What Does Pedaling Mean In Drag Racing?

Drag racing is one of the fastest sports in the world, and it is also one of the most exciting. Although on the surface it looks fairly simple, there is much more to drag racing than simply putting your foot down from the start to the finish. For instance, many would not understand the term ‘pedaling’ if it they were to hear it used.

Pedaling in drag racing is the action of feathering the throttle in order to regain traction. This split-second application of lighter pressure on the gas pedal maintains forward momentum while reducing wheelspin.

Pedaling is one of many techniques that drag racers will use on a daily basis when practicing and when racing. In order to understand why pedaling might be important, and why you might not want to have to do it in the first place, let’s look at drag racing in more detail.

A Primer On Drag Racing

Consistency Is Key

Drag racing is often thought of as a simple acceleration contest. However, there is actually a lot more involved in drag racing than many people think. Although most people think drag racing is all about who can cross the line first, there is a lot more importance placed on the consistency of the drivers.

Knock-Out Tournament

The basic layout of a drag racing tournament follows a bracketed elimination style, which essentially pits two racers against each other. The winner moves on to the next stage, while the loser is eliminated. There can be anywhere from 16 to 100 brackets in a drag racing competition, so there is usually a large turnout at each event.

Drivers are paired up with other drivers of similar attributes. There are three measurements taken for each run, namely the driver’s reaction time, their total elapsed time and their speed at various points of the race. The reaction time is a measure of how quickly the driver reacted to the countdown lights, and the elapsed time is how long it took them to reach the finish line.

We will discuss the actual starting procedure in more detail below, but let us first touch on the different types of drag racing that exist.

What Are The Different Types Of Drag Racing?

The Standard Quarter-Mile Drag Race

The standard drag race that most people will think of when they hear the term takes place over a quarter of a mile, and it usually involves 4-wheeled cars or trucks. However, there are other types of drag race, such as the 1/8 mile or 1000 ft drag races that prove to be popular as well, while motorcycle drag racing is also becoming more common.

A Global Sport

There are drag racing organizations all over the world, but the National Hot Rod Association, or the NHRA, is the American drag racing governing body. Within this there are several classes of drag race, with the Top Fuel drag racers being the fastest and often most exciting, and with the cars regularly exceeding top speeds of more than 330 mph on the drag strip.

What Does Drag Racing Involve?

The actual drag race itself is very short, usually lasting only around 5-10 seconds. However, the fastest races, those in the Top Fuel tier of the professional class, can complete the quarter mile in less than 4 seconds. This makes it one of the most exciting sports to watch, and the tiny margin for error that exists between the winners and the losers makes it very intense.

Complex Starting Procedure

As we have already mentioned, the races are completed in an elimination style, with the last car standing being the winner. The races are started using what is known as a “Christmas Tree” set of lights, which itself can seem rather complex. It is basically a set of lights that tell the drivers when to go, typically using a sequence of amber lights followed by the green lights which officially start the race.

Pre-Stage & Stage Beams

However, there are two stages that the drivers must reach before the race begins. The pre-stage beam is a sensor that picks up when a driver rolls their car over it. This is followed by the stage beam which is the final stop before the race begins. Essentially, these are markers that allow the drivers to get into position, and they are also used to accurately measure when the cars set off.

This needs to be accurate, because the way that the drag race winners are determined is by who completes the quarter mile in the shortest time. This time is what is measured from the moment the driver’s car leaves the “stage” area and crosses the finish line. Thus, the clock doesn’t actually start until the driver sets off. This brings about the concept of reaction time.

Reaction Time

The reaction time of the driver is the amount of time that they take to get their car out of the staging area after the green light on the Christmas Tree, i.e. the one that tells both drivers to go, has lit up. This is not as important as the total elapsed time, but it can be used to determine winners in tie-break situations.

Consistency Wins The Race

Going back to the idea of consistency, drivers have to do their best to be steady with their driving. This is because in bracket drag racing, drivers have to provide a “dial in” time. This is the time that they expect to take to complete the quarter mile, and it acts almost like a reference for the competition’s authorities to decide who is the winner.

If you provide a dial in time of 7 seconds, but only take 5 seconds to complete the quarter mile, you are actually punished and, in most cases, disqualified. This is because drag racing is all about consistency, and the way that the races are set up is to show off the skill of the drivers and not purely the raw speed of their cars.

Thus, a lot of practice is required to get consistent with your timings. This is where more specific techniques, including pedaling, come into play. With such a short race, and consistency being key, the tiniest alterations between track times can cause you to be disqualified. So, what is pedaling in drag racing?

Pedaling In Drag Racing

With the speeds at which drag racing cars drive, it is inevitable for a loss of traction to occur at some point. The track surfaces are engineered to be extremely grippy, and a lot of care is taken to ensure that there are no spillages or debris on the track at any time. A crash at the speeds experienced in drag racing could prove to be very dangerous, and in some cases fatal.

Practice Makes Perfect

So, practice is very important, and not just for timing and consistency. You need to be competent behind the wheel and able to control the car at such high speeds, with such powerful acceleration. You want to limit the movements of the car and focus on keeping it going forwards in a straight line. Not only will this make you more likely to win, but also to remain unharmed.

Pedaling To Maintain Control

Pedaling is a move performed by drag racers when they feel that they are losing traction. It involves feathering the throttle, which is essentially a lifting of the throttle for just a split second before applying it again. This helps to regain traction, without having to apply the brakes or perform any other more complex maneuvers. Although it is a fairly basic move, it can be very useful.

However, drivers will be looking to pedal the throttle as little as possible, and if they can they will want to avoid doing it altogether. When the total time of a race is just a few seconds, every split-second counts. If you pedal the throttle even for a few milliseconds, it could be the difference between a victory and a disqualification.

Thus, although pedaling is very useful for maintaining control of the car, drag racers will be looking to have to do it as little as possible.

Final Thoughts

Drag racing is an extremely exciting sport, both to watch and to take part in. It is a truly global sport as well, with drag racing authorities in countries across the world. There are different series to get involved in, and you don’t need to be a professional racecar driver to do well. Although people think it is all about speed, it is really all about consistency.

A good drag racer will be able to control their car well enough to be able to run predictable quarter mile times over and over again. This is the key to winning, and so even the smallest slip up could be costly. Pedaling is a technique that can be used to regain traction when you start to lose it, but this could be what costs you the race if you need to do it at all.