Modifying your car's engine for more horsepower is definitely exciting. You get the thrill of being thrown back into your seat harder and harder every time you install a new power mod. Plus, upgrades to your engine's intake and exhaust system give your car a mean sound.
However, if your primary goal is to improve your quarter mile drag times, focusing solely on increasing your horsepower is a mistake. In fact, many cars will benefit much more at the drag strip from tire and suspension mods than they will from power adders.
Upgraded Tires: Where the Rubber Meets the Road
All the horsepower in the world is useless if your car can't put it down on the pavement. If you've performed a decent number of engine modifications, chances are that your car's power has exceeded the capabilities of its stock tires.
Even most cars with stock engines will see drastic benefits from upgraded tires. You'll be able to launch off the line much quicker, and you'll be able to keep the pedal floored as you go down the strip rather than feathering the throttle in lower gears to maintain traction.
Two Options: Summer Performance Tires or Drag Radials
If you regularly drive your car on the street, your best bet is to go with a set of summer performance tires. As the name suggests, they're designed to deliver maximum traction in warm conditions. They have carefully tuned tread patterns that give them the largest road contact patch possible while still being safe to drive in wet conditions. They're also constructed with soft rubber compounds that perform optimally in warm conditions, unlike all-season tires which sacrifice maximum traction for cold-weather performance.
If you rarely drive your car on public roads and want maximum drag strip performance, opt for a set of drag radials. They're designed to deliver even more traction than performance summer tires at the cost of reduced performance on cold or wet surfaces. They're still road legal, though they tend to deliver extremely compromised performance on surfaces that aren't totally warm and dry. Speak with local tire services to learn more.
Performance Springs and Shocks
To compliment your new set of rubber, you can also upgrade your car's springs and shocks. Your stock suspension system is designed for comfort, which means it has a lot of flex to absorb bumps in the road. When you're racing down the drag strip, your stock suspension will allow your car to rock back and forth during gear shifts. That will cause your car's weight to lift off your drive tires, leading to reduced traction.
Aftermarket springs and shocks are stiffer and will reduce your car's ability to rock back and forth. That will keep its weight balanced and help keep your tires planted to the asphalt for improved quarter mile performance.