Simplify Drag Racing- Spectators and New Viewership

Follow along as DragChamp blogger, Ryan Fasano shares his take on how to make bracket racing appealing to spectators and new viewers.

Let me first preface this article by saying that while the following ideas are straight from my brain, I don’t think I was the first to come up with them.  I do however have the platform here to share them.  For those who don’t know me I am a diehard bracket racer for more than 20 years now.  I bracket race locally most of the time and when I can afford it, I’ll hit some bigger dollar events. 

While bracket racing has always been a passion of mine, explaining it to people is not.  I know I am not alone in saying that I have once talked for 10 minutes about a 5 second pass.  What we accomplish sometimes within that timeframe is mind-boggling and nobody outside our small circle understands it.   

Recently, I listened to the Sportsman Drag Racing Podcast by Luke & Jed featuring Wes Buck.  The discussion was rich with content.  Luke and Wes described in detail promoting races of all nature and what we could pull from other arenas to benefit our sport. 

The main item I want to focus on is the appeal to spectators and new viewership.  I like to put myself in their shoes for a moment and realize who we could be appealing too.  First thing is to determine your audience.  The seasoned fan understands that first to the line doesn’t always win in a bracket race.  While the new viewer would not understand this concept and potentially pass us by.  Nitro cars on TV should be a major attraction with 10,000 horsepower and 300mph runs, however they also have issues with how they present their own material in my opinion.   

Here lies the major issue with our sport in general but specifically bracket racing.  Most conversations that begin with new viewers or friends who don’t know drag racing always seem to end up referencing something they do understand.  

Take for instance, Street Outlaws and the cult following they seem to have grown in recent years.  People generally understand heads up racing. Cars take off, and they head down track.  The simplicity of the race is the shining light in the lane that won.  Let’s be honest, not much math involved.  Simple right?  Easy to watch?  All these races pack the stands, something a bracket race struggles to do.  Obviously, these cars and drivers have a ton of knowledge and resources behind them and are impressive pieces of engineering.  However, the race is simple, get there first and watch for the light in the lane.   

The idea I have is quite simple in principle.  What do we all do when we watch a livestream or stand at the fence line to watch a pair go down at a bracket race?  We watch for the win light, then quickly look at both participants elapsed times and then reference what they ran.  Some quick math then tells the story for the well-versed viewer.  However, this is difficult for the newer fan and sometimes overwhelming unless they have a seasoned racer to explain why the race was won a certain way.  

Now, I am no timing system expert, but I would think a simple solution would be to add a line on the scoreboard, or even scroll the information afterwards.  For example, a racer who has a .020 reaction time and runs 4.715 on a 4.71 dial wins over a racer with a .030 reaction time and a 4.810 on a 4.81 dial.  The average spectator sees they both ran the number they predicted and don’t understand how the reaction time plays into this math equation.  Why don’t we show them?  Show the .030 as the total package value and that their opponent was .025 total.  The lower number the better concept would then be presented right before their eyes.  Simple right?   

I also believe that this should be employed in professional drag racing, specifically qualifying.  As a spectator, I understand in qualifying for a fuel car that a racer runs a 4.850 and qualifies first but gets to the finish line second when their opponent runs 4.870 and gets to the finish line first.  So which driver qualified better, the person who crossed second?  For the new viewer this also doesn’t make much sense. 

The solution is easy, and in my opinion better for all involved.  Simply add the reaction time to the elapsed time and show the total time.  What this does is two-fold.  First, it now brings a driver element into qualifying because the reaction time now matters as it is a piece of the equation.  Quicker reacting drivers would now benefit in qualifying along with in eliminations.  Second, the “Total” time would be an easier number to understand for the spectators.  We can simply see the lower total number is the better qualifier.  I realize that they could still cross second in their qualifying attempt and be higher qualified, but even than could be fixed.   

My intentions are to get people to better understand our world.  The real hope is that someone further entrenched and much smarter than me can improve on these ideas and maybe one day implement them.  Explaining drag racing is difficult and bracket racing almost impossible.  I believe the real reason that our sport isn’t in the spotlight we all think it should be in is simple.  Its hard to understand. 

Monster trucks are easy to understand as complex as they are, do tricks, crush cars, get points.  We race for a guaranteed million dollars at some events, far more than the professionals in our same sport.  We are seeing people put sub .010 packages down lap after lap, how impressive is that!!!  All with little to no spectators.  Spectators as stated in the podcast create an atmosphere that’s electric but also it helps the promoter put on these mega races.  I believe we would all benefit from making some relatively small changes to help the casual viewer understand and fall in love with our sport. 

Thanks for reading. 

Ryan Fasano Family

About the Author: Ryan Fasano is a Division 3 bracket racer who competes weekly at Byron Dragway in Illinois. Competing in the Box class, Ryan captured the 2014 Track Championship at Byron. Like a true weekend warrior, he eats, breathes, and sleeps with bracket racing on his mind. Look for more Midwest Bracket Racing updates from Ryan on DragChamp. Click here to connect with Ryan on Facebook.

3 thoughts on “Simplify Drag Racing- Spectators and New Viewership

  • March 6, 2021 at 6:19 am

    Great article and idea Ryan!!

  • March 8, 2021 at 9:25 am

    Interesting Idea. It would take some serious programming on the part of the timing systems engineers. Assuming most scoreboards have two displays per lane, I could see one thing done maybe without maybe a ton of programming. When the cars cross, the boards go from Dial Ins on top to ET top, MPH on the bottom. Hold for 5 seconds, then display RT for both lanes top, MOV bottom on the winning lane and hold for 5. Alternately, you could choose to display each package top with MOV for the win on the lower board. “That guy had a .012 and the other car was .030, that’s why he won.” The display delay would need to be a setting in the software (adjustable), along with the display choices. You’d be taking the time to load the next pair away from the track computer op. NOTE – this kind of work costs the tracks $$$ because the software people don’t do anything for free. Along with the displays, you’d need to hold the loading of the next pair to the boards until the display timeout, in spite of what the operator does on the console. Most operators hold 3~5 seconds before loading the next pair by nature. 5 seconds seems short, but with 120 cars in a round you just added 10 minutes to the round. At our track with buybacks 1st or 2nd (not both) you’re adding 20 minutes to the total time to run the first two rounds.

    • March 8, 2021 at 10:46 pm

      You’re right Chris, software updates could get expensive. Too much info on the scoreboards could add to more confusion too. I’m not sure I have the answer to making it simpler to understand but at least Ryan got us all thinking about it. The more thought we put into it, the better chance we’ll identify a solution.


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