatment) in as short an amount of time as possible. This requires a well executed launch of the car from a dead stop, and quick reactions while going down the track. I will cover both of these separately.

The Launch:

Launching a car from the starting line is an art form. Depending on your car's setup and aftermarket parts there are several different ways to approach launching the car. The goal is all the same, to get the car moving from a stop and going fast as quickly as possible.


    Many people run at the strip on street tires, or tires that are meant for every day driving. These tires offer the smallest amount of grip to be had at launch time. Cars with high torque (especially front wheel drive) cars are likely to just spin these during launch and a clutch slip should be used. All wheel drive cars suffer from this a lot less and can get reasonable traction with street tires. Drag Radials are tires that can be run on the street, but have very few grooves and tread patterns on it; they have much more flat surface area. These provide more grip at an economical price. Finally, if you want to maximize your grip on launch, drag slicks are recommended. These tires have no tread whatsoever, presenting the largest surface area of the tire to the ground as possible. Slicks should be heated up before staging by deliberately spinning them in the staging area. The staging personnel will wet down the staging area with water for you to do this if you need it.


    I won't go into the brands and varieties of clutches, but there are clutches to suit several different launch styles:

      Slipping the Clutch

      On this type of launch, typically you rev the engine to a certain RPM (5,000+), and when the tree goes green you let the clutch engage only slightly, or slip it at this high RPM, to get the car moving before you let it out completely. This can allow the car to maintain the RPMs in the power band during launch and not bog (see below). The clutch disc will heat up a lot while slipping, and will remain hot for a long time after your run. Most clutches grip LESS the hotter they are, so look out. If it is OEM it may wear out very fast with repeated slipping launches. Some clutches are designed with slipping in mind, i.e. made out of ablative materials like carbon carbon, that grip MORE the hotter they get. RPS makes a carbon carbon clutch setup.

      Clutch slipping is less stressful on the transmission and the rest of the drivetrain. Many front/rear wheel drive cars may need to use the clutch slip technique unless they are running drag radials or slicks.

      Dumping the Clutch

      On this type of launch, typically you rev the engine to a certain RPM (6,000+), and when the tree goes green you let the clutch out completely. Be careful, on cars that make small amount of torque, this may result in a bog, or a stall, on the starting line instead of getting the car moving. It may also just cause wheel spin if you're not using slicks. Both will probably result in your friends laughing at your from the stands. Provided that the car makes sufficient torque, and you have good traction, you should be off like a rocket.

      There are clutches that are made for this purpose, typically they have unsprung hubs that give them a very on-off behavior so you won't be able to slip them.

      Clutch dumping is bad on the transmission and drivetrain because it puts them under severe shock loading. This is especially important when using slicks, as this may cause axles and shafts to break.


    There are a lot of aftermarket electronics packages that have so-called "staging assist" modes. An example of this is a device that allows you to press the gas pedal all the way to the floor during staging, and it will rev the engine to a preset RPM value and hold it there, allowing you more consistent launches. Definitely for the more advanced racer, but if you're in to fun gadgets, these are fun to have!

Provided that you manage your launch well, you should be up and out of the hole with a very decent 60 foot time. A good 60 foot time is key to getting a good, low final time.

Going Down The Track:

So you've busted an awesome 60' and you're hauling ass. What now? Get to the end of the track as fast as possible! How? The following tips apply in most cases:

    Shift Near Redline

    Most cars make the most power high in the RPM band (especially so for tuned cars with large turbocharger setups, or VTEC based cam systems), so wind that baby out before you shift!

    Shift Fast

    There are several schools of thought when it comes to shifting. Some people prefer to drive it like you stole it, and shift as fast as possible regardless of how hard you yank the shift lever. This can damage synchronizers in your transmission so I recommend another way: shift fast, but not brutally fast. If the shift lever doesn't want to go, don't force it. You can break stuff that way. Your goal is to keep power transfer as seamless as possible, and the RPMs high.

    Keep Your Foot On The Gas Through The Traps

    Don't coast through the finish line! Keep your foot on the gas till the entire 1320 feet is up!


Most (but not all) strips will briefly inspect your car before they let you on the track. This is to keep you from hurting yourself and someone else. Be sure your tires are in good shape, and that your car is in relatively good health engine-wise before you go out. You don't want your engine detonating halfway down the track because you forgot to put coolant in it. Some tracks will require you to wear long pants and long sleeves to protect you from possible debris in case of an accident. If your car is seriously fast, some strips will require you to have a roll cage and other aftermarket safety gear installed before you can run. If you don't, and run a really fast time, they'll boot you out.

Practice, practice, practice. Every car and every driver is different. It will take a while to learn to drive your car to the limit. Be patient, and good luck!