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What is Bracket Racing?

Back in the early Ď60s, when I first went drag racing, stock cars were classified by their new car specifications, considering weight and rated horsepower. The rules assumed, and expected, that stock cars had stock engines, without modifications. Otherwise, they should have been running in modified classes.

Challenges occurred when someone was suspected of cheating, and tear-downs (disassembling the engine) would be ordered, to confirm the engine was stock.

I was young and idealistic, and never considered cheating. I was alone. The class system, an effort to have equal cars running against each other, didnít really work. As in most of racing, the best cheaters won. A J Foyt said that the purpose of racing rules is so you know when your cheating.

Years later, when I started racing again, I discovered that drag racing had found another way to equalize different cars, so unequal cars could compete against each other. Itís called "Bracket Racing."

In Bracket Racing, both drivers predict what elapsed time they are going to run. Then the driver with the slower prediction gets a head start equal to the difference between the predictions (called "dial-in"). Since the slower your dial-in (prediction) is, the earlier you get to leave, there has to be a disincentive for estimating too slow of a time. That disincentive disqualification if you go faster than your prediction. If both cars "break-out," that is go faster than their dial-in, the one that breaks-out the least, wins.

Another way to get disqualified, is to leave before the green light goes on, you get a red light and an automatic loss. If both drivers red-light (leave early), the first to red-light is the loser.

For example, if you watch the video of me racing in 2007 (linked on this page), youíll see in the second race, where I dialed 13.60 and my opponent dialed 15.70, he got a green light to leave 2.1 seconds before I got a green light.

Theoretically, if we both had the same reaction time (the time it takes for you to leave after seeing the green light) and we ran our dial-in (out prediction) exactly, it would be a tie.

In the video we both went faster than our dial-in. I broke out by .24 seconds, running 13.34 on a 13.60 dial in. The other guy broke out too, running 15.61 on a 15.70 dial in. So his break out of .09 was less than my .24 break out, he won and I lost.

So how do you know who wins if neither driver commits a red-light or breaks-out? Easy, the first car to get to the other end wins.

Another way to look at it is to understand that the driver with the least variance from a perfect run, is the winner. The variance from a perfect run is the sum of reaction time and the difference between dial-in and elapsed time.

If driver A dials-in 14.00 seconds and runs 14.25 and had a reaction time of .030, his total error is .060. If his opponent, driver B, dials in 10.90 seconds and runs 11.12 with a reaction time of .145, his total error is .166. Since Aís error is less than Bís, he wins.


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