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It's time to change the red light rule
by Ralph Molesworth

For bracket, stock eliminator and some other forms of handicap racing,
whenever both drivers leave before the green, the driver who has been
given the head start  (because of the handicap start system) is
automatically disqualified even though the other driver may red-lighted
by an even bigger margin.

This is simply not fair.

I believe the origin of this rule application has two parts.

1) The old "First Or Worst" rule of thumb. If you "foul started", but
your opponent crossed the centerline, you still won because his
infraction was more serious than yours.   If both cars commit the same
foul, the one who commits it first is eliminated.

2) The second was the level of technology early on in drag racing that
made it impractical if not impossible to determine who fouled the worst.
The timing equipment in the old days only knew that one car or the other
broke the beam first.

Things are different now. They've been different for some time actually.
The old, crude timing equipment (can you say "Chrondek" ?) has been
replaced with sophisticated computers even at the most grass roots of
tracks. Hi-Tech sensors are combined with computing power so that
driver's reaction times are measured and reported to the thousandth of a
second. Reaction time measurement has not always been with us. Today's
racers take it for granted but there was a time when it didn't exist.

For some reason, when "first or worst" is applied to breakouts, it is
the "worst" part that gets invoked.  When applied to a situation where
both drivers red-light (handicap start) it is the "first" part that
comes into play.   There was a time when this was the best we could do
at the level of technology. We're past that now. We know exactly who had
the .499 light and who had the .399 light.

The fact is that for some races, the worst rule does apply to
red-lights. If there is a heads up start, and both drivers leave too
soon, the worst offender is eliminated. There is no reason why this
shouldn't be applied to a handicap start too.

Why should the driver being given the "spot" be penalized for it? This
makes no more sense than if the rules were applied such that the first
car to breakout was automatically eliminated. We don't do that, we apply
the "worst" rule.  In a handicap start, when each car is supposed to
break the beam is relative to the handicap being used right?  Why
shouldn't foul starts be considered in the same perspective?

I am not the first to raise this issue and I hope I'm not the last. This
is not "rocket science". This is a simple programming change.  The
current rule application is obsolete and completely unfair.  We have the
technology to do this almost seamlessly.  Racers should get behind this
idea because it is the right thing to do. Let the NHRA & IHRA & local
track operators know how you feel.

The whole purpose of the handicap start system is to give dissimilar
cars an even playing field, not to give the faster car an advantage.


Ralph 1819 S/G

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