Drag racing at it's purest is a combination of two simple things: who has the best car and who has the best reaction time. But is it an even 50/50 split? Or does one matter more than the other?
In 18 rounds this season, Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon has left first 17 times, but he's just eighth in the points standings and almost 400 points behind points leader Larry Dixon, who is 16-13 in reaction time in his 29 rounds. (Langdon's average reaction time is 0.052 seconds, compared to Dixon's 0.070) Cory McClenathan, who is in second place in the top fuel standings, is just 7-20-1 in his 28 rounds and has an average reaction time of 0.089 seconds.
Over in Funny Car, John Force still is the king of the start line, as he's 23-5 and is in first in the points standings by 115 over his daughter Ashley Force Hood, who is 10-14 against her opponents. John's average reaction time is 0.085 seconds, while Ashley's is 0.115. But Tony Pedregon -- who had a famous blow up with John at the U.S. Nationals last year when he accused John of dogging it to get eventual Funny Car Champion Robert Hight into the Countdown to One -- has the best overall reaction time at 0.073 despite being just 11-8-1 against his opponents on the line.
In the Pro Stock category, Rickie Jones and Greg Stanfield have average reaction times of 0.022 and 0.024 respectively, but Jones is 10th and Stanfield is fifth in the points standings. Points leader Mike Edwards -- who has a 245 point lead on second place -- has an average reaction time of 0.043 and is 16-13-1.
So what's the verdict? I lean towards the car being slightly more important. Given that the biggest span of average reaction times across the top 10 of the top series in the NHRA is about five one hundredths of a second, great equipment can help make that up. However, don't discount the holeshot.