Learn all the terms and start talking like a pro!

Back Pedal - When a driver lets off the throttle to regain traction or to avoid or stop the shake.

Break Out - Used only in handicap racing. Refers to a vehicle running quicker than the racer has predicted or “dialed”. 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 foul start) or crossing the centreline.

Bump - The bottom spot in the field, usually the No. 16 qualifying position. Also called the “Bubble”.

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.

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 runway.

Deep Stage - To roll a few inches farther into the stage beam, indicated by the pre-stage lights on the Christmas Tree turning off. In that position, a racer is closer to the finish line and also closer to a foul start (red light).

Dial Under - Used in super stock and stock, when a driver selects, or dials, an elapsed time quicker that 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.

DNQ - Did not qualify.

Dropped Cylinder – When a spark plug fails to ignite, substantially decreasing total power output by the engine. A dropped cylinder is often distinguishable by raw fuel spewing

from an exhaust header.

Elapsed Time (e.t.) – The time it takes a vehicle to travel from the starting line to the finish line.

Eliminations - The portion of an event that determines a race winner, usually Sunday. Vehicles are raced two at a time, resulting in one winner and one / loser. Winners continue to race in a tournament – style competition until only one remains.

Flopper - Another word for a funny car.

Foul Start - Also known as a red light. When a vehicle leaves the starting line before the green light, indicated by the red light on the tree. When a foul start occurs in eliminations, the racer is eliminated from further competition at the event (unless his or her opponent commits a worse infraction). A red light in qualifying has no impact on the racer’s attempt; his or her time still counts toward qualifying for the event.

Full Tree - Used in comp, super stock, stock, Top Dragster and Top Sportsman 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 race track; for example, “In the Groove”.

Handicap - The head start given to the slower car in a race featuring two vehicles of varying performance potentials. Used in Comp, Super Stock, Stock, Top Dragster and Top Sportsman.

Hide - Tire; for example “He was smoking the hides”

Holeshot Win: When a racer with an e.t. slower than that of his or her opponent wins an elimination round because he or she had a better reaction time, or left the starting line first.

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 that record the e.t. from the starting line to those intervals.

Loose - When a car gets out of the groove; for example “He got loose at about 60ft”.

Load Pedal - Gas pedal or throttle.

Methanol - Pure methyl alcohol produced by synthesis; used in some Top Alcohol Dragsters and all Top Alcohol Funny Cars.

Nitromethane – Known as “nitro” Ch3 NO2 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 Dragsters.

Oil Down - When a race car deposits oil from the engine onto the racing surface, causing a delay.

On the Trailer - Where a rare 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 7 inches behind the starting line and the top half of the circle of small blue lights 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, Sugar Gas, Super Street and Pro Mod all of which feature heads-up (no handicap) competition. The three large amber lights flash simultaneously, followed four-tenths of a second later by the green 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 - See “Foul Start”

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 Traps - Located beyond the shutdown area; used to help stop errant race cars.

Shoe - Driver

Shut Down 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 race track. 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 - 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 many begin anytime.

Stripe - Slang term for the finish line.

The Wally - Official NHRA Trophy.

Time Slip - Given to the racer or crew after a run, it lists the reaction time, interval times, elapsed time and speed.

Tire Shake - A severe vibration that usually occurs at the beginning of the run and is the result of losing traction.

Treed - A racer whose reaction time is significantly slower than an opponent’s is said to have been Treed.

Wally Parks - NHRA founder (1913 – 2007) for whom The Wally is named.

The Drag Strip and the Christmas Tree

Shutdown Area - The area provided to allow the vehicles to slow after a run and exit the drag strip.

Finish Line - The 66 feet before the finish line in each lane is where top speed is recorded.

The Top Speed and elapsed time appear on the scoreboard after each racer has crossed the finish line.

Interval Timers - Elapsed time clocking devises are posted in each lane at the 60 – foot, 330 foot, eighth mile, 1,000 foot and quarter mile locations for reference. Only the final lapsed time appears on the score board at the end of the run.

Starting Line - Lights flash on an electronic device called the Christmas Tree to tell racers when to go.

Burnout Area - Racers perform a burnout before making a run down the drag strip. They begin behind the starting line by driving through the water box, then hit the throttle and move forward to clean and heat the tires.


The Christmas Tree is positioned on the starting line between the two lanes. The left side lights are for the racer in the left lane and the right side lights are for the racer in the right lane. Infrared beams at ground level read the position of the front tired in each lane and signal when the racer is in the pre- stage and stage positions. The beams also read when the vehicle reacts to the green signal to go and leaves the starting line.

Ready - Pre-stage lights in each lane warns racers that they are approaching the starting lline and are almost in the staged position. Stage lights signal that the racer is on the starting line and ready to race.

Set - When both racers’ stage lights are lit, the three-amber starting system may be activated at any time. In heads-up categories, all three lights on each side of the tree flash simultaneously, followed immediately by the green. In others, the lights count down in sequence. In handicap categories, the countdown in the slower vehicles’ lane begins first to give that vehicle a head start.

Go - When the green light flashes, the racer in that lane is free to go. If a racer leaves before the green light, the red light flashes instead and that racer is disqualified.

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