Top Fuel Dragster Acceleration

I have my DVR set to record NHRA events, which I watch at some convenient time later.

My two favorites are Top Fuel and Funny car competitions.

Here is a great example of how fast these monsters really are.

top fuel dragsterThis is from an e-mail on the subject from Bill Neely to David E. Davis, Jr. of Automobile Magazine:

One Top Fuel Dragster 500 cubic inch Hemi engine makes more horsepower than the first 4 rows at the Daytona 500.

Under full throttle, a Top Fuel Dragster engine consumes 1.5 gallons of nitro methane per second; a fully loaded 747 consumes jet fuel at the same rate with 25% less energy being produced.

A stock Dodge 426 Hemi V8 engine can not produce enough power to drive the dragster’s supercharger.

With 3000 CFM of air being rammed in by the supercharger on overdrive, the fuel mixture is compressed into a near-solid form before ignition. Cylinders run on the verge of hydraulic lock at full throttle.

At the stoichiometric 1.7:1 air/fuel mixture for nitro methane the flame front temperature measures 7050 degrees F.

Nitro methane burns yellow. The spectacular white flame seen above the stacks at night is raw burning hydrogen, dissociated from atmospheric water vapor by the searing exhaust gases.

Dual magnetos supply 44 amps to each spark plug. This is the output of an arc welder in each cylinder.

Spark plug electrodes are totally consumed during a pass. After half way, the engine is dieseling from compression plus the glow of exhaust valves at 1400 degrees F. The engine can only be shut down after cutting the fuel flow.

If spark momentarily fails early in the run, unburned nitro builds up in the affected cylinder and then explodes with sufficient force to blow cylinder heads off the block in pieces or split the block in half.

In order to exceed 300 mph in 4.5 seconds, dragsters must accelerate at an average of over 4G’s. In order to reach 200 mph well before half-track, the launch acceleration approaches 8G’s.

Dragsters reach over 300 mph before you have completed reading this sentence.

Top Fuel engines turn approximately 540 revolutions from light to light.

Including the burnout, the engine must only survive 900 revolutions under load.

The red line is actually quite high at 9500 rpm.

Assuming all the equipment is paid off, the crew worked for free, and for once NOTHING BLOWS UP, each run costs an estimated $1,000.00 per second.

The current Top Fuel dragster elapsed time record is 3.701 seconds for the quarter mile. The top speed record is 332.01 mph as measured over the last 66’ of the run.

Putting all of this into perspective:

You are driving the average $140,000 Lingenfelter twin-turbo Corvette Z06. More than a mile up the road, a Top Fuel dragster is staged and ready to launch down a measured quarter-mile as you pass.

You have the advantage of a flying start. You run the Vette up through the gears and blast across the starting line and past the dragster at an honest 200 mph.

The “tree” goes green for both of you at that moment.

The dragster launches and starts after you. You keep your foot down, but you hear a brutal whine that sears your eardrums, and within three seconds, the dragster catches you and beats you to the finish line, a quarter-mile from where you just passed him.

From a standing start, the dragster spotted you 200 mph and not only caught you but nearly blasted you off the road when he passed you within a mere 1320 feet.

That, my friends, is acceleration!!

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