Top Fuel Acceleration

June 7th, 2008 at 12:00pm

Drag racing is one of the most popular forms of motor sport in this country. Hopped-up Hemis and blown big blocks shred tires and thunder down the 1320 in no time flat. But even the quickest modified street cars pale in comparison to the awesome power of top-fuel dragsters. In fact, the forces at work inside these cars are almost unimaginable. Here are some specifics that really put top-fuel power and acceleration into perspective.

Click an above image to see larger photos

* One Top Fuel dragster 500 cubic-inch Hemi engine makes more horsepower (8,000) than the first 4 rows at the Daytona 500.

* Under full throttle, a dragster engine consumes 11.2 gallons of nitro methane per second! A fully-loaded 747 consumes jet fuel at the same rate and produces 25 percent less energy.

* A stock Dodge Hemi V8 engine is not powerful enough to drive the dragster’s supercharger.

* With 3000 CFM of air being rammed into the engine 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 flames 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. Halfway down the track the engine is dieseling from compression plus the glow of exhaust valves at 1400 degrees F. The engine can only be shut down by cutting the fuel flow.

* If spark plug momentarily fails early in the run, unburned nitro builds up in the dead cylinder and explodes with sufficient force to blow the cylinder head to pieces and split the block in half.

* Dragsters reach over 300 MPH before you finish reading this sentence.

* In order to exceed 300 MPH in 4.5 seconds, dragsters must accelerate with an average of over four G’s. In order to reach 200 MPH well before half-track, the launch acceleration approaches eight G’s.

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

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

* Engine redline is actually quite high at 9500 RPM.

* THE BOTTOM LINE: Assuming all the equipment is paid off, the crew works for free and NOTHING BLOWS UP, each run costs an estimated $1,000 per second.

* Zero to 100 MPH in .8 seconds (the first 60 feet of the run)
* Zero to 200 MPH in 2.2 seconds (the first 350 feet of the run)
* Six G’s at the starting line (nothing accelerates faster on land)
* Six negative G’s upon deployment of twin parachutes at 300 MPH
* An NHRA Top Fuel Dragster accelerates quicker than any other land vehicle on earth, quicker than a jet fighter plane and quicker than the space shuttle.

Putting it all 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 & ready to launch down a quarter-mile strip as you drive past. 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 & 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 spotted you 200 MPH and not only caught up, but nearly blasted you off the road when he passed you in a 1,320 foot long race!

3 Comments to “Top Fuel Acceleration”

  1. James Says:

    When i saw my first Top Fuel Drag i didnt know that those cars had all this going on inside!
    Thats some incredible feats of engineering.

  2. Joe Says:

    Mighty cool stuff. I’ve been a mechanic for over 40 years and it still fascinates me that all this can go on inside an engine and maintain some reliability.

    On an editing note, “G’s” does not require an apostrophe since the “G” is not possessive. It should be written “Gs.”

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