wikiHow to Shift in a Drag Race

Drag racing is a sport in which cars or motorcycles race down a track with a set distance as fast as possible.

A drag race pits two vehicles against each other over a straight, measured distance from a standing start. The standard distances are a quarter-mile (1,320 feet/402.3 m), 1000 feet (301.5m) (contested in the highest horsepower classes only), or an eighth-mile (660 feet/201 m). A standard drag racing event involves several classes, each competing in their own single-elimination tournament of head-to-head races.

Drag Races are always about shifting. But in this article it will lead you into perfect shifting. You also notice this kind of method used in games like Need for Speed, etc. The truth is that perfect shifting really exists. So if you want to know, you came to the right article.

We will think that Doesn't explain these in steps but in strategies and methods.


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    Be sure that any enhancements comply with the NHRA rules. The various strategies used in drag racing begin with the car itself. Performance enhancements must comply both with NHRA/IHRA rules and restrictions based on the class the car is running in. Some common enhancements include the use of slicks (smooth, soft tires that grip the track), methods for introducing more air into the motor such as turbochargers, superchargers, and nitrous oxide (N2O), specialized fuels (higher octane gas, methanol, etc...), improved suspensions, and a multitude of others.
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    Carry some water along with you. When approaching the starting line (also known as the staging area), most racers will apply water (formerly thought to be bleach by spectators but was always water in old bleach bottles) to the driven tires either by backing into a small puddle (the "bleach box" or "water box") or having it sprayed on. The car then exits the water and does a burnout to heat the tires, making them even stickier. Some cars have a mandatory "line-lock" which prevents the rear brakes from engaging when the brake pedal is depressed (which can be toggled on and off). This allows the car to remain stationary (with the brakes applied) without burning up the rear brake pads while doing a burnout. Cars in street classes (which must be street legal) are the only exception to this pre-race ritual, as the grooved tires tend to retain some of the water.
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    Be prepared to stage your car.
    • After the burn-out comes the "staging phase", where the cars pull up to the starting line. Each lane has its own string of lights on the "Christmas tree", with two small yellow lights on top. These are the "pre-staged" and "staged" lights. The two cars will slowly creep forward until the first (pre-staged) orange light is lit. This means they are very close to the actual starting line (a mere 7 inches). Then the cars will nudge forward until the second (staged) light is lit. This indicates they are at the starting line, this is the point where the driver will apply the "line-lock" to prevent the car from rolling while he uses the clutch and gas pedals. When both cars have lit both bulbs, the starter will engage the Christmas tree. If the racer moves too far the top bulb will go out and the driver is said to have "deep staged". While some drivers prefer this technique, some tracks and classes prohibit it. An advantage can be had, by deep staging, in gaining a quicker reaction time (RT) but at the expense of the elapsed time (ET) and MPH achieved at the top end of the track; there is also a higher risk of "red lighting". A loose etiquette is followed when staging. The driver to illuminate the first light will wait for the second car to light both bulbs before advancing to the staged light.
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    Watch the 'Tree'.
    • Once the competitors have both staged, the starter presses a button to start the race. There are two types of tree used. A sportsman tree, used for bracket and handicap racing, consists of each amber lighting 0.5 seconds after the one above it. The green comes on 0.5 seconds after the last amber is lit. If the race is a handicap race each side of the tree will have its own timing. A pro tree consists of all three ambers being illuminated at the same time, but there is a random delay of 0.8 to 1.3 seconds between the second staging light and simultaneous ambers, which are followed by the green 0.4 seconds later. This type of tree is used for professional and heads-up racing. It should be noted that some tracks run a Pro-style tree for bracket racing during special "Street Racing" bracket events.
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    • Several things are important on the way down the track in drag racing. The first is not to cross into the opponent's lane, as this will result in disqualification. In case of a double disqualification in which one driver commits a foul start and the second driver crosses into his opponent's lane, the driver who committed the foul start wins. Another important consideration is when to shift gears. Most drag cars are shifted manually by the driver, and there are optimum times for shifting that vary with each car. Typically, power will increase as the engine RPMs (revolutions per minute) increase, but only up to a point before power begins to taper off. The ideal time to shift is when the descending power curve for the lower gear crosses the ascending power curve for the higher gear. Most drag racers use a tachometer to judge shift points. In Fuel classes especially, "pedalling" the car (adjusting the throttle) to prevent loss of traction is often important and one measure of how good a driver is.
    • Strategies for crossing the finish line usually only involve bracket racing (see above). If one car has a huge lead, it may slow down before crossing the finish line to prevent a breakout. Especially in bracket racing, it is not uncommon to see the leading vehicle's brake lights come on briefly before the finish line. The term "sandbagging" is used in races where the driver in a bracket race puts a slower "dial in" (the predicted E.T.) that he/she could run and then at the finish line tap the brakes lightly or lift of the gas pedal (also known as pedalling) to reduce the E.T. to run as close as possible to the dial in.
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    If both cars break out, the car closer to their dial-in wins. In N.H.R.A Junior Dragster racing, however, there is a minimum elapsed time where a car which posts a time less than the minimum permissible time is ejected from the entire race. This is faster than the official break out elapsed time


  • Shifting perfectly in the first 3 gears might be difficult for you so you might need practice.
  • The Perfect Shift is determined by your horsepower and torque curves, not the red-line of your vehicle.
  • Nitrous Oxide will NOT make you shift faster.
  • Its easier to get a fast shift if you put pressure on the shifter in the direction of the next gear so that as soon as you stab the clutch pedal the shifter will move to the next gear position right away
  • YOU NEED TO GET USED TO YOUR CAR and its clutch/gears in order to determine whether this is a good method. If you are used to the gears and where the clutch grabs, you should have no problem power shifting
  • With a 5-Speed, never let your foot OFF of the GAS pedal during shifts, this is known as "Power Shifting" and will make your car "Lurch" forward after every gear change. Just be careful, and make sure you hit every gear correctly, or at least have a very decent rev-limiter to protect from over-revving your engine in the case that you "miss" a gear.
  • Keep the gas pedal floored, and yank (or throw) the shifter into the desired gear AS FAST AND AS HARD as possible WHILE depressing the clutch.
  • Shifting at the proper time will ensure you are in the power band for your next gear, improving acceleration.
  • Your next gear should be engaged before your clutch pedal hits the floor, and release it as QUICK as possible


  • if you plan on racing your car, a great way to protect your engine is to install a rev limiter and set it to the highest rpm your engine can safely rev to.
  • be mindful of your RPMs at all time, especially when shifting. if you miss a shift and keep the gas pedal floored then you run the risk of over-revving your engine.

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Categories: Driving Techniques