How To Choose a Drag Race Ignition

By: Ray Frescas | 12/03/2018 < Back to Motor Life Home

Drag racers rely on exotic fuels and high cylinder pressures to make huge power. High compression ratios, nitrous oxide and high boost pressures paired with alcohol, methanol or nitro make lighting the air/fuel mixture in the cylinder difficult. The immense pressures inside the combustion chamber will literally blow the spark out. This is where an MSD ignition really shines. Its ability to fire the most powerful and fastest race cars on the planet is legendary. MSD ignition systems can be basic, or advanced enough to control one-tenth of a degree of timing for one hundredth of a second in any cylinder using individual cylinder timing.

When choosing a drag racing ignition, the demands set forth by an engines cylinder pressure, RPM range, and the type of fuel it burns along with class rules will determine the right ignition for you. MSD makes many ignition systems that vary depending on your needs and engine requirements. So whether you're doing heads-up, index or bracket racing, MSD has a drag race ignition that will light the spark plugs all the way down the track. Let’s take a look at all our options.

MSD 7AL-2 Plus Ignition

The MSD 7AL-2 Plus part number 7222 is our basic entry level drag racing ignition for those of you that doesn’t need a lot of bells and whistles but want the power to ignite the most aggressive combinations out there. The powerful 7AL-2 Plus ignition has a built in Two-Step rev limiter. The lower rev limit is designed to launch a car at a set RPM using a foot brake or trans brake while the second rev limit is a high RPM limiter to protect an engine from over-rev damage due to a slick spot on the track, a missed shift or driveline failure. A diagnostic LED light on the face of the unit provides useful information should trouble arise. The 7AL-2 is user adjustable for 4, 6, or 8 cylinder applications and uses simple plug-in rpm chips to set the rev limit.

MSD 7AL-3 Ignition

The MSD 7AL-3 part number 7330 has all the features of the 7AL-2 plus a few more. It offers a built-in adjustable start retard, a three step rev limiter, four stages of timing retard for nitrous or other purposes, and an RPM activated switch to turn on accessories at a desired RPM. These extra features make it ideal ignition for nitrous use. The 7AL-3 is also user adjustable for 4, 6, or 8 cylinder applications. All of the features are set with plug-in rpm and degree modules just like the 7AL-2. For those of you not comfortable with a computer and just want to get in the car and race, both the 7AL-2 and 7AL-3 offer you everything you might need in a no frills ignition system.

MSD Power Grid Ignition and Control

For advanced racers that want the ultimate in ignition programmability and control, the MSD Power Grid Ignition and Control part number 7720 and 7730 is for you. The Power Grid Ignition system offers immense control over RPM rev limiting and ignition timing with the MSD View Software. The magic of the Power Grid lies within the Power Grid Controller. Programmable via computer, racers have infinite control over engine timing with features like timing by RPM, timing by time also known as launch retard, advanced individual cylinder timing, 5 stages of timing retard, shift timing retards, and individual gear retards.

Five stages of RPM rev limiting functions can be programmed as well. Racers can set a burnout rev limit, launch rev limit, max RPM or race limit, and the turbo users can program a spool rev limiter for a quick way to build boost on the line. Last but not least, a safety rev limiter can be set at a predetermined time setting after launching to prevent any mishaps on the top end due to a stuck throttle, or other unforeseen circumstances that may cause an engine to stay wide open.


The safety rev limiter will pull engine RPM down automatically if the driver is unable to do so. The Power Grid is also expandable using add on modules connected by CanBus communication. You can buy these modules separately, allowing you to purchase only the functionality you need. The modules currently available are a launch control module, 3-stage delay timer, an ARC module which stands for (Advanced RPM Control), boost retard module, boost control modules and a power module.

The Power Grid can display live data when hooked to a laptop computer providing instant information. All features of the Grid can be tracked and recorded in detail with the built-in Data Acquisition. This gives racers the opportunity to view critical information after each run, and make the necessary changes to achieve the quickest ET. For the ultimate in ignition control and expandability, choose the Power Grid. The Power Grid has higher spark energy than the 7AL-2/7AL-3 and is designed for use with the Power Grid Controller part number 7730 which mounts directly on top of it for a minimal footprint.

MSD Pro Mag

For the most extreme and most powerful engines in the world, the MSD Pro Mag Generator is the king of spark. MSD Pro Mags are used on engines that run on hard to burn fuels such as alcohol and nitromethane and when maximum cylinder pressure is present. Professional Top Fuel teams use two 44 amp Pro Mag generators and coils to light their 12,000 horsepower engines. Without the power of an MSD Pro Mag, these engines would simply would not run. The extreme cylinder pressures are only lit with massive spark of the Pro Mag. Producing over 1.2 Amps of energy across the plug gap, the Pro Mag 44 is the only choice for nitro-methane applications.

The Pro Mag is also available in a 12 amp version for alcohol burning sprint cars and a 20 amp version for blown alcohol race engines. For unequalled power with the most accurate timing control choose the MSD Pro Mag to maximize the power production of your engine!

MSD lights the cylinders on the most powerful and fastest racecars on the planet. Make the right choice when choosing your next ignition for your racecar! For more information on MSD products, visit MSD

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