Drag racing is easy to understand: it's an acceleration contest on a track—called a dragstrip—from a standing start over a measured distance. The typical distance is 1,320 ft.—1/4 mile. Some dragstrips are 1/8 mile. And Top Fuel cars—the fastest class in drag racing—race 1,000 ft. (that distance gives them more time to slow down from 320+ mph speeds).
Races are started by an electronic device called a "Christmas Tree" because of its multicolored lights. The "tree" has seven lights on each side: two small amber lights at the top, three larger amber lights, a green light and a red light.
The small amber lights signify that the race car is on the line, ready to race.When the green light comes on, the race starts. Leave too soon and the red light comes on—you're disqualified. The first vehicle across the finish line wins the race!
Drag racing started after World War II, with the first dragstrip opening in 1950—the Santa Ana Drags—running on an airfield in Southern California. Wally Parks formed the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) in 1951 to "create order from chaos" by instituting safety rules and regulations to help protect the racers. The first official NHRA race was held April 1953 at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona, CA, which continues to host the first and last race of the season every year!
Antron Brown just turned 39—but he's been racing for 33 years! He's a third-generation drag racer, but started racing motorcycles first at age 6. He also competed in track and field in high school and had a shot at the Olympic Trials—then drag racing intervened.
Antron started on a Pro Stock Motorcycle, then in 2008 made the switch from 2 to 4 wheels when he started racing Top Fuel dragsters. "Racing motorcycles, you control the bike by shifting your weight. Racing a Top Fuel dragster—you have to have quick reflexes and strong core muscles to withstand the g-force of racing... it's around 6.5 g's" (like flying in a F-18 fighter jet).
What's it like racing over 320 mph? "You see the light turn green then hit 100 mph in less than one second! Tunnel vision kicks in and you lose all peripheral vision—all you see is the end of the track."
Antron captured the NHRA Top Fuel World Championship in 2012 driving the Toyota-powered Matco Tools dragster for Don Schumacher Racing. "And once you have that taste in your mouth—it makes all the hard work worth it—and you can't wait to do it all over again!"
At the races, it's all about teamwork. Between each round, a myriad of technicians tear down the engine: it gets new pistons, connecting rods, manifolds and clutch. It's basically a complete engine rebuild—in 35 minutes!
During that time, Antron is busy mixing the nitromethane fuel, packing his parachute (which helps him slow down from 300 mph) and then he does whatever it takes to help the crew. "I'm very mechanically inclined, which is a real asset when racing because I can give feedback to the team to make us faster the next round and I can help in the pits, as needed."
Toyota embraces the philosophy of kaizen—constant and never-ending improvement—and nowhere is that more evident than in Toyota's commitment to drag racing:
"Toyota brings their technology, engineering and reliability to drag racing, and that's a huge asset to our team," Antron adds.
At Toyota and TRD Accessories, when we race—you win! Because we take the lessons we learn on the race track—whether it's a dragstrip or a road race course—and apply that technology to the products we offer to Toyota, Scion and Lexus owners.
Antron adds, "When the races are in town, come out and watch—it's impressive seeing a car accelerate from 0 to 100 mph in 0.8 of a second . . . feeling the ground shake like an earthquake . . . and you can go in the pits and see the work that goes on behind the scenes—it's part of your ticket . . . and where else do kids under 12 get in free? See you at the races!"Find Out More