Well I've had this writeup for quite some time now. It really helped me when I first started drag racing so since the boards are new and there may be some new racers here I thought I would share.... Hope it helps!
DRAG RACING BASICS: PIT GATE TO FINISH LINE!
1.) Contact your local track, and ask if they have a "street night", or "test and tune". For complete beginners, it is best to avoid bracket racing events, or any points race. On street night, almost everyone running is just as new to this as you are! The track officials know this, and are ready to help. It is also a much more relaxed atmosphere.
2.) If possible, call a few buddies and go to watch the first time. Check out the "lay of the land". Ask the racers in the pits how everything works. Remember, everyone there is a car nut just like you, AND EVERYONE THERE WAS A FIRST-TIMER ONCE THEMSELVES! Every time I go, I get asked questions by new guys! Just make sure you pay the extra couple of bucks to get in on the "pit side", as it won't do you much good to sit on the spectator side, which is usually deserted on street nights.
3.) When you decide you are ready to give it a try, go to the pit gate, you will need to inform them that you intend to race. They will charge you for car & driver, plus extra for any spectator friends you brought. At the Motorplex in Ennis, they charged $18 for my wife and I (I raced, she watched) last season. You will be given a tech card.
4.) Go find a pit space. Only take up one space, as the night goes on, it can get very busy. Unload any loose items in your car (I would suggest you leave what you can at home). Fill out the tech card and sigh it. Usually, they also have a space on the back that you must sign, so look there also. Ask some of the cars parked near you whether they know if tech inspection is open, and where it is located (usually at the back, or beginning of the staging lanes). Its a good time to make new friends, and enjoy looking at all the great cars!
5.) When tech inspection opens (usually 10-15 minutes after the gate opens) go to the tech area. If you are taking your street car, and it is not a death trap, you will pass tech. Some obvious things you need: seatbelts, safe tires (no cord showing), radiator coolant overflow catch canister (the factory one is fine), no blatant fluid leaks pouring out, etc! Also, shorts and tank tops are not allowed! YOU MUST WEAR LONG PANTS WHILE ON THE TRACK! All the officials look for this, so don't try to sneak it by them. This is about it for a street car. If your cars runs faster than 11.99, then the entire game changes, however, if your running that well, I'll bet you've been to the track at least a time or two... The tech inspector will write your cars number on the window where it is visible by the timing tower. If staging lanes are not open, then return to your pit.
6.) The track announcer will come over the PA system, and say that the staging lanes are open. Listen carefully, as some of the larger tracks have many lanes (The Motorplex has 10), and they may have cars of different speeds report to different lanes. On Friday street nights at Ennis, they just say lanes are open, and everyone just forms two lines. When they have a TON of cars, they split up the lanes by estimated ET of the car. Take your best guess, as this is not crucial. For your first run, I would suggest you get in line with the 15 second cars if you honestly have no idea, as that is a good middle ground. The staging lanes go slowly, then quickly, so stay with your car. Do not run your air conditioner! The condensation on the system will drip down onto the track. Believe me, they look for this, and if they see something dripping, then they will pull you off the starting line. When they check the liquid on the ground, and see it is plain water, they will chew your butt, and send you to the back of the staging lane.
7.) At the end of the staging lanes, there should be a track official. Watch carefully and when it is time, he will point at you, and then point where he wants you to go. His job is to pair up cars to race, then put them into correct lanes. The idea is to keep you from racing a 9 second alcohol Camaro. By the way, most tracks make a strong effort to keep near stock street cars from running sub-10 second race cars, and will usually hold a street car, and let the race car make a solo run. Unfortunately, they don't always do this. If you find yourself lined up next to a John Force replica funny car, feel free (I advise beginners to do this!) to just sit there for a moment when the light goes green. Let the race car roar away from the starting line, then a moment later, you can go. Who cares that you got a lousy "reaction time"? Your ET slip will be unaffected! The timers don't start until you leave the starting line! This way, if the race car breaks an axle on a 7,000rpm launch, and veers into your lane, you won't be there! I saw a sub-10 second car with an incorrectly set up rear suspension veer so hard at launch that he almost took out the starting line tree.
8.) Just before you enter the water box, there should be another track official. He will make sure that your seat belt is on, all windows are rolled up, and will hold you until it is time for you to do your burnout. Do not enter the waterbox until instructed. If it is near sundown, turn on your parking lights, This is a required rule at all tracks. This is how the officials can see where you are on the track, so they don't send another pair of cars while you are broke down at the other end, on the track!
9.) Since this is for beginners, I will assume you are on street tires. Do not drive through the waterbox! Your treaded tires will just pick up water in the treads, and when you do your burnout, it will sling water all over inside the wheel well. You will then track the water all the way down the track, and water will be dripping down onto your rear tires, making them very slick! If you do this, you make the track dangerous for everyone, and you may be asked to leave if you do it again. The water is for slicks, not treaded tires. Drive around the waterbox, then get your car centered in the lane. Back up slightly if needed. For street tires, I Personally do not think that a burnout does much at all. Street compounds are hard, and high performance tires are specifically designed to not heat up. Heat caused high speed tire failure, that is why you paid big bucks for "Z" speed rated tires. Now you trying to heat them up??? If I run my street tires, I do a quick, short burnout to clean the tires off.
10.) Do not pull up to the tree! Every beginner does this. The staging beams are actually about 15 feet or so before the tree! Hopefully, you took my advise and watched the other cars run first, and looked to get an idea where everyone else was pulling up to. If you can't figure it out, don't worry, the starter knows it is "street night", and will help you. When he realizes you can't find the staging beams, watch him. He will walk up next to your car, and motion to you to either pull up, or back. Again, don't get embarrassed, or upset. The starter has to do that probably 20-30 times a night. Slowly pull forward until you see the very top, small yellow light come on. You are now "pre-staged". It is considered a racers courtesy to wait for the other car to prestage, before staging. Then gently roll forward a few more inches, and the other small yellow light right under the top one will come on. You are now "staged". Do not roll forward too far, or the "prestaged" light will go out, and you may be required to pull back, to relight that light. That is called "deep staging", and is usually not allowed on street nights. There should be a blue light turned on, on the tree, which notifies all racers that "deep staging" is not allowed. If you do accidentally pull forward too far, and deep stage, do not pull back until instructed to do so by the starter. He may just start the tree anyway and you would be sitting there in reverse! Now, watch that very bottom, large yellow light!