Backpedal: When a driver lets off the throttle to regain traction and avoid or stop tire shake.
Breakout: Used only in handicap racing, “breakout” refers to a vehicle running quicker than the racer has predicted. The racer who breaks out loses unless his or her opponent breaks out by more or commits a more serious foul, such as leaving too soon (see “red-light”) or crossing the centerline.
Bubble: The bottom spot in the field, usually the No. 16 qualifying position. Also called the “bump.”
Bumped: When a racer is moved from a higher qualifying position to a lower one after another competitor improves.
Burnout: Spinning the rear tires in water before a run to heat and clean them and put rubber on the track for better traction. Also, the specks of tire rubber that result from a burnout; for example, “You really need to wash the burnout off your face.”
Christmas Tree: Also called the Tree, the electronic starting device between the lanes on the starting line.
Chute: Short for parachute, this device helps slow the car at the end of a run.
Deep Stage: To roll a few inches farther into the stage beam. In that position, a racer is closer to the finish line and also closer to a foul start (red-light).
Dial-Under: Used by drivers in Super Stock and Stock who select an elapsed time quicker than the national index. Drivers select a dial-under, or e.t., that they think their car will run based on previous performance.
Digger: Another word for dragster.
Digs: Drag racing event; for example, “See you at the digs next weekend.”
DNQ: Did not qualify.
Door Slammer: Car with doors.
Elapsed Time (e.t.): The time it takes a vehicle to travel from the starting line to the finish line.
Eliminations: When vehicles are raced two at a time, resulting in one winner and one loser. Winners continue to race in tournament-style competition until one remains.
Flopper: Another word for a Funny Car.
Foul Start: When a vehicle leaves the starting line before the green light, indicated by a red light on the Tree. The racer is eliminated from further competition in that eliminator at the event (unless his or her opponent commits a worse infraction).
Full Tree: Used in Comp, Super Stock, and Stock, for which a handicap starting system equalizes competition. The three amber lights flash consecutively five- tenths of a second apart, followed five-tenths later by the green light.
Groove: Path of traction laid down by other vehicles that have gone down the racetrack; for example, “in the groove.”
Guardwalls: The walls that line the racing surface.
Handicap: The head start given to the slower car in a race featuring two vehicles of varying performance potentials. Used in Comp, Super Stock, and Stock.
Hide: Tire; for example, “He was smokin’ the hides.”
Hole Shot: Starting-line advantage achieved by the quicker-reacting driver that results in a win despite a slower e.t.; for example, “She put a hole shot on him.”
Index: An e.t. assigned by NHRA as a predictor of performance for vehicles in that class. Indexes allow various classes of cars in the same eliminator to race competitively.
Interval Timers: Elapsed-time clocks at 60, 330, 660, and 1,000 feet to record the intervals from the starting line.
Loose: When a car gets out of the groove; for example, “He got loose at about 60 feet.”
Loud Pedal: Gas pedal or throttle.
Methanol: Pure methyl alcohol produced by synthesis; used in Top Alcohol Dragsters and Top Alcohol Funny Cars.
Nitromethane: Known as “nitro,” CH3NO2 is the result of a chemical reaction between nitric acid and propane. Primary fuel for Top Fuel dragsters, Funny Cars, and injected nitro dragsters in Top Alcohol Dragster.
Oil Down: When a race car deposits oil from the engine onto the racing surface, causing a delay.
On the Trailer: Where a race car is put after losing or not qualifying; for example, “He was on the trailer after round one.”
Pre-Staged: When a racer is approximately seven inches behind the starting line and the small yellow light atop his or her side of the Christmas Tree is illuminated.
Pro Tree: Used in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle, Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Super Comp, Super Gas, and Super Street, all of which feature heads-up (no handicap) competition. All three large amber lights on the Tree flash simultaneously, followed four-tenths of a second later by the green starting light.
Rail: Another name for a dragster.
Reaction Time: The time it takes for a vehicle’s front tires to clear the staging beam after the green light comes on; measured in fractions of a second. A perfect reaction time is .000.
Red-Light: When a race car leaves the starting line too soon – before the green light or “go” signal – it activates the red light on the Christmas Tree, and the driver is automatically disqualified.
Safety Safari: A team of men and women responsible for transporting equipment from race to race, preparing and maintaining the racing surface, and providing support in an emergency. The NHRA Safety Safari is presented by AAA.
Sand Trap: Located beyond the shutdown area; used to help stop errant race cars.
Shutdown Area: Area past the finish line where race vehicles come to a stop and racers are picked up by their crews.
Sixty-Foot Time: The time it takes a vehicle to cover the first 60 feet of the racetrack. It is the most accurate measure of the launch from the starting line and is the interval most critical to a quick e.t.
Slick: Racing tire that does not have tread.
Smoked the Tires: When a car loses traction; also “blew the tires off” or “hazed the tires.”
Speed Trap: The final 66 feet to the finish line where speed is calculated.
Staged: A racer is staged when the front wheel or wheels of the vehicle are on the starting line. Once the racer is staged, the calibrated countdown of the amber lights leading to the green starting light may begin anytime.
Time Slip: Given to the racer or crew after a run, it lists the elapsed time, reaction time, and speed.
Tire Shake: Result of losing traction.
Tree’d: A racer whose reaction time is significantly slower than an opponent’s is said to have been Tree’d.
Wally, the: Official NHRA trophy.
Wally Parks: NHRA founder (1913-2007), for whom the Wally is named.