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How to Drag Race 101

6549 Views 18 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  David Neibert
I thought I would write up a summary on the basics of drag racing these hellcats. I am basing this information on my own experience of drag racing for over 30 years and also on what others on this site have posted about running their hellcats at the track. I don't consider myself an expert on this, and my idea is that others can add to what I've included here. There are a lot of hellcat owners who are new to drag racing, and so I thought it would be good to have a sticky that they can refer to for these cars.

BASIC MODS that are a good idea but not required are the following

-One piece driveshaft and safety loop, which is required. RE might be fine with stock DS.
-DIRS differential brace
-crank pinned
-if you plan to run your Hellcat often and hard, I'd swap the axles, too, but I always err on the side of caution. RE might be fine with stock axles.


-MT ET Street R or ET Street SS. There are others of course, but these are the most popular.
-a nice budget friendly setup is the MT ET Street R, 305-45-18 (29" tall/10.7 tread), on Bravado 18" wheels
-another option is a 17" wheel and 305-45-17 (28"/10.5 tread)

Either of these sizes will fit on a Hellcat. The 17" wheels may need shortened end links, however, but they are easy to install.

For a bigger tire, you get into having to modify the wheel well. This requires a large mallet and the willingness to pound on your car. On a narrow body, the 315R tire will fit, but only after these modifications, unless a person wanted to add spacers, in which case you'd probably want longer studs, and if someone were going to do all that, then just pound the wheel well.

From what I've seen on the forum, most cars at most tracks do just fine with the 305R tire. The above sizes and fitment may be different for a wide body.

If someone plans to drive back and forth from the track on the tire they use for racing, then consider the MT ET Street SS tire, 305-40-18. This tire works pretty darn good and is very stable on the highway and okay in the rain. Personally, I'd never drive the R tire in the rain, but I've been a little skittish since I did a 180 at 60 mph in my Chevelle back in high school. Apparently ladder bars affect suspension negatively when it comes to country roads and a light rain. I started out with the SS tire on the Hellcat and drove to the track no problems at all. The MT SS is a very good compromise tire that works. I have driven the R tires on the highway and they felt fine, but it was completely dry. MT explanation of SS versus R tire

Mickey Thompson suggests running the SS and the R tire at 14-18 psi. Through reading many posts on this site, I'd say people most commonly run 18-22 psi. Usually best to start on the lower side and work up. Some people are able to run more pressure than others, but it's track and car dependent. That said, you always want to run as much tire pressure as possible as long as you have traction. For street driving, MT recommended to me to run the Rs at 28-30 psi, if one were so inclined to do that. I would think it's about the same for the SS. I'd probably run 32 psi to be on the safe side with either tire on the street.


Most people are able to run the stock suspension and run pretty good with the above tire combo if they race on a well prepped, high quality track.

If trying to achieve greater consistency, or if the track is sketchy, then there are a few standard mods.

1. AAD rear suspension. All new control arms with poly bushings. This is high quality stuff and will reduce the chance of wheel hop, and you can also adjust the rear camber, which you can't do with the stock arms.

2. Cradle lockout or similar. The cradle bushings are a spongy mess. If doing the AAD arms, then it's a good time to do the cradle lockout too, since you have to lower the cradle some to get a couple of the control arm bolts out.

I didn't think either of these was too hard to install, but it's relative to someone's experience wrenching. I didn't notice any increase in NVH (noise, vibration, harshness), but everyone's tolerance for that differs. I put summer performance tires on and that increased the NVH more than anything I noticed with the suspension changes.

3. HHP drag springs or something similar. I would say this is for the serious racer. However, from talking to Linda and others, they ride fine on the street. However, if somebody plans to do some big track racing or autocross, etc., you'd want to stick with the stock springs. Plenty of people running excellent 60' times with stock springs.


According to current NHRA rules, you can go 10.0 and 135 mph in the 1/4 before needing a roll cage. Any car prior to 2008 must have a roll bar and certified safety harness at 11.49. IHRA is now 9.0 and 145 mph. NHRA rules for 2014 and newer "stock" cars is now 9.0 and/or 150 mph.

You must have a certified helmet that is not out of date. However, your track might allow an outdated helmet to be used on a street legal night or something like that, but that's track dependent.


Most run their cars in the following modes:
-traction: sport (traction control off)
-transmission: sport or track
-suspension: street


First thing is if you are running regular street tires on the front, drive around the water box and then back up. Once in the water pull forward until you are clear of it. At my track there's a guy who waves you forward and then has you stop.

Second, you need to have the transmission in manual shift mode and put it in 2nd gear. If you have a line lock, use it. I use a Tazer Burnbox which works for locking the front brakes and between rounds can be used for cool down. For your burnout, stab it pretty hard to get the RPM's up in the 5500 range or so, and then let go of the line lock once the tires start to smoke, ease out of the throttle and let the car grab and pull forward. If you don't have the RPM's high enough the rear of the car will slide out to the right because you don't have enough wheel speed.

How long you do your burnout for depends on a number of things. Mickey Thompson suggests a longer burnout first run of the day and then "hazing" the tires after that. First run, I might count to 2 and then let go of my line lock. After that, a count of 1 is good.

Now shift the shifter back into auto mode and role up towards the beams.

If you are running a street tire on the back, don't go in the water at all. Do a quick dry burnout to clean debris off your tires and then go stage.


There are two yellow staging lights. The first one is the pre-stage light. The protocol is for each car to pre-stage first. Once both cars have lit the first yellow, then you can inch forward to light the second yellow. Once both cars have done that, the tree will be coming down. A big time novice move is to light up both yellows before the other car has even pre-staged. I like to roll up just shy of the first yellow and get my RPM's set with my left foot on the brake, and then use brake pressure to inch forward while keeping my RPM's exactly where they were. You shouldn't be looking at gauges while staging and the RPM's need to be kept steady. Also, prior to your first run, if you've never raced before, take a look at where the light boxes are for staging. I've seen people pull up five feet short and then spend an eternity inching forward.


This is an area where there will be some variety since every car is different and the track makes a huge difference. In general, these cars don't need much in terms of RPM. Leaving just above idle with the car/drivetrain loaded is common, and can result in very good 60' times. I've seen a range on the forum from 900 RPM's to 2000 RPM's. Again, it depends on the track and car. Best to start low and work your way up.

Leave on the last yellow, not on the green. Some just mash it, and others have to roll into the throttle, and some punch it halfway and then roll into it. This will depend on traction and the track.


Don't get caught up in comparing your HC to others on this forum. The DA (density altitude) and the track conditions have a significant impact on the times you will run. The DA ranges from 4200-6800 at my track and with that and my IC coolant temps, my time can vary .25 or more in the 1/8 mile and by 3 mph. Same with comparing tire pressure. I've seen people run 22 psi or higher with the Rs, and I don't think that would work on my track with the typical Hellcat. I have three race type tire gauges and two read the same and the other is 1 psi higher. Remember, too, that it takes time to get used to these cars and learn what works best, so be patient. Change only one thing per run once you are able to get consistent. For example, if you are going to change tire pressure, don't change your launch rpm, too. Have a routine and follow it for every run. If you get out of the groove going down the track or feel tire shake/wheel hop off the line, get out of it immediately and have a leisurely cruise down the track, come back around, and get ready for your next run.

Most importantly, have fun and be safe.
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One thing that I do. In the burnout I leave it in drive and let it shift to second or third and hold the ROMs at about 3500. The tires will get grip and lug the motor down. Then roll out as you mentioned. By doing it this way there is less to do and remember and because the RPMs get dragged down due to traction and I know I can send it.
Like everything it takes practice and may not work for everyone.
My junk has hooked at 24 psi on ETr's.
Great info for those that are newer or just don't know.馃憤
So in Drive, SPORT mode, and use Line Lock or just brake stand?
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I finally got to the drag strip last week and used the ET Street R. MT was VERY adamant about running 26 PSI on the street for the 305/45x18. He needed to know the stock tire size to cross reference it. I DID have to run them a few days during rain, and they were skatey. Yes, GREAT INFO!
What's a nub???????????? Oh, newb, or FUNEWGY???????????? :LOL:
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