St. Louis: For drag racing it is reaction time

ST. LOUIS - You may have heard of CART races being won or lost on the last lap, or NASCAR races being won or lost in the pits, but there is a good chance that, for the top classes at the Sears Craftsman ...

ST. LOUIS - You may have heard of CART races being won or lost on the last lap, or NASCAR races being won or lost in the pits, but there is a good chance that, for the top classes at the Sears Craftsman Nationals, the outcome could be determined in the milliseconds before the races begin. It's called "Reaction Time." When the stars of the National Hot Rod Association pair up under the lights at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis for the fourth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals June 22-24, they will be concentrating on which one can get to the other end of a quarter-mile drag strip first. It'll be the one with the faster car, right? Not necessarily. In a drag race, the faster car is the one going through a special timing trap at the end of the drag strip at the higher speed - it's the fastest as it crosses the finish line. But it may not be the winner because it may not be the quicker car. The quicker car is the one with the lowest Elapsed Time (or "E.T.") - the amount of time it takes to cover the quarter-mile from a standing start. But the faster and quicker car still may not be the winner if the driver doesn't have a good Reaction Time. Reaction Time Made Simple - Maybe The time clocks that record Elapsed Time don't actually start until the car moves forward from the start line. The milliseconds that elapse between the light turning green and the driver starting his run (when the E.T. clocks begin) is his reaction time. A quicker and faster car can lose a drag race if the driver's reaction time is too slow. Here's the sequence: The cars line up at the starting line. When both are in place, the starter flips the switch to light the amber ready lights atop the "Christmas Tree." Exactly four-tenths of a second later the green light comes on and the driver can leave the line (thus .400 seconds is considered a perfect Reaction Time).

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Leave too soon and you "red light," or foul and are disqualified. Leave too late and you may give your opponent a head start that you can't overcome, even with a quicker and faster car. 1999 Craftsman Nationals Revisited In the finals of the 1999 Sears Craftsman Nationals, the first NHRA event with an all-nighttime format, Gary Scelzi won Top Fuel after recording a Reaction Time of .450 seconds against runner up Tony Schumacher, who was second out of the gate with a time of .494. With a superior Reaction Time, Scelzi's run with an E.T. of 4.602 seconds and top speed of 312 mph easily won the race. In the Funny Car finale, winner John Force must have been busy talking and was left at the starting line by teammate Tony Pedregon, who recorded a Reaction Time of .483 seconds to Force's .505. However, Force had the power to make up the deficit, running an E.T. of 4.947 seconds at almost 300 mph, and led across the finish line. The Reaction Time showdown was Pro Stock, when Jim Yates recorded an exceptional time of .413 seconds compared to Allen Johnson's .423-second effort. Johnson rallied with a quicker 7.010-second E.T. compared to Yates' 7.018, but, benefiting from leaving the start line sooner, Yates beat Johnson to the finish line by a scant 0.002 seconds! Thus, after three nights of qualifying and eliminations with more than 200 passes down Gateway's quarter-mile strip, the outcome of the 1999 Sears Craftsman Nationals hinged as much on Reaction Time as horsepower. And the total difference in Reaction Time for the finalists in the three top classes was less than eight-one hundredths of a second. At the 2000 Sears Craftsman Nationals, don't blink, or you'll miss half the action. Craftsman is the Official Tool of NHRA, CART and NASCAR. At the inaugural NHRA Nationals, almost 50 years ago, the grand prize was a Craftsman tool box. According to a 1999 Equitrend survey, Craftsman is the number-one rated brand in America for overall quality.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Allen Johnson