Bracket Racing 101: Looking Back To The Future
(Article begins on the Bracket Racing 101 page HERE)

Shortly before writing this column I was on location at the NHRA Division 1 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ. One of the announcers was Lewis Bloom, with whom you may be familiar from the NHRA broadcasts on ESPN2. I told Lewis how much I enjoyed his insightful analysis and statistics, and it got me to thinking about how I’ve used similar historical analysis in my own racing. This is a great time to have this discussion, now that the past season is behind us and we’ve started planning for the new one.

Although past history is not a guarantee of future events, having knowledge about the past can help us play the odds better on the track. You don’t think odds and averages are at work? Think of it this way: going .000 and dead-on might look impressive on the board, but it’s not required to win. What’s required is to be better than the racer in the other lane. You won’t be better every time; there are times when you’ll just get beat, but the goal is to be better on average than your opponents. Bracket racers aren’t called gambler racers for nothing, and if you play to your strengths and perhaps uncover some weaknesses that you can address and improve upon, you’ll improve your odds and will be in a better position to win more rounds.

Here’s what you’ll need to do this little exercise: a notepad, a pen, a calculator, and a season’s worth of time slips. Those time slips are a goldmine of data and can absolutely help you understand your strengths and weaknesses. All it takes is a little time to crunch some numbers.

There are so many statistics and comparisons you can pull from your time slips, but for the purpose of this column and in the interest of space, let’s focus on the start of the race, the reaction time. Go through your elimination time slips and write down your reaction times (notice I said “elimination time slips;” time trials don’t count. We only care about elimination rounds). Write your green-lights in one column and your red-lights in a separate column. Also write down your opponents’ green-lights and red-lights, keeping those in separate columns as well. Make note of how many elimination rounds you’ve logged.

Now take your calculator and start adding all your green-light reaction times. All you’re trying to do is come up with your average green-light reaction time over the course of the season. In my case, I’ve logged 51 green-light elimination rounds so far as of this writing, and the sum of those green-lights was 1.674. 1.674 divided by 51 = .033. Therefore my average green-light is .033. During the course of the season I’ve had 4 red-light elimination rounds, and the sum of those red-lights was -.019. Therefore my average red-light was .005. Now do the same for your opponents. In my case, my opponents’ average green-light reaction time during eliminations was .060. This tells me that although I’m doing reasonably well at the start of the race and often have the reaction-time advantage, I’m risking vulnerability against racers who might get in on my .033 average.

This is just the beginning of what your time slips can tell you. It can be enough to drive you batty. You can determine your average light when you’re leaving first vs. leaving second, your average daytime reaction, average night-time reaction, how many times you took too much stripe and broke out, how much stripe you take on average, how many times the car threw you a curveball and wouldn’t run the number, etc. Don’t get too mired in the stats and numbers; you’re just trying to get a better understanding of how your races have gone down on average so that you can make some tweaks and changes to try to improve your odds.


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