Does Deep Staging Give You An Advantage?


For many years, I raced with the Ontario Street Car Association‘s Index and Comp classes and more recently with the Pro Tree Racing Association in their Index and Comp classes. In both series, a pro tree was used and deep staging was permitted.

Whether I tried to or not, deep was where I always found myself. My car is heavy (3000lbs) and has stock suspension. I found that I could consistently cut a good light when I just barely turned off the pre-stage light,  a.k.a. deep staging. In 2015 I started racing with the Renegade Racing Association, here I encountered my first ‘No Deep Staging’ rule. Suddenly I had a problem. I was no longer killer on the tree.

Rolling into the Pre-Stage Beam.

As any racer knows, a race can be won or lost on the starting line, it’s not always a matter of who crosses the finish line first. We tried a lot of things to make my car react quickly without deep staging. We changed the front tires, changed the converter, bought a Leash Boost controller, all at an increased cost to my race program. Sometimes it worked and sometimes didn’t (more often didn’t). It was a very frustrating year for me. My car just isn’t set up to shallow stage, it’s very difficult if not impossible to cut a good light, especially on a pro tree.

Never hearing a valid reason why the rule exists, I did a little research (called the NHRA), and discovered that the rule set came from ‘back in the day’ when the Super Gas Class was created although I’m not even sure that they measured reaction time ‘back in the day’.  I was told two different reasons by two different officials. First that the rule was arbitrarily decided on by the racers and second that the rule was originally created to save time on the starting line. This was before the advent of Autostart and it has to this day remained a rule for 3 classes: Super Gas/Super Stock/Super Street.

The ‘No Deep Staging’ rule has somehow been copied over and over again by various series since, who were no doubt looking for rules for their own series’, most notably a 9.90 index class. It sounds like a real thing, a rule, ‘No Deep Staging!’. Somehow you just go with the rules, they are obviously there for a reason, right?  Maybe not.  In my opinion, the rule actually creates an unfair disadvantage. Let me explain why…..

First, you have to understand how the starting line works. A drag race begins with what most racers affectionately call a Christmas Tree. The lights on the tree are activated by sensors, or beams, which are usually contained in a box on the ground.


The Pre-Stage bulbs come on when your front wheel rolls into the Pre-Stage beam.

Roll a little farther and the Stage light is activated, by the Stage beam. At this point, you should be ready to race. Your wheel will be blocking both beams so both the Pre-Stage and Stage lights will be on.

Farther ahead of that there is sometimes a third beam known as a Guard beam. The Guard beam is designed to trigger a red light start if it is activated while the Stage beam is activated.

Note: A Guard beam’s job is to eliminate any unfair advantage by a racer who has a part hanging down under the front of the car. This is where the rule “4:5 GROUND CLEARANCE Minimum 3 inches from front of car to 12 inches behind centreline of front axle” comes into play. Something hanging down could block the Pre-stage or Stage beams and give a racer an unfair ‘rolling start’ before the ET clock starts. If there is no Guard Beam, moving out of the Stage Beam before the light turns green will trigger a red light.


Deep staging occurs when the Pre-Stage light goes out, but your tire has not yet activated the Guard Beam, or gone past the Stage beam. It can be a dangerous place to be, so close to that Guard Beam. Your risk of red lighting is greatly increased. Being deep staged will also cause a slower ET and slower 60′ time, usually by a tenth of a second. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it is necessary if your car is set up a certain way.

Knowing that ‘reaction time is everything‘ in Drag Racing, any racer should be aware of the factors that can influence their reaction time. A very important one of these is rollout.

Rollout is an often misunderstood concept. It has nothing to do with distance.  It is actually a measure of time. It begins when a driver initiates leaving (turning off the stage light), and stops when the car leaves the starting line, or breaks the Guard beam which starts the ET time clock. (Not every track has a Guard beam).

So how does rollout affect reaction time? More rollout theoretically will increase your reaction time. Less rollout will theoretically decrease your reaction time because it allows you to start the ET clock sooner.

Five factors that you as a racer have control over that will affect your rollout are: the weight of your vehicle, whether you shallow or deep stage, clutch/converter slippage,  launch RPM, and front tire diameter/pressure. Modifying any of these factors can change your rollout.


Race track staff can also cause variability in rollout by how high they set the beams, and with track prep. If the beams are set low, rollout is decreased and it would be easier to red-light. If they are set high, the rollout is increased and the opposite is true. If there is a lack of traction and you spin your tires, the rollout will also be longer.

It really depends on your car as to whether or not you will shallow or deep stage. For example, a full chassis back-halfed car would likely shallow stage, a heavy car with stock suspension will likely need to deep stage in order to be competitive. In a way how you stage, shallow or deep, creates ‘reaction time parity’ on the starting line in cars with differing set-ups.

The only tried and true way to consistently win races is to be consistent, and staging is a big part of that. Whether you deep stage or shallow stage, you should do it the same every time.

Does deep staging give you an advantage? I think not! I believe the ‘No Deep Staging’ rule should be abolished from all classes of drag racing. In the faster classes surely no-one would even need to do it. But not allowing racers the option of deep staging in reality creates an unfair disadvantage. In this day and age we are surely past the point of using the reason ‘We’ve always done it that way.’ And if not all classes, at least the Renegade Racing Association’s 9.90 Index!













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