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Drag racing records, for a lot of us, are sacred. I’ve been lucky enough to be at the races where both the first 200 mph doorslammer pass and the first sub-five second Top Fuel pass occurred. Barrier-breaking efforts like those are a big part of drag racing and its history. Those accomplishments are often the subject of arguments among fans, especially some of the early barrier-breaking runs such as the first five-second and the first 200 mph Top fuel passes. When those two firsts occurred, the sport didn’t have the sophisticated record keeping and equipment that we have now. No TV, no internet. History took as good the word of the people that witnessed the event.
So with that in mind, I found it interesting that even though the NHRA has been giving fans, racers, and the press the ETs professional race cars have recorded to the 1000’ mark for at least a couple of decades, some racers (and the NHRA) have evidently decided to ignore that historical data. They’ve chosen to ignore the fact that both nitro burning funny cars and dragsters recorded many sub-four second 1000’ ETs at NHRA National Events before the NHRA started keeping 1000’ National Records. That is a documentable, unarguable fact. After initially resisting awarding National Records for the 1000’ distance, NHRA finally decided they weren’t ever going back to quarter-mile racing at, least for nitro cars, anytime soon, and established speed and ET records for that distance. It needed to be done; setting and breaking records remains a vital component of the sport of drag racing. But let’s not pretend that current ET records represent the first time those numbers have been seen or done. The current records are only the first official NHRA 1000’ records.
The information showing which drivers and cars actually made the first sub-four second 1000’ pass at an NHRA National Event is out there, and I have no doubt that eventually an anal stats guy will find it and make it public. In the meantime, let’s give funny car pilot Matt Hagan and his team credit for not only being the first to run an official NHRA sub-four second pass for the 1000’ distance, but also credit for being the first to set the ET record under four seconds for that distance. Those are feats worthy of recognition and the Championship points that came with that effort.
The numbers don’t lie. NHRA’s Top Fuel and funny cars now regularly go almost as fast in 1000’ as they used to in the quarter-mile before NHRA and the teams decided that at least some tracks weren’t safe at those speeds and reduced the race length. And just for the record, understand that the speed numbers we see come up on the “scoreboards” are the AVERAGE speed for the last 60’ of the track, so it is reasonable to assume that many nitro cars are currently exceeding the speeds deemed safe for the tracks and the Goodyear tires. I can only wonder if Brandon Bernstein’s tire failure was just a fluke or a preview of what’s coming. As a reminder, his left rear tire appeared to explode right before the car got to the finish line.
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