25 Facts About Drag Racing That We Never Knew Until Now

Chances are that many people have already seen Top Fuel Dragsters on the internet or maybe even on television. They are unmistakable pieces of machinery that were built exclusively for a single purpose only, and that is to get from point A to point B as fast as possible in a straight line. Drag racing is the most simple and raw form of motorsports. If a car finishes first, he won and the other guy lost; it is as straightforward as it can be. As time went on, drag racing slowly evolved from souped-up family sedans to all-out ludicrous Top Fuel Dragsters. It might not require a lot of skills since drivers only have to go in a straight line, but it does demand a certain level of courage.

“Something worth doing is worth overdoing”, the saying goes. We know that insane yet brilliant people exist and apparently some of these people are into drag racing, which led them to build insane vehicles that are stupidly fast; we can’t even begin to imagine. A lot of these purpose-built cars accelerate even faster than a fighter jet... Talking about fast, Top Fuel Dragsters finish the race in a flash; blink and you might miss it, literally. Dragsters do not look like any other car we’ve seen on the streets or anywhere, for that matter. There are bound to be many things that aren’t widely known about the obscure world of top tier drag racing.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

25 Nobody Ever Got An Accurate Horsepower Reading Of A Top Fuel Dragster On A Dyno

via wforadio

Acquiring an accurate reading of an ultra-high-powered engine is such a daunting task that most horsepower numbers for Top Fuel Dragsters are just mere estimations. Engineers are still trying to develop a dyno that can take the full power of a full-blooded drag car.

Regular car dynos simply can’t take the heat and will be prone to damage if put under too much strain. One thing is for sure though; whatever horsepower numbers drag cars actually have will be pretty hard to wrap our heads around.

24 The Current Top Fuel Dragster Record Is 3.667 Seconds For The Quarter Mile

via usa today

Tony Schumacher holds the record for the fastest quarter-mile run ever recorded, at 3.667 seconds. Most purpose-built road cars that were made for drag racing would be even lucky to just reach the 8-second mark for the quarter mile.

To put that into perspective, the Dodge Demon quarter mile time is even just a hair below 10 seconds, and the Dodge Demon is already an awesome car, to begin with. Many sports cars of today even take around 4 seconds to get to 62 mph.

23 Dragsters Reach Over 300 Mph In Just A Few Seconds

via pinterest

It only took less than 4 seconds for Tony Schumacher to finish the quarter mile and when he crossed the line, he was going 336.57 miles per hour. This means that every other Top Fuel Dragster probably ended up going at least 300 mph. We don’t know about you, but dragsters finishing a race faster than some people can even say their names is just astonishing and pretty hard to believe.

Modern dragsters are just incredible pieces of machinery that push the boundaries of what we perceive as quick.

22 The Engine Is Entirely Rebuilt Every Run

via motor1

When dragsters finish a run, they head back to their crew and start rebuilding the engine entirely; from new pistons to new rods, to new rod bearings, new rings, and sometimes even a new crack. The team has to finish the whole job in about two hours or before the next round begins, so they have to be at the top of their game if they want to win some silverware.

It’s not only about the driver in Top Fuel Dragsters; like a perfectly built engine, success is when every component is doing its job properly.

21 Dual Magnetos Supply 44 Amps To Each Spark Plug

via welder referer

For those of us who are not really tech-savvy or know anything about electronics, 44 Amperes is a lot. It can power an arc welder that laborers use to bind metal to metal and that requires a huge current to function.

Spark plug electrodes will be completely consumed after a single run; this means that the cars’ engines will only shut down under two conditions: when the engine blows or when the tank eventually runs dry. Engineers would rather see the tank run dry, of course.

20 Drag Racing Requires A Lot Of Engineering (If They Want It Done Right)

via drag illustrated

They do not just slap on big components, build a sketchy shell of a car, and install wheels and tires without a thought in the world. It takes special care to ensure that a Top Fuel Dragster will behave as expected. Brilliant engineers get together and combine their knowledge to create a coherent, methodical system of a car.

Not only do they come up with a theoretically sound machine but they need to build it from the ground up as well, and that’s a whole other challenge.

19 Getting To 300 Mph In 4.5 Seconds Will Have An Acceleration of Over 4 G’s

via racing junk

Whether standing outside or lying in bed, it does not matter where we are at all; we are always experiencing 1 G if we’re not moving. At 4 G’s, your body is going to start feeling uneasy and very uncomfortable with the sensation of your stomach plunging deep inside your gut as your blood is pushed elsewhere.

It is basically like riding a scary roller coaster, only that you’re in a car. Not many people have the guts and the stomach to handle that kind of stress on their bodies.

18 Supercharging Is The Preferred Method For Forced Induction

via hotrod

There are naturally aspirated engines, and on the other hand, we have engines with forced induction. Under forced induction engines, you have turbochargers and superchargers which both have the same task but do things rather different things.

We can talk all day about the two of them, but supercharging an engine is by far the quickest, most efficient, and the best way to force air into the engine. This concept is really not all that hard to understand once we get our heads around the numbers.

17 Tires Are Deflated To The Point Where The Car Gets Maximum Grip

via car and driver

First of all, dragsters need as much grip as possible to put down thousands of horsepower to the ground. Slick tires are needed to give the car that much needed contact with the pavement; grooves on tires will significantly decrease the contact patch, as they say, so normal road tires that have tread are out of the question.

Once they have the right kind of tire, it is important that they inflate them just enough to get the friction just right. We can even see the sidewalls flex when the light turns green.

16 Cars Have Flown In The Air Before

via roadkill

It is imperative that the cars stay as close to the road as possible or else it can get quite dangerous for the driver and the crowd. If a lot of space is left between the pavement and beneath the car, wind can literally lift the dragster off the ground (and you can imagine how that would go).

Newer dragsters are adopting the technology of lowering the front splitters as much as possible to create negative pressure or a vacuum under the car which in turn will make the whole vehicle stick to the ground.

15 The Name Of The Game Is Acceleration

via visit indiana

People would be forgiven if they thought that all that matters is the top speed. For longer tracks, that might be a factor but it is quite a different story for the quarter mile since the race is already over way before they can reach the tippy top of the engine’s performance.

However, the challenge is to get to the top speed as quickly as they can so that they are able to get to it before they cross the finish line; a break-neck acceleration is more important than sheer speed.

14 Top Fuel Dragsters Are Powered By Nitro Methane

via dragzine

They need a special kind of fuel to run. Your local gas station is definitely not going to have stock of Nitro Methane, as this fuel burns way hotter than your average gasoline.

Under full throttle, a Dragster engine consumes around 11.2 gallons of Nitro Methane per second. That is just abysmal gas mileage, but who cares about that anyway? It’s a drag car, ain’t nobody got time for that. You know what they say, great engines require great fuel mixtures, or was it something else?

13 The Nitro Methane Flames Reach 7050 Degrees Fahrenheit

via legendary finds

At the starting line, drivers rev their engines a lot and those flames we see burn at a scorching 7050 degrees Fahrenheit or around 3900 degrees Celsius.

If this is the temperature of the flame when it exits the engine, then just imagine the heat inside the engine itself; it is significantly higher. It all boils down again to the fine engineering, impeccable build quality and techniques the engineers utilize.

12 The Driver Feels 7 G’s Of Deceleration When Both Parachutes Deploy

via red bull

Stopping the car is yet another challenge that engineers face. A regular braking system just won’t cut it; they need another system in place to help the dragster come to a halt or at least slow down to a more manageable speed. They utilize parachutes, most of them have two for that extra deceleration.

Drivers can really feel the stopping power when they deploy the chutes because they undergo 7 G’s! This is not something just anyone off the street can handle; some people even vomit at a significantly lower G reading.

11 10 To 12 Gallons Of Nitro Methane Is Used For Just One Complete Pass

via autowise

Though Nitro Methane is an incredibly powerful fuel to power an engine, it is expensive to run on. Under full throttle, a Top Fuel Dragster consumes 1-1/2 gallons of Nitro Methane every second! According to Enginebuildermag, a 55-gallon drum of Nitro Methane costs a whopping $900. With that amount of cash for Nitro Methane, we’re surprised nobody has tried to rob someone of this expensive fuel yet.

Go do the math and calculate how much that translates to every single run on the drag strip.

10 The Rear Wing Can Produce 4,000 To 8,000 Pounds Of Down Force

via technology education online

Those giant rear wings or spoilers or whatever you want to call them don’t look like much, but at extremely high speeds, they can displace a lot of air in just seconds. To push the car downwards, they have to push the air upwards; this is a basic principle in Newton’s Law of Motion.

An extra 4,000 to 8,000 pounds of weight on the rear tires might sound counter-intuitive but all that weight is to give the rear tires better grip! Engineers have to find that balance between downforce and drag.

9 External Starters

via truck trend

All Top Fuel Dragsters have an external starter to start up the engines before the race; they don’t have a key ignition system that most cars implement. Batteries for the starters are even mountain on retrofitted golf carts. They even have spare starters as a back-up in case the primary starter fails for some reason.

Well, special cars need special ignitions as well. This is definitely way cooler than starting up a Lamborghini with a fighter jet-inspired start/stop button in the middle of the cockpit.

8 Dragsters Don’t Have Suspensions

via drag race results

The drag strip is already as smooth as a road can get, so they do not have to worry about bumps at all. A regular car is equipped with a system of springs and shock absorbers but not Top Fuel Dragsters; the wheels are directly welded to the chassis.

The rear tires are already wide and bulky enough to absorb whatever inconsistencies on the road surface, so there is no need for suspension in the rear as well. Even without a complicated setup, they have no problem getting the power down to the track.

7 They Have Composite Material Brakes

via dragzine

Carbon brakes are far more superior than the ones found in regular cars, and even in modern high-performance cars. They have better-stopping power and better cooling, the only downside is that they need to be up to temperature before the brakes bite.

This has caused some crashes in the past but this was due to drivers not knowing how to properly modulate the carbon brakes. Parachutes only work at extraordinarily high speeds and the brakes are used both at high and low speeds.

6 Top Fuel Dragsters Actually Have 2-Speed Pneumatic Transmissions

via google trends

Most cars we see have 5 or 6-speed transmissions; newer ones can actually have up to 8 speeds and this is because of demands for better fuel economy and efficiency. All of that jazz is not really necessary for dragsters though, since the race is over before you can even finish reading this sentence; they wouldn’t be able to get to 3rd gear before reaching the finish line!

Again, it is all about acceleration. The first two gears have the most torque and engineers don’t give a flying squirrel about the amount of Nitro Methane they burn.

5 Front Wheels Don’t Matter Much

via terry mcmillen racing

The ratio between the size of the front wheels and the rear wheels is just astonishing! Motorcycles have bigger wheels than dragsters to get to dangerously high speeds, which begs the question: “Why?”

One thing you should note is that all the power is coming from the rear wheels and none to the front. Another factor is that they only need the front wheels to do a bit of steering to get to the front of the starting line and to straighten out the car, so they don’t need to have much traction up front.

4 Engines Are Strapped On With Hose Clamps

via bilnkit

This might come off as really sketchy, especially for Top Fuel Dragsters, but the highly engineered motors of these mechanical beasts are only held on to the shell with simple hose clamps. People might think that this wouldn’t hold; however, this is a simple solution for a simple problem, and on the drag strip, simplicity is key for consistency.

They have never experienced an engine flying out of the vehicle in the event of a crash, so this method should be the best one yet.

3 Top Fuel Dragsters' Engines Redline At 9500 Rpm

via hot rod network

Your average diesel engine has a redline of just shy of 5,000 rpm; the average gasoline engine has a redline of about 6,000 to 7,000 rpm, but Top Fuel Dragsters’ engines max out at a whopping 9,500 rpm! Tuning this beast of a vehicle might be near impossible and the power band is incredibly hard to control.

Is it weird that we want to get a chance to drive one of these things even more now? It probably takes extreme precision to put both the engine and the transmission in a harmonic state.

2 Everything Eventually Blows Up

via roadkill

As mentioned just a while ago, every engine is only good for a single run. Just imagine the amount of stress all those metal parts are going through, surely it must be more than a Starbucks barista’s worst morning rush hour shift.

Engine components, both big and small, get deformed over an incredibly short period of time due to the magnitude of the forces at play. It’s actually pretty common for transmissions to blow, for blocks to get busted, for cylinder heads to get propelled right out of the engine; basically, everything has a tendency to go up in flames.

1 Drag Racing Has Been Around For A Long Time

via leica forum

As soon as the first cars were sold to the general public, people instantly wanted them to go faster, which is weird because they used to roll around town in carriages and on horses. This thirst for more speed is what prompted a few audacious groups of people to modify their cars to make them go vroom (or to outrun the police).

This fad picked up and even now we still see the same boldness and tenacity in the people who bring us these feats of engineering.

Sources: bleepingcomputer.com, race-dezert.com, meracing.com, moto123.com, funtrivia.com

More in The Fast Lane