Archive for March, 2010

Drag Racing with Jim Hand – Part 1: Introduction to the Series

This complete series of articles was prepared in the time period 1995-1996, and there are various references to my wagon and it’s performance. Please note that the wagon serves as a sort of test bed, and we occasionally change parts, rpm, shift points, converters, cams, etc, so driving styles, engine rpm, and especially performance may be different today. Please read these articles in that context, and if there are questions, contact me directly through E-mail. Read more

Drag Racing with Jim Hand – Part 2: History of Drag Racing

Auto racing has transpired almost since the first two auto owners encountered each other. Racing has taken many forms: Hill climbs, cross country races, top speed contests, closed course races, endurance races, and standing start racing. The latter is what we know today as drag racing. Two vehicles line up side by side and race to some given point, usually 1/8 or 1/4 mile. In the purest form, the winner of the race is the vehicle that crosses the finish line first. Read more

Drag Racing with Jim Hand – Part 3: Track Layout

In the early days of drag racing, an unused open stretch of road, or an unused airstrip was marked with a starting line and a finish line. An observer would be positioned at the finish line to determine the winner. A starter would stand in front of and between the cars and motion them to race with his arms, a flag, or a flashlight. Gradually, forms of communication systems were incorporated to provide winner information back to the starting areas, and PA systems were installed to relay the results to the fans/racers. Crude timing systems, such as stop watches, were used to obtain some performance data. Later, mechanical timers were adapted for Elapsed Time (ET) measurements, and speed measuring equipment was installed at the finish line to report terminal speed as well as elapsed time. In 1962, the automated starting system was introduced. Read more

Drag Racing with Jim Hand – Part 4: Preparing For That First Trip to the Drag Strip

What could be simpler than taking you GTO, GP, FB, TA, 2+2, etc. out to the strip and shutting down that mouthy guy down the street with the Brand C. pile?

Maybe, if you have been there before, and your vehicle is running as well as it is capable of. However, if you are just getting started, there are some basic steps you should take before heading to the strip, and especially before you challenge anyone! Read more

Drag Racing with Jim Hand – Part 5: Basic Techniques of Bracket Racing

You will recall that pure drag racing consists of racing two cars from a dead stop to some given distance, typically 1/ 4 or 1/8 mile. The car that crosses the finish line first is the winner. Bracket racing consists of the same type of track and starting systems, but racing vehicles are grouped by their elapsed time (ET) potential, and raced against each other using a pre-selected dial-in. Two competing cars from the same bracket are paired, and the starting lights are staggered such that the slower car’s starting lights begin the sequence first by the difference of the two dial-ins. The winner is the car that reaches the finish line first, providing it did not run quicker than it’s dial. If both cars ran quicker than their respective dials, the car that ran the closest to its dial is the winner. Note that MPH has not been mentioned as a direct factor in winning or losing, and we will discuss that later. Read more

Drag Racing with Jim Hand – Part 6: More Drag Racing Basics

We concluded part 5 of this series by mentioning that there are many good drivers in Bracket Racing. Drivers that practice regularly become “good” drivers. However, knowing how to practice, and knowing the relationship of reaction time/elapsed time/winning/ losing can help you progress faster. Read more

Drag Racing with Jim Hand – Part 7: About Those Easy Speed Secrets

(Ed: As we publish various writers’ and readers’ insight and experience in Pontiac performance and racing, we are bound to find differing opinions and actual findings. This article illustrates this situation. Jim invites all to share their views here. And, as he points out, the actual proof has to be in your own testing on your own Pontiac. Read and enjoy!)

During the past 10 years, I have conducted many tests on my ’71 LeMans wagon at the strip in an attempt to gain performance. Concurrent with the testing, I have performed technical research with the most knowledgeable and unbiased written and people sources I could find. The research tended to confirm what I actually found during testing. Following are comments about some of the tips or techniques tried, and short explanations as to why they did or did not help performance. Read more

Drag Racing with Jim Hand – Part 8: Common Modifications

As mentioned in an earlier column, I don’t plan to cover the typical “hot rodding” of adding after-market components. Instead, a discussion of techniques to obtain maximum performance at minimum cost, while maintaining excellent driveability, will be furnished. This information is intended primarily for the enthusiasts who would like to improve the performance of their stock or nearly stock vehicles. Read more

Drag Racing with Jim Hand – Part 9: Reaction Time & Rollout

In an earlier part, we discussed reaction time, and indicated that it is measured from the green light switch closure until the front tires leave the starting line. That is technically correct. However, if your local track’s clocks indicate a perfect light as .500, the reaction time is measured from the closing of the switch for the last yellow light until the front tires leave the starting line. If your track measures a perfect light as .000, it’s timers are measuring from the green light activation until your front tires leave the starting line. Both measurements tell you the same information, and your task is to obtain the quickest and most consistent R.T. possible. Read more

Drag Racing with Jim Hand – Part 10: Reader Feedback

…….. this session will be dedicated to the following letter from John Mino.


Dear Jim,

I always enjoy reading your articles and usually agree with your views, particularly since your info is backed by “at the track” results and not some “pie in the sky” theory backed by umpteen hours of dyno time. I was elated to read your article about ignition systems, and couldn’t agree more. Actually, it made me think about the last time I went to Super Shops to buy a cam key to advance the cam in my L/Stock ’74 Firebird. While waiting for my part, this 20something year old “expert performance advisor” directed my attention to the Mallory Hy-Fire ignition display boasting a blue spark about 1-1/2″ long arcing away while exclaiming “That’s worth about 25 horses over stock…would you be interested in a set-up like that for your drag car?…the whole system runs about 300 bucks.” I looked him square in the eye while responding, “…naw, I only spend money on things that will help lower my E.T….I have a good ignition system.” Read more

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