News & Analysis

Testing 1-2-3, Testing

NHRA continues to work on the daunting task of finding a way to not only slow down their Nitro cars but at the same time reduce the cost of racing an NHRA professional Nitro car.

The NHRA has been working on this problem since Darrell Russell was killed at Gateway International Raceway six years ago this month, and with much more urgency since the deaths of Funny Car drivers Eric Medlen and Scott Kalitta. So far they’ve had little or no success with anything they have tried except for shortening the track distance to 1,000 feet.

According to all of the owners and crew chiefs I’ve talked to, shortening the track has saved the race teams a lot of money and you just have to watch the boards to know that the speeds have been reduced. But Top Fuel dragsters are back to going over 325 mph so it is obvious that the short track is not a permanent answer to the speed issue.

On Monday, June 7, after the Route 66 Nationals at Joliet, Ill., three of the NHRA’s latest ideas were tested: a 75-gallon-per-minute fuel pump; a 417 cubic-inch engine combination; and a supercharger restrictor plate located on the inlet side of the supercharger. DRO has heard that the NHRA has also tested a 3:50 rear gear ratio in place of the 3:20 now mandated.

Of the three concepts tested at Joliet, the restrictor plate was being tested for the first time by Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald of Don Schumacher Racing, using the Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster driven by Antron Brown. John Force’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustang used a 500 ci Ford engine with a 75-gpm fuel pump. Although the NHRA press release didn’t say so, we are going to assume that the 75 gallon figure was measured at 8000 engine rpm. Force made three passes, the best being a 4.22-second time at 1,000 feet.

The John Force Racing team also tested a 417 cubic-inch engine with a 3.50:1 rear end gear ratio, tuned by Jimmy Prock. Driving the Ford Mustang Funny Car was Mike Neff. Neff made two short passes, the second pass clocking a 60-foot time of .909 seconds. The smaller engine combination has been tested extensively by Tim Wilkerson Racing and, though showing promise, NHRA says it still requires more development than the other two concepts tested.

“We tested the NHRA new gear and engine combination,” said Jimmy Prock. “We only made two attempts and it will take some time to evaluate what we saw. It is in the early stages of evaluation and we are glad to help. This is something that the NHRA is looking into and they have invested in so they asked us to run it so they could look at the results.”