NHRA Changes Win Light Procedures for Qualifying

NHRA Changes Win Light Procedures for Qualifying
Image courtesy autoweek.com

In NHRA drag racing, the win light always goes to the driver or rider first to the stripe. In qualifying for the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series professional categories, that can sometimes be a misleading light, as the following competitor’s qualifying pass might have been quicker, meaning that racer would move up the qualifying line.

Now NHRA is attempting to make it easier for the novice drag racing attendee to understand the logistics of qualifying. Starting at the upcoming Lucas Oil Winternationals on the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona season opener for professionals, scheduled Feb. 8-11, the sanctioning body will apply a new win light format.

At that race and, presumably, throughout the 23-race Mello Yello season, the qualifying win light will be shown for the racer who has the better elapsed time (ET), even if that competitor has a late reaction time (RT) and doesn’t make it to the finishing stripe quicker than their competitor in qualifying.

The change was requested by Mello Yell series public announcers, led by Alan Reinsert; it was approved by NHRA’s senior vice president of racing operations, Graham Light. The series’ technology partner, Compulink, has created new software as a courtesy to assist in this new program.

Reinhart noted he’d been approached by first-time fans asking how one guy “won” a qualifying “race,” but the other took No. 1. “In qualifying, the objective is to run quick, so why not designate that?” Reinhart asked. He said it would only be relevant a few times during Friday-Saturday sessions because, as he’s often said, “During qualifying in NHRA, the cars qualify and the drivers practice. The win light should show who ‘won’ qualifying.”

The announcers contend that many race-goers are not cognizant of how qualifying positions are devised, particularly when they see one competitor get a win light but the losing racer end up higher on the qualifying order. Simply glancing at the win light often isn’t sufficient to comprehend to whom the round win goes.

This new qualifying program will not be continued during Sunday’s Mello Yello eliminations, as the win light will go to the first driver or rider at the stripe. Only Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock compete in the season’s first two contests; Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Mod join the balance of NHRA series competitors at the Gatornationals at Gainesville in mid-March.

This story has not been confirmed by NHRA, but it has been confirmed by Reinhart.

About Anne Proffit 98 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.
  • Wolf N Wendy

    BOOOOOooooo!
    Reaction Time + Faster Car = Winner!!!
    That’s the way it’s always been and the way it needs to stay!!!
    I REFUSE to go pay to watch races (or consider participating) if drag racing is going to turn into some pansy-ass touchy/feely emotional rights game like this!!!

    • Read what it says again. The light change is only in qualifying, and in qualifying only the ET matters. The person with fastest ET moves up the ladder whether he crossed first or not. It doesn’t change anything else, in an actual race the winner is the person who crosses first (of course subject to no disqualifying or more lesser disqualifying offenses).

      • ScroodeMcDuck

        So in other words they take the win from the fastest Qualifier ( who beat his opponent while qualifying ) and award it to the quickest if that is different. Sandbagging at its worst ! The fastest qualifier has always worked before !

        • I don’t think you understand what they are doing. In qualifying the best ET regardless of light is the goal. The best ET, even if you cross the line last, moves up the ladder. Same as it has always been. This is where they changed the light. Prior to the change someone could get a win light and lose position in the ladder. With the new light whoever advances now gets the win.

          In the actual race, in eliminations, whoever crosses first without a first or worse foul, wins. Same as it has always been.

          Nothing they did changes results, nothing they did has anything to do with sandbagging. The only thing they did was eliminate the confusion in qualifying, where only ET matters, of a person getting a win light but actually losing position from his slower ET.

          It makes perfect sense to me. The person moving up the ladder and advancing in qualify now always gets the win light. Before, someone could get a win light in qualifying and have a slower ET and move back.

          Qualifying is and always has been a different race than eliminations. In qualify reaction time is meaningless. Only ET matters. Always has been that way, so why were you not upset years and years ago since it has always been that way? All they did was change the win light so the winner in qualifying, the car with the fastest ET regardless of who crossed first, gets the win light all the time. Seems simple to me.

          • ScroodeMcDuck

            You’re right. I was thinking eliminations and typing qualifying at the same time. I’ll eat crow now ! E.T. determines position in qualifying. Light determines winner in Eliminations.

  • Bob Berry

    Just turn off the win light during qualifying and just show the times!
    Simple!

  • Larry Sowers

    Stupid

  • Deplorable Ralphwylie

    There is no ‘red light’, no ‘winner’ or no ‘loser’ in qualifying. Once again, Big Brother, NHRA came up with a solution looking for a problem. They should be trying to make racing safe and affordable instead of expensive and elitist. “Street Outlaws” for free on the Discovery Channel is much more entertaining and interesting than the NHRA is, that is if you can ever figure out when and if it’s on the damn TV. The only thing that NHRA has done even close to half-assed right is the Heritage Series and now they have effed it up too. Just ask Steve Gibbs! Simply put, NHRA sucks.

    • kbfallon

      No loser in qualifying? If you don’t qualify well—you don’t get in the show and that means no check or pizz poor excuse for a check that a lot of racers NEED to keep in the game.

      • Deplorable Ralphwylie

        Many times a single run is made in qualifying. Who ‘wins or loses’ then? The idea of a win light is stupid. Just post the times. The ‘winners’ are always determined after all racers have attempted to qualify. With NHRA’s dwindling and sparse field in the Pro ranks then this shouldn’t be a problem. Alan Reinhart is just trying to “dumb down” the already simple sport.

        • kbfallon

          If it wasn’t for NHRA–like it or just complain about it–drag racing as we know it wouldn’t exist. I have held an NHRA Competition license for over thirty years and have seen changes good and not so much. Your comments need to be sent to NHRA so you can be heard.

  • Sparky Horaczko

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/852b22ec971f06f611e5f5c65d47f5ae353a29f357525f1157149a2f2eaac4ef.jpg

    Dep Ralph…you come off as a snivelly left wing sympathizer that demands a voice because “you know better”…Ever tried putting yourself in their shoes?? Ever thought that many of us “amateur” racers love our nitro burnouts and camaraderie in our pits. NHRA has ALL interests in mind and maintain a happy medium….in most cases. Steve is a great man and good friend! GO BACK TO YOUR VIDEO DRAG RACING GAME.

  • kbfallon

    If NHRA wants to do something meaningful….PAY the Racers a decent amount instead of hording all the money for corporate fluff.

  • Ken Thomas

    As per usual much ado about nothing and fixing a problem that doesn’t exist. Why not make some changes to pro stock camaro like cars that actually look like cars and having to use the clutch on each and every shift.

  • ScroodeMcDuck

    One step closer to bracket racing ! I thought running quicker included the drivers reaction time. (Man & machine) Now they race a clock instead of the competitor ! B.S.

  • Kevin Cunningham

    I get it, who ever has the most money wins so get bigger sponsors to help destroy the sport completely.

  • Darryl Roland

    WTF! You mean newbys can’t learn as we did years ago how it works? So its really going to the team with most cash to win. Did you guys have safe spaces and crying rooms installed for the newbys too?

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