Every year on Labor Day weekend, O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis will host the U.S. Nationals, one of the most prestigious drag races in the world. Dave has been talking about going for years. I didn't want to go because I wasn't interested in drag racing. But this year I thought I would go with him just to experience it once. And boy, I walked out of the raceway later a NHRA fan.
NHRA stands for National Hot Rod Association. It sets rules for drag racing in the United States and Canada in four main classes: Top Fuel Dragster, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle (Pro Bike). Pro Bike is the slowest of the four classes, with top speed ~190 mph. Pro Stock is the second slowest, with top speed ~205 mph. Both Top Fuel and Funny Car can reach or pass 300 mph. They run on a maximum of 90% nitro methane and 10% methanol.
1. The raceway.
2. Nitro Alley.
3. A woman driver. I was surprised to see how many women drivers were in the race.
4. Small dragsters lined up for their turn to enter the race. These dragsters look like Top Fuel Dragsters, but they are not. They are actually a lot smaller, with smaller rear tires and rear wing. They are much slower too (maybe top speed ~220 mph).
7. Just before the beginning of the racing strip.
9. A small dragster in racing.
10. Pro Bikes in racing.
11. Funny Car driven by Ashley Force (daughter of the famous Funny Car driver John Force) at the end of burnout. Drag racing tires perform better at higher temperatures, so they do burnout just before the race to raise tire temperature.
12. This Funny Car caught on fire during racing. The driver managed to shoot out the parachutes to slow the car down before the fire burned the parachutes out. The driver was O.K., but the track had to be thoroughly cleaned before they resumed the race.
13. A Top Fuel Dragster in racing. According to Wikipedia: "A Top Fuel dragster accelerates from 0 to 100 mph (160 km/h) in as little as .8 seconds."
14. Look how its tire deformed.
15. I wasn't a drag racing fan until I saw two Top Fuel Dragsters racing down the strip at 300+ mph. The deafening noises and the ground pounding vibrations they generated were unbelievable. It is the most exciting thing I have experienced in my life. In some way, I wish the racing strip is longer (it is only quarter-mile), so I can enjoy the moment more. Yet on the other hand, I wasn't sure if my heart could take it much longer.
16. After crossing the finish line, both Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car rely on parachutes to help them slow down. The signs on either side of the racing strip show the time it took the car to finish the run in seconds (top) and the finishing speed (bottom) in miles per hour.
17. There were may hot cars on display at the raceway.
20. A 1955 Chevy Bel Air.
21. "China Syndrome" with mockup nuclear heads.
Why is it called Funny Car?
According to Wikipedia: The first funny cars were built in the mid-'60s and so-called because the rear wheels had been moved forward on the chassis to improve weight transfer under acceleration, increasing traction on the rear tires, which were oversized compared to stock. Looking at the cars, they didn't quite look stock, hence the name "funny."