Several weeks ago, prior to the 2022 season of the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the Camping World national events beginning, the NHRA announced a change to the Christmas Tree as far as the super categories are concerned. My $.02, but this should raise some eyebrows.

In 2003, the NHRA changed to LED bulbs on the ‘Tree to combat the problem of the incandescent bulbs burning out from the massive vibrations associated with the Top Fuel and Funny Cars passing by. The problem reared its ugly head in the speed the new LED bulbs lit. This caused a litany of red-lights in Pro Stock Motorcycle class as well some Sportsman racers in the super categories.

A little explanation first. An incandescent bulb performs in three separate cycles. When the electricity is first fed to the incandescent’s filament, it must heat up before it gets to fully lit. The final and third cycle is when the electricity is taken away from the bulb, the filament still stays glowing until it hits full cool down, at which point the bulb is considered off. Of course all this happens in milliseconds, but it can be seen.

Savvy racers realized the ability to “read” each of the bulb’s cycles and change their reaction times by the “read” of the bulb. Then came the LED.

An LED bulb is either on or off, there is no filament to warm up or cool down. This caused the bulb to light up faster causing it harder to “read,” and therefore a rash of red-lights. The answer was to introduce a .03-or-a-second compensation to the categories which utilize the pro tree. This meant that the pro tree setting of .400 in between the amber and green bulbs would now actually be a .370 difference. This made it harder for some racers to “get a light,” but most everyone adapted.

Over the years, it’s been suggested by some that we were losing racers because they couldn’t “get a light,’ and therefore left to race in other forms or quit altogether. Personally, I don’t believe that’s the main reason for losing cars, but nonetheless, the NHRA made the decision weeks ago to eliminate the .03 compensation and return the “Tree’s timing to a true .400 between the amber and green. This change would only affect the super categories (S/Comp, Gas & Street).

As I stated earlier, I don’t believe that’s the reason for diminishing car counts, but it will make it easier for some to “get a light.” But is that what we should be doing?

This is just my perspective but I think there are several who will agree. Drag racing has always been about tweaking on your car and making it do better every time. In the early days of super racing, we had to work to get our car to cut a light. I can’t tell you how many transmission valve bodies we had cut apart to follow oil paths in order to learn about having it release faster.

For the uninitiated, on the starting line, the transmission is locked in first gear and reverse by way of a valve body. Releasing reverse oil pressure through the valve body allows the car launch. Eventually, transmission companies entered the market with fast releasing valve bodies. But still, work to the car’s suspension along with converter designs find most every super category car carrying a small amount of delay through the use of a delay box from the time the trans brake button is released to the trans brake solenoid releases and allows the car to launch.

It’s gotten hard enough to win today as almost everyone can cut an almost perfect reaction time. Now, the NHRA is making it easier to get that light. What it all really amounts to is racers having to add roughly .03 to their delay boxes. Why? I would rather have seen the change to a .300 tree and make it harder to get a light forcing a racer to have to work hard at the issue. I’m sure I’ll get some feedback on this but this is just my $.02, for whatever that’s worth. This is almost – as I have seen it written – like giving out participation trophies to all who attend, rather than forcing one to earn it. Will it increase participation? I could be wrong, but I doubt it. Time will tell on that front.

As I stated, this is just my opinion and you can tell me I’m all wrong about this, but let’s not make things easier. Life is hard. You have to work at it to be successful. Why should drag racing be any different?

Flame away.