Drag Race 101 – Eliminator Classes Part 1

Photo Courtesy NHRA
Photo Courtesy NHRA

It’s your first time at the drag strip, and like everyone who’s ever made this first trek, you’re hooked. You can’t get the feeling out of your system, and you think it’s time for you to stop spectating, and go racing. But, where do you start?

In this series, we’re going to break down the types of racing out there, from the basic “take your stock car to the track” all the way to professional, “must have a certain engine, chassis, fuels, etc” series’ so that you can decide which classes you want to start in, move to, or aim for. This isn’t a guide to what YOU should race (check the NHRA’s current rule book for those guidelines) but it will explain what the classes are so you can figure out where to start.

We’re kicking this off with Eliminator Class Drag racing, particularly class index-racing which includes: Super Street, Super Gas, Super Comp, Stock, Super Stock, and Competition.

So what does this mean? The classes are broken down by fixed handicaps based on a predetermined index (Estimated Time for how long it takes to get down the track).
If you want to be competitive, you need to have a car capable of running almost dead-on, or quicker, than the published index of that class.

This article is going to look at the Super Street, Super Gas, and Super Competition classes. We’ll round out the series in the next piece.

Photo Courtesy: NHRA If you are wondering “why choose Super Street?”, we think it is a great “intermediate” class that is a little bit different, because there is such a variety of cars.  You might race a cavalier that runs 95 mph in the quarter, and if you win that race, your next race might be against a guy running 120 mph in the quarter mile.
Photo Courtesy: NHRA. If you are wondering “why choose Super Street?”, we think it is a great “intermediate” class that is a little bit different, because there is such a variety of cars. You might race a cavalier that runs 95 mph in the quarter, and if you win that race, your next race might be against a guy running 120 mph in the quarter mile.

 

Super Street is reserved for any full-bodied car. In other words, any sports car, muscle car, van, or truck can race. All vehicles must weigh at least 2,800 pounds, unless powered by a six-cylinder engine, which can weigh 2,000 pounds, or four-cylinder or rotary-powered car that can weigh 1,200 pounds. Other than that, engine and chassis modifications are virtually unlimited. These cars look like factory cars on the outside, and run on a 10.90 index.

The Super Street class was initially designed to be an “entry-level” class where people could build a car and participate without investing a huge amount of money (relatively speaking). As compared to some other classes of NHRA-sanctioned racing, that might be the case, but as competitive as the sport has become, the cost of being competitive has escalated. We’ve seen competitive cars sell for around $15,000, but building a car for this class can run anywhere from $10,000, to the sky’s the limit. Many spectators can relate to the Super Street class, as the cars resemble any car that can be found on the road, as opposed to a dragster.

Class Description: Racers compete on a fixed 10.90 index. All vehicles must be full-bodied cars and weigh no less than 2,800 pounds except for six-cylinder cars (2,000) and four-cylinder and rotary-powered cars (1,200). Engine and chassis modifications are virtually unlimited.

• When racing in Super Street, racers compete in sanctioned divisional races, and only select national events. If you are looking to keep local to your home track, this could be an option.

• To be competitive, racers MUST run at or on the index to win.

• You have to run consistently as close to 10.90 in the quarter mile as possible. If your car runs an 11.00-second quarter mile, you need to find a way to make it quicker so you run at least 10.90 all day or weekend. Since it is nearly impossible to “tune” a car at the track to consistently pick up a tenth of a second, it is best to initially build a car that will travel quicker than 10.90, and then slow it down when at the track.

• Unfortunately, since Super Street only runs at select national events (Houston, Atlanta, Topeka, Epping, Chicago, Sonoma, and Seattle), this does limit the geographical areas that are close to any national event.

• The key to being competitive in Super Street is to build a car that can consistently run the index, and develop a lot of mph, and being consistent.

The Super Gas runs on a 9.90-second index, and features a wide array of full-bodied cars and roadsters. There are few restrictions on engines or body styles in Super Gas, so ex-Pro Stock and Comp cars to topless Corvettes—and just about everything in between is allowed. All Super Gas vehicles must weigh a minimum of 2,100 pounds.
The Super Gas runs on a 9.90-second index, and features a wide array of full-bodied cars and roadsters. There are few restrictions on engines or body styles in Super Gas, so ex-Pro Stock and Comp cars to topless Corvettes—and just about everything in between is allowed. All Super Gas vehicles must weigh a minimum of 2,100 pounds.

 

Super Gas is similar to Super Street in that it is also designed for full-bodied cars and roadsters; no dragsters are allowed. There are few restrictions in regards to the engines or body styles that are allowed in Super Gas, so this class is home to everything from former Pro Stock and Comp cars, to convertible Corvettes. There is also a weight limit, as all Super Gas vehicles must weigh a minimum of 2,100 pounds. The exception to that rule is four-cylinder-powered cars, which can have a minimum weight of 1,200 pounds.

Super Gas differs from Super Street, as it does allow a wide variety of electronics to help the cars be consistent and hit their 9.90 index. While some people don’t like the way it works, one of the most popular components used by Super Gas racers is a throttle stop. This device allows the car to launch, and then at around 50 – 60 mph, the computer returns the car to an ideal for a period of time, and then opens the throttle back to wide open. This is used to adjust elapsed times. Once the throttle stop is released, the vehicle accelerates as fast as possible, sometimes to speeds of more than 160-mph. To many inexperienced spectators, when the throttle stop activates, it’s like someone shut the car off for a fraction of a second. If you are the ultra-competitive type, Super Gas does offer some of the most competitive side-by-side racing in all of NHRA, as many times, races are decided by just a few thousandths of a second.

Building and finding a good competitive car for Super Gas is no easy feat. We found several cars here on www.racingjunk.com that ranged from $20,000 – $50,000. That’s just the purchase price; keep in mind that maintenance can get really expensive as well.

Class Description: Super Gas entries run on a 9.90 index, are primarily full-bodied cars and street roadsters. No dragsters or altereds are permitted.

• Super Gas is contested at all national events, so this is great class for those that like to race at different venues.

• To be competitive, racers MUST consistently run on the index to win.

• You have to consistently run 9.90 in the quarter mile to be competitive. If your car runs slower, you need to find a way to make it quicker. It is best to build a car that will travel quicker than 9.90, and then slow it down when at the track.

• An NHRA license and special safety equipment is required for this elapsed time.

To be competitive in Super Comp, you don’t need the fastest car in the field. The cars that race in this class typically hit 165 to 175 mph. In Super Comp, you just have to beat the other guy to the finish line without running quicker than the 8.90-index limit. In Super Comp, you can be competitive with a 600 to 800 horsepower engine in a rear engine dragster.  The majority of “cars” in Super Comp are rear engine dragsters. This is because they are lightweight, and relatively simple and affordable. Most dragsters are powered by big block Chevy engines, although some racers are running Chrysler or even small block Chevys
To be competitive in Super Comp, you don’t need the fastest car in the field. The cars that race in this class typically hit 165 to 175 mph. In Super Comp, you just have to beat the other guy to the finish line without running quicker than the 8.90-index limit. In Super Comp, you can be competitive with a 600 to 800 horsepower engine in a rear engine dragster. 

 

Super Comp is a class in which just about any car is allowed, but is primarily contested by rear-engine dragsters. There are almost no restrictions on engine size or internal modifications, and cars compete on an 8.90 index. Since there are almost no restrictions on engine mods, there is virtually no way to gain a performance advantage—everyone runs the same index anyway. Therefore, driver skill is paramount to winning in Super Comp. Super Comp cars are very complex, due to the variety of electronic aids that are used (air-shifter, timing/delay boxes, and a throttle stop), and many races are won by as little as a thousandth of a second. Drivers and crews in Super Comp spend a lot of time monitoring air temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, and track temperature.

The majority of “cars” in Super Comp are rear engine dragsters. This is because they are lightweight, and relatively simple and affordable. Most dragsters are powered by big block Chevy engines, although some racers are running Chrysler or even small block Chevys.

If you’re looking for a Super Comp car to drive, finding a turnkey car would be the easiest way to get started. With all the available options out there, you’d be silly to try and build one from scratch. This is because Super Comp is a very technical class, and a turnkey car is tested. We found several complete cars on www.racingjunk.com that range from $15,000 – $30,000

Class Description: This is the quickest of the heads-up Super classes (8.90 index) is composed primarily of dragsters. Most cars are capable of running well under the index but use electronic aids to run close to the index without running quicker than it, or breaking out.

• Super Comp is contested at all national events, so this is great class for those that like to race at different venues.

• To be competitive, racers MUST consistently run on the index to win.

• You have to consistently run 8.90 in the quarter mile to be competitive. It is best to build a car that will travel quicker than 8.90, and then slow it down when at the track.

• An NHRA license is required for this elapsed time.

• This is a very detail and technically-oriented class, with many electronically-control functions within the car.

 

 

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