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History Heads up racing...when exactly did it die?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by DirtyThirty, Sep 17, 2008.

  1. DirtyThirty
    Joined: Mar 8, 2007
    Posts: 2,396

    from nowhere...

    Just thinking today, as the Jalopy Showdown approaches, about the end of the sixties, and the Gas classes...
    I remember my neighbors, in the 80's building Nova's and Chevelle's, and running on nearly deserted asphault at a decrepit Atco raceway. Before the upswing returned, and the crowds, too...
    It was one of my earliest encounters with true "race" father had built Hot Rods, and plenty of bikes, but racing, at the track anyway, was just a dead, pale, shadow of what it was supposed to be to his sensibilities, by this time.

    So when did "real" racing die? What year? When were the last Heads Up matches held around the country?

    And when was Bracket racing invented?

    I remember the 70's funny cars, and early pro stock, but were there still any "grass-roots" heads up classes still during this time?

    Seems like there is a 10 year span there that no one talks about, at least from a "back yard" racer standpoint...

    Thanks for any insight about the dark ages!
  2. tjm73
    Joined: Feb 17, 2006
    Posts: 3,398


    Heads up racing never died. I do it regularly with my late model Mustang at the local drag strip.

    We (a big bunch of Mustang racers) go to the track make 3 runs, get paired up according to the best times out of those three runs, and then run .400 pro tree heads up. You win or you lose.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2008
  3. DirtyThirty
    Joined: Mar 8, 2007
    Posts: 2,396

    from nowhere...

    I mean in the general sense... when did bracket racing evolve, and become the norm?
    Most racing today, as far as the normal guy goes, is in an E.T. format. When did this replace the heads up, street classes?
    I know you can, and have always been able to run heads up races, but your options are basically street/time lanes, or: megabucks.
    Did bracket racing develop immediately after the Gas classes dies off?
  4. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,682

    Bruce Lancaster
    Member Emeritus

    Another baaaad change in my book: predictable countdown to green light, allowing anticipation (by brain or by electronics) of launch rather than requiring reaction to actual signal.
    The human flag guy called the launch as he saw fit, forcing real reaction to win.
    We could never go back to an actual flagman out in front of the cars...too much safety and liability consciousness now...but you could either have an electronic randomization of total event time to green or have a human being push the buttons. The ability to react to a sudden signal is an entirely different thing than tuning your ability to judge a sequence that always takes exactly the same amount of time.

  5. DirtyThirty
    Joined: Mar 8, 2007
    Posts: 2,396

    from nowhere...

    Agreed...they actually flag start the first round of heads-up runs in each class at the Showdown, and in Super Stock at the U.S. 30 pretty much, if you've never started this way, the coolest thing ever...

    Its ashame its all but dead, now...
    It IS totally different then just acclimatizing yourself to a constant pattern.
  6. Larry T
    Joined: Nov 24, 2004
    Posts: 7,667

    Larry T

    I think bracket racing really got going around here in the early to mid 70's. In all fairness, it probably saved a lot of strips. If the same cars won their class every weekend (and they usually did) the car owners that couldn't spend the bucks to be competitive got where they didn't bother to show up.

    As far as not being to anticipate a flag start, don't bet on it. Racers are pretty observant folks. I remember a tale about a pro racer (maybe Garlits) that always seemed to get a jump on a certain starter without redlighting. Seems we all have habits and the starter chewed on a cigar and he clinched his teeth (which wiggled the cigar) right before he started the cars. The racer reacted off of the cigar and not the flag. Who knows if it's true, but something to think about.
    Larry T
  7. V4F
    Joined: Aug 8, 2008
    Posts: 4,187

    from middle ca.

    larry is correct . i was racing in the late 60's & early 70's . brackets (dial ins) started in the early 70's . the "reaction" timer came in i think in the 80's . never had that in the early 70's . dial in racing (brackets) were designed to make drag racing a "drivers" race . the fastest car didnt always win . the the "electric age" came in & took alot of the driver out of it . with enuff correct electronics a monkey can win @ drag racing !!!
    i remeber flag starts & 2 people on the top end deciding who won . that was real drag racing .
    went back to drag racing in the late 90's & 2000's . a whole new ball game ! i had to completely relearn how to race . computers & weather stations is how you win now ! kinda takes the fun out of it for me . sold out & bought a 1931 tudor ford !!!! now this is real fun again !!!!!!!!!!!! ... steve
  8. oldbutstillyoung
    Joined: Jul 7, 2008
    Posts: 74


    Well haveing been there running a d/mp 64 chev. at pamona it was 1964 thanks to wallworld and his clowns that was the end to real dragracing long live LIONS
  9. autobilly
    Joined: May 23, 2007
    Posts: 3,094


    Don't it always come back to bucks in the "what ruined drag racing" question? Hope they can keep a lid on it in HA/GR.
    Kool story about the cigar!
  10. stretch 1320
    Joined: Oct 1, 2006
    Posts: 1,861

    stretch 1320

    Last edited: Sep 18, 2008
  11. tomslik
    Joined: Mar 3, 2001
    Posts: 2,162


    i remember back in the early 70's, the track i went to (the only track in south central nebraska) ran 12,13, 14, 15 etc.second brackets that were heads up, meaning if you ran a 12.9 you were PROBABLY gonna lose to a 12.1 car although you COULD bag a little bit and run your 12.9 car in the 13 second bracket and break out.
    kinda like Pinks all out without the bald headed guy making an ass out of himslf.
  12. Andamo
    Joined: Jan 10, 2006
    Posts: 503


    The owner of Sunset Drag Strip near Mercer, PA has this sign on one of his buildings. He say's he's the person responsible for starting the bracket racing movement.

  13. turdytoo
    Joined: May 14, 2007
    Posts: 1,560


    I remember when each car ran for a "class win" which was heads up. Winning your class put you into an "eliminator bracket" Cars were paired up with a timed handicap that was an equalizer based on the difference of the national records for the 2 cars in that round. I also remember a walked off head start between cars where they both left at the same time. They say bracket racing saved drag racing but I left then so I don't know.
  14. Ran my 65 Max Wedge all up and down CA during the early/mid sixties...REAL Drag Racing. War cut it short, then marrage, family, career, etc. The seventies, eighties, nineties came and went...then retirement. Built my 63 Tempest (among many other cars) and decided to hit the first Strip I ever ran at (in High School). Flagman was now the announcer, Strip STILL had the same bleachers, and now it was Bracket Racing. It was GREAT to be on the Track again, but somehow, it's just not the same. Wound up winning 11 out of 16 weeks, but it was the end of the Drags for just was NOT the same. But I consider it an honor to HAVE been part of the "scene" when it was the real deal. Now if I want to do any heads up, I'm forced to do it at the stoplight...:eek:.:D
  15. VA HAMB
    Joined: Jun 14, 2006
    Posts: 1,371


    I can remember going to the drags when I was a kid in the mid 70's. My dad hadn't been in a while and I can remember him complaining about the bracket racing. He said "its just not the same" Also the track had been reduced to 1/8th mile. He didnt like that either. So for VA I would say the early 70's or maybe even the late 60's for bracket racing here.
  16. As far as I'm concerned bracket racing ended it for me I raced,teched the cars,and promoted races.with bracket racing you didn't need as many people on staff,and how each engine combination was factored(horse power est by NHRA) no tear downs to verify if you were legal. There were classes for everything from W/Stock to AA/FD.You picked a class and built a car that you thought would win.I had C/GAS 40 Ford coupe D/MP 65 Chevelle and a C/SM 69 Nova.I went Oval track racing and now at 60+ I'm building an altered
  17. jonny o
    Joined: Oct 26, 2007
    Posts: 836

    jonny o

    We do it all the time brother! Strict safety guidelines and bigger insurance policies than tracks carry on a normal basis. This was at Burke Lakefront Airport during the Grand Prix of Cleveland. After the turning cars were done we set up light towers and a 600 foot strip for the street creatures to drag.
    Was a lot of fun.

  18. TAYLOR
    Joined: Jan 21, 2007
    Posts: 591

    from DALLAS,GA.

    The 10.5 tire heads up cars will be running this weekend in Huntsville Al.
  19. belair
    Joined: Jul 10, 2006
    Posts: 8,717


    I bet the racers were REALLY focused on the starter!
  20. Shifty Shifterton
    Joined: Oct 1, 2006
    Posts: 4,964

    Shifty Shifterton

    Whatever strip is nearby probably has a street car night with lots of heads up action. They're not handing out trophies, but if you wanna let your cammed up doorslammer romp against like minded machinery, it's the place to be..........if ya wanna go faster and chase trophies there's plenty of heads up 10.5 tire classes that'll bust the bottom out of your wallet. Heads up certainly isn't dead
  21. billbrown
    Joined: Dec 24, 2007
    Posts: 595


    heads up died when everyone with an f-body decided that they were on the show Pinks and that bald guy was none other than jesus.

  22. Definitely, the young lady has their attention.

    Then again, who'd wanna leave?:D
  23. All kidding aside, I'm glad to see the live flag starts gone.
    Safety mainly, but local favoritism for one.

    The old Saugus Dragstrip had a flagman that would call back an unfair start.
    Rolled me back a couple of times so the local - who had really slow reflexes - could get an even up start.


    Bruce would have enjoyed the old San Fernando Dragstrip loser-leaver system.

    Mostly automatic and the starter initiated the timer.

    One stage light in each lane.
    Get both lanes stage light lit.
    Start the timer, the amber light lit.
    The timer was random and set for between 1/2 and 1 1/2 seconds.
    The amber went out,
    The green light comes on,

    Leave too early, the red light will get you.

    Trick was, watch the amber, when it started to dim, the red light circuit opened and no chance of a red light.

    Didn't take long for everybody to figure it out and the only guys who screwed up were out of towners who were used to the new-fangled Christmas Tree.
    They'd give the amber a half second and leave.
    (A half second being the time between ambers on a Christmas Tree.)

    Long Beach (Lions) DragStrip had a great bracket system that they called index racing.
    My car ran low 14's, an occasional high 13.
    We'd enter the 14 second index.
    Run 13.99 and you were out.
    Run 15.0 and you were out.
    Took care of the sandbaggers very nicely.

    The local airport drags last October was a lot of fun.
    You went up against whoever you wanted and if there was no particular car the staging lane guy would ask if this or that car was ok.

    This upcoming weekends Kingman Street Races have classes.
    My roadster (HR/9 is my number) is in the Hot Rod class.
    Basic rule is street car, DOT approved street tires and a license plate.
    Should be fun.

    I believe they're going to run streaming video again this year.
    If so I'll post on that and how-to.

    I gotta say though, Bracket Racers be funny guys.
    Regardless of class or bracket they're always striving for more horsepower.
    Have to give em credit there.

    Seems to me the car's that are the most fun are similar to an Alston 27 T tube framed car I saw at Famoso a few years back.
    Mildly built 455 Olds, hydraulic cam, ignition, T-400, nine" w/spool, one 850 Holley.

    Nicely done car and like the owner said, change the oil and go racing.

    Fun stuff and the car was mild enough to cruise the pits and chat up his buddies in the day's before golf carts....
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2008
  24. Larry T
    Joined: Nov 24, 2004
    Posts: 7,667

    Larry T

    If you want to have some fun, gather up some buddies and go to a test and tune/street night at your local track. Kinda has the same vibe as street racing without have to look over your shoulder. Also, the "serious" bracket racers don't get all bent out of shape because you're using up their track time and messing up the starting line with street tires. You can choose whoever you want to run and get after it!
    Larry T
  25. Daddyfink
    Joined: Jan 27, 2007
    Posts: 463


    Another big reason for bracket racing was the fact that NHRA, IHRA and AHRA decided to start slimming down the classes. They once had classes for everything and races could last a couple of days in just eliminations alone! Classes got deleted and to accomodate the orphans, Bracket racing started taking place. Gas Dragsters starting running against Fuel Altereds, Cat and Dogs sleeping together, it was nuts!

    Some folks have been bracket racing for so long now that hey will not even think of racing heads up.

    At Barona, bracket racing allows them to run the Gambler races with whatever cars are there. From Altereds to F-350 Diesel Work trucks, they will run them all together with bracket racing.
  26. Daddyfink, where's Barona?

  27. Daddyfink
    Joined: Jan 27, 2007
    Posts: 463


    No, it is East of downtown San Diego, up in the hills.

    The Barona Indian Reservation/Casino

    The strip is further up from the Casino and is not owned by the Casion, but it does have two of the tribal chiefs as part owners.
  28. DirtyThirty
    Joined: Mar 8, 2007
    Posts: 2,396

    from nowhere...

    I guess that I should clarify:

    I am well aware that there is still heads up racing, in fact, many classes, like the Outlaw's, and quick 8 cars ( they are heads up, too, correct?) are going strong, also, I've run my car on Friday night street night, in the time/street lanes for years...But, was this the case directly after the Gas classes? Did, say, Modified Production cars run e.t. style in the 70's? Did the class end right then and there? I see that sign posted on page one, and am amazed that it includes the claim that bracket racing was "invented" in '61! Wow! holy crap...the Gasser Wars hadn't even really fired up yet...
    My real question is as to when the powers that be, took a look around and said: "This isn't working" for the lower classes. When did the seperation btwn. classes happen? Was it, say 1970: The best guys are now in Pro Stock, Top Fuel, T.F. Funnies...what was going on at that time for the street/hobby guys?
    Did bracket racing begin the day the Gas classes died?
    I can tell you that in the late 80's our track, Atco, was a ghost town, and we started going again, because we remembered our parents going, and taking us during the late seventies, to watch the races.
    At this point, it seemed like bracket racing was absolutely the only game in town...I don't even remember if they had a street night at all, at this time?

    I don't know...I guess I'm just really wondering what the hell classes you could have run in the 70's, too?
    Was it, like: O.K., there Top Fuel, Top Fuel Funny, Pro Stock and...ummm...everyone else is in a bracket class....
    Weren't there any sportsman type classes that were still heads up then?
    Like todays "outlaw" classes, or the NMRA, or whatever?

    I can't seem to even remember the very idea of heads up racing through the nineties...It was almost just a given, I think...if said you were going racing, or some one you know had a race car, it just naturally meant a bracket car.

    Sorry...i guess its really a complicated question, and I know its post-64, because I am asking, essentially, what were your options, during the dark ages of drag racing, and when, precisely did they begin?

    But I think it applies in every way, because the fact is that what comes around goes around, and now, even the nostalgia racers, ( ECGassers, etc...) run E.T. style.

    When did this become the norm, and during the 70's and 80's, could you even build a car for a class besides, like, Super Gas, or Pro Stock?
  29. Larry T
    Joined: Nov 24, 2004
    Posts: 7,667

    Larry T

  30. DirtyThirty
    Joined: Mar 8, 2007
    Posts: 2,396

    from nowhere...

    Cool...this is interesting info!

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