When most people think of drag racing, Top Fuel dragsters are what commonly come to mind. With their huge rear tires, long bodies, spindly front wheels and flame-belching engines, Top Fuel drag racing is one of the most distinctive types of auto racing. Both NHRA sanctioned Top Fuel categories feature cars that exceed 325 miles per hour and can run the quarter mile in under 5 seconds. Now that’s fast! These awesome dragsters are fueled with a potent mixture of 85% Nitro methane and 15% Methanol.
In practice, pairs of drag racers compete against each other to cover a set distance in the briefest amount of time. The track on which the race takes place is straight and level. The distances covered are usually a quarter mile or an eighth of a mile. The race begins from a stationary positionl and thus requires very powerful engines to cover that short distance in the fastest time. The start is crucial, as a mere split second delay is often enough to lose a close race. Both drivers stare intently as yellow lights flash on a “Christmas Tree”, down to the very last pair that are green. When the green lights flash, it’s time to put the pedal to the metal. The cars shoot down the track as if they were launched from catapults, often releasing a parachute to help them brake once they cross the finish line.
There are approximately 325 drag strips operating throughout the world at any given time. Associations such as the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) and the NHRA in the United States have been set up to monitor the sport. Professional drag racing has safety standards, rules and regulations that apply equally to all participants to keep things fair and to promote good sportsmanship.
Drag racing has always been a colorful sport, and that doesn’t just apply to the “Fuelies” and Funny Cars. Drivers with larger than life personalities have dominated the sport and become legends in their own time. Don “Big Daddy” Garlits and Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney are two of the most famous Top Fuel dragster drivers of all time, while the names of Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and 13-time champion John Force are synonymous with the sport of Funny Car racing.