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I absolutely agree with the NHRA management that 300-mph speeds from Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars are an essential component for selling tickets to all drag race fans. I think 300-mph cars are about the only thing NHRA drag racing has that gets the attention of the mainstream print and electronic media. And I think everyone can agree that, for the most part, the fans and elite media don’t care much if a nitro-burner goes 332 or 301. Just seeing that 300 number come up on the board is enough.
The NHRA management also recognizes that every mile per hour over 300 a Top Fuel or Funny Car achieves always increases the inherent danger. Everything on a race car, from tires to chassis and engines, is pushed to the design limits when a car goes 320-330 mph in 1,000 feet. All anyone has to do is watch a nitro car getting completely rebuilt after just one 300-mph pass to get an idea of how much stress and damage one 320+ pass can cause.
So, for almost a decade the NHRA has spent a lot of time and money trying to come up with a program to slow down the fuel cars a bit, increase safety margins, and reduce the cost of operating the cars. Ray Alley came up with and implemented the idea of using a rev-limiter to do that. The NHRA has set the limiter for nitro cars to keep engine rpms under a max of 8250, but the device doesn’t work until three seconds after the driver slams the throttle pedal.
It is fairly apparent at this point that the tuners have pretty much figured out how to get around the rev-limiter based on the sub-four-second, 330+ mph 1,000 foot performances we’ve seen recently.
We know that speed is determined by three absolutes and one variable. Engine rpm, gear ratio, and tire height at rest are the absolutes, and tire growth at speed is the variable. The NHRA already has a spec fuel, tire, and gear rule, so they are left with just limiting engine rpm to control speed.
With that in mind, I contacted a couple of premier Top Fuel and Funny Car tuners and asked them how many rpms their engines had to see under normal circumstances to record a 300-mph pass on a 1,000-foot track. I won’t give their names since we never know what might cause the NHRA to fine one of these guys for speaking out. Anyway, the Top Fuel guy said that 8100 rpm was the number and the Funny Car chief said that 7900 rpm was needed for a 300 pass.
If that is the case, why doesn’t the NHRA simply reset the rev-limiter to 8000 rpm?
Reducing the max rpm an engine can reach not only reduces the maximum possible top speed, but also reduces wear and tear on everything in and on the engine. Both would be good for the nitro classes and the sport in general.
I think it would be really beneficial for the sport because when a 300-mph number comes up it will be a really big deal instead of being just more of the same.
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