The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Friday, August 5, 2011


I've always been interested in fast cars, but my experience at the drag strip is limited. I went to the Union Hill dragway several times during my senior year in high school and one time I raced my family car, a '54 Dodge Royal (4 years old at the time). I raced under the name of Wild Bill Cody and in the first race was placed alongside one of those hot but stock '51 Oldsmobiles. The Olds left me so far behind that I turned off the track before the finish. The announcer said, "I guess Old Wild Bill is headin' to the corral." I hung up my spurs after that one.

But later that spring, I did see the Green Monster (a jet powered dragster) run. People today use the word "awesome" a lot. They don't know nothing about awesome until they've seen and heard something like that. But I'd use that word to also describe the top fuel dragsters running today.

My friend Bob Bell sent this to me recently about top fuel dragsters (like the one in the video above). Read it and I think you'll agree that it contains some pretty awesome information.


One top fuel dragster 500 cubic inch Hemi engine makes more horsepower than the first 4 rows of stock cars at the Daytona 500. 

It takes just 15/100ths of a second for all 
8,000+ horsepower of an NHRA Top Fuel dragster engine to reach the rear wheels. 

Under full throttle, a dragster engine consumes 1-1/2 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 Hemi V8 engine cannot produce enough power to drive the dragster's supercharger. 

With 3,000 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 (stoichiometry: methodology and technology by which quantities of reactants and products in chemical reactions are determined) 1.7:1 air/fuel mixture of nitro methane, the flame front temperature measures 7,050 deg 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 halfway, the engine is dieseling from compression, plus the glow of exhaust valves at 1,400 deg F. The engine can only be shut down by cutting the fuel flow. 

If spark momentarily fails early in the run, unburned nitro builds up in the affected cylinders 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 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 miles per hour 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 redline is actually quite high at 9,500 rpm. 

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

The current top fuel dragster elapsed time record is 4.428 seconds for the quarter mile (11/12/06, Tony Schumacher, at Pomona , CA ). The top speed record is 336.15 mph as measured over the last 66' of the run (05/25/05 Tony Schumacher, at Hebron , OH ). 

Putting all of this into perspective: 

You are driving the average $140,000 Lingenfelter 'twin-turbo' powered Corvette Z06. Over a mile up the road, a top fuel dragster is staged and ready to launch down a quarter mile strip as you pass. You have the advantage of a flying start. You run the 'Vette hard up through the gears and blast across the starting line and pass 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 hard, but you hear an incredibly brutal whine that sears your eardrums and within 3 seconds, the dragster catches and passes you. He beats you to the finish line, a quarter mile away from where you just passed him. 

Think about it, from a standing start, the dragster had spotted you 200 mph and not only caught, but nearly blasted you off the road when he passed you within a mere 1,320 foot long race course. 
(They currenty race to only 1000 ft. in 3.85 seconds at 317 mph in an attempt to slow them down, making it more possible to stop more quickly and making the runs seemingly more safe on shorter tracks.)

...... and that my friend, is ACCELERATION!


  1. That's what's great about drag racing: It is so totally over-the-top. I don't quite know what words I'd use, but I guess it would be "gloriously stupid." 8000 bleacher-rattling horsepower to race for 4 seconds. Wonderfully ridiculous.

    Nitro cars are a complete and total "SCREW YOU!" to all sense and sensibility. That's exactly why I love 'em.

  2. I'm with Inno, to a point, and that point bein' "wonderfully ridiculous." I'm glad Top Fuel exists but I much prefer watching the stockers go at it.

    As for this... "a fully loaded 747 consumes jet fuel at the same rate with 25% less energy being produced."

    That's no doubt true on a "per passenger" basis, but otherwise? I think not.

  3. So, I'll be the feces spread on the wall of "The Home" here.

    I've never been one bit interested in racing cars. Never. Not drag racing, stock cars, Formula One (or whatever they call it), or even trying to one-up some bubba from a red light.

    I drive like a grandma, and wish everyone else would, too.

    I've never understood the magic that is "NASCAR," either. I think to myself, "Well, tens of millions of people can't be wrong! There must be something wrong with me."

    I guess that's a "given."

    BTW, Dan...bitchin' Cash song. Never was much of a Cash fan, either...

    Crud...I'm just a wet blanket here, I know. But, I do like that one.

    Actually I do use Cash in many of my posts with my "JohnnyFinger" image, which I stole from Staci Bliss. I loves it...I'm on my notebook, and I don't have the code for a link on it.

    But, here be the URL:

  4. Inno, your phrase "gloriously stupid" sums the big dragsters up for me too. I may be wrong, but there's something very American about it also; that other phrase you use to describe the attitude behind the whole enterprise kinda speaks to that.

  5. Buck, The stockers were always my main interest too. In the '50s seeing what the Chevys would do against the Fords and Hemis was always my priority. Plus, at the little strip I went to, nobody had a dragster. Everyone was running stocks, or slightly modified stocks, or heavily modified stocks.

  6. Andy, I'm still trying to get my head around your opening image (feces on the wall!), but I'm not a fast driver either, and I don't think being interested in hot cars and dragsters is necessarily a reflection of how you drive on the street or Interstate. Obviously, since one of my first cars as a young man was a Fiat, I had things other than speed on my mind (what it was, I haven't a clue).

    Still, if we were at a red light in Shrevetown tonight, I think I could wipe out that Merc Sable (or whatever it is you drive) even in my 2000 Dakota pickup. Keep your eye out for me man, I'm after you. You'll know me by that big J. Cash finger sticker pic I've got on my pickup's rear window...which you'll be looking at as I leave you in my dust.

  7. Yep, Dan...a Merc Sable is about as flashy as Andy will dare drive.

    Black Beauty...what a car.

    I guess the feces on the wall thing was a little obscure...kind of a personal moment with an old friend thing...

    I've just never understood the fascination of hundreds of thousands of people watching cars go 'round and 'round in an oval for hours. I know it's just me.

    Must be.

    Now...Lawnmower races...that'll get my attention!!!

  8. Andy, Nothin' wrong with a Merc Sable. I never have quite got into Nascar either. Way back there in the '50s and '60s when they raced what were fairly close to "stock" cars (and you could root for Pontiacs or Plymouths or whatever) I was a little more interested, but nowdays the cars all look the same. BTW, I've got a '96 John Deere that I think would take your Cub Cadet. Heh.

  9. Buffalo Bill, I really, really, really enjoyed Bob Bell's Definition of Acceleration. My heart rate shot up while I consumed the definition.

  10. I reread the definition of acceleration from time to's like a shot in the butt of Vitamin B12