NHRA searching for ways to improve
Top Fuel safety
"I think the cars are extremely fast,
but I think more importantly the cars aren't
safe enough, especially the top fuel dragster.
I think there's composite tubs like the Indy
cars have and Formula 1 has, if you recall Ayrton
Senna was killed in '94 basically the same way
Darrell Russell lost his life, by getting hit
in the head. When that happened they changed
the configuration of the tubs in Formula 1 to
make the driver way more protected and it's
a composite tub that he sits in.
"I think it would be very simple, and we are working on it, to get a
composite tub put together where the driver can be more sound and safe
inside the car. I think that's going to be a huge step forward, because
realistically the same design that Don Garlits came out with in 1970
with his rear engine dragster is really the same design we have today,
outside of a few more pieces of pipe. I think the cars are really
outdated for the type of speeds that they run and the wing structure and
the way they are constructed...I think they are just outdated.
"I don't really think its Goodyear's fault; I think its all of our
faults for not staying current with the state of the art type of
composites they have that makes the drivers more safe. If we can send a
guy to the moon we can certainly go a quarter of a mile and not get
-- Don Prudhomme
The NHRA wasted no time implementing preliminary
measures designed to improve the safety and
survivability of Top Fuel cars and drivers immediately
after Darrell Russell's tragic accident. They
immediately required the Top Fuel drivers cage
get more armor in addition to the currently
required shield to prevent shrapnel from entering
the cockpit, and
specs for a new Goodyear tire. According to
DRO sources, the tire is one previously used.
It supposedly is much harder than the tire that
has been in use since Bristol, and is one that
teams disliked; because of the hardness it was
prone to lose traction.
The new rules should be very effective for
the next race on the NHRA schedule at the mile-high
Bandemere Speedway where making horsepower is
a problem and Top Fuel speeds hover around 300.
As the tour moves on to other tracks on the
"western swing," however, the problems with
the tires could resurface at near sea-level
tracks like Sonoma and Seattle. The question
remains what, if anything, else will NHRA do
to solve the safety issues for Top Fuel cars
and Funny Cars.
Immediately after the St. Louis race both the
race teams and NHRA management agreed that Top
Fuel cars needed to be slowed down. The only
problem is that neither of the parties seem
able to come to an agreement as to what is needed
to accomplish that seemingly simple task. Unbelievable!