Finding you can compare apples and oranges

After Scott Kalitta’s tragic death in 2008 at Englishtown, NHRA decided to race the fuel cars to 1,000 feet for safety reasons.  While I am all for driver safety (as is everyone), I had two minimal quandaries: one, racing to 1,000 feet skews all previous runs, so you can’t compare it to anything that has happened in the past and second, how to adjust my software and database to average and compare data coherently while racing at two different distances.

The first quandary I stated, I’m getting used to. I saw the first 1,000-foot nitro racing at Denver in 2008 and quite frankly couldn’t tell much of a difference, even though the runs and numbers from the past are still hard to compare.

The second quandary I solved by dividing up 2008 into two years, 2008-1 and 2008-2.

So, with that said, let’s take a look at the numbers and averages in Top Fuel and Funny Car from 2008 to 2010.
In the 2008-1 year (Pomona – Englishtown) all of my top 12 drivers in Top Fuel and Funny Car had average mph over 300.  The Top Fuel average speed was 308.40 and Funny Car was 307.77.

In the 2008-2 year (Denver – Pomona) I had five top 12 drivers averaging over 300 in Top Fuel and one in Funny Car (Jerry Toliver).  The average mph in top fuel was 298.09, a 10-mph reduction, and in Funny Car it was 291.85, a 16-mph reduction in average speed. In Top Fuel the 2008-1 best speed was 334.65 by Hillary Will and 2008-2 was 318.92 by Tony Schumacher.  In Funny Car the 2008-1 best speed was 329.10 by Ashley Force and for 2008-2 was 310.05 by…Ashley Force.  As you can see, even after the racing distance was shrunk 320 feet, the fuel cars could still produce speeds well over 300.

Interesting enough, at the first 1,000-foot race in Denver, Schumacher, Todd, Vandergriff, Cory Mac and Hillary Will all went over 300 mph.  In Funny Car, Melanie Troxel had the fastest speed at 297.42.

For 2009, statistically and number average wise, it was status quo. I had seven drivers averaging over 300 in the top 12 in Top Fuel and none in Funny Car.  The average speed in Top Fuel was 296.09 and 289.04.  Looking back at previous years’ averages, 2009, with 1,000-foot racing was on par with the same numbers produced in 1997…12 years ago!

In 2010 the average speed for Top Fuel is now back over 300 mph at 300.45, with 10 drivers averaging over 300.  In Funny Car, no driver averaged over 300 and for the class the average speed was 290.27. But Ashley Force, John Force and Matt Hagan had runs over 316 mph.  Top Fuel had five different drivers making runs over 320 mph, with Tony Schumacher having the fastest pass at the second Las Vegas race with a 325.61 in the second round over Shawn Langdon.

In conclusion, while averages are down to 1997 or so levels, some drivers/teams continue to put big numbers up at some of the events. Has NHRA done enough?  You weigh in.

Visit my website www.dragstats.com for more info about dragstats software and free stats from 2010.

Top 12 stats for the nitro ranks for 2010…interestingly enough…my minimum race standard was qualifying at 13 events.  As you can see, only 11 Top Fuel drivers qualified for 13 or more events, EVEN THOUGH THERE WERE 40 DIFFERENT DRIVERS QUALIFING AT 23 DIFFERENT EVENTS…figure that out…just shows how under-funded some teams are!