IN SI TU
THE DRIVER’S VIEW
Every time you blast off the line in a
Top Fuel dragster, you think that nothing
in the world could possibly move harder
than that. Then the clutch “welds” and
the driveshaft goes one-to-one with the
engine somewhere around half-track, and
you feel even more Gs than you did when
you left the line – about 5. 7 – and it’s like
taking off all over again.
It probably doesn’t look like it from
outside the car, but you’re steering from
the time you hit the gas. If we didn’t have
an in-car camera pointed at me, I’d never
believe how much I actually move the
wheel during a run. It’s left, right, left,
right, all the way to the finish line. You
don’t even realize you’re doing it – it just
happens automatically as you fight to
keep the car in the middle of the groove.
You never turn the wheel more than
about 3/16 of an inch either way – it’s
just a flick – and you never just leave it
there. The car would take off if you did.
You’d be in the other lane or into the wall.
You can tell it’s a good run when you’re
on one. When the track’s a little shaky, the
car picks up the front end and sets it right
back down and feels almost lazy. But on
really good runs, the ones down in the
3.70s, the front end snaps up and stays
there for hundreds of feet. It comes down
gingerly – sometimes you can even see a
puff of smoke come off the tires when the
front tires touch down – and the front end
SWITCH TO FOUR
Antron Brown was
doing pretty nicely
in NHRA Pro Stock
16 career wins.
But a switch to four
wheels and Top Fuel
in 2008 gave him
a new challenge.
Third in the
2011 Full Throttle
Drag Racing Series
points, he’s hoping
to go two better
this time around.
“The hardest part of driving a
Top Fuel car probably is just
trying to stay ahead of it”
feels light because those little tires are
just dancing on the surface of the track.
The hardest part of driving a Top Fuel
car probably is just trying to stay ahead
of it. You’ll focus on some problem spot,
maybe somewhere past half-track, and
maybe take the first few hundred feet for
granted. That’s when you know you’re in
trouble. You have to be ready for the
unexpected at all times. You don’t know
when it’s coming, but it’s coming, and
you’d better be ready when it happens.
Don’t be looking for
a whole cluster of
buttons and dials for
F1-style – they’re not
there. The dash display
and data recorder will
tell a driver and his
crew chief exactly
what a car does during
a run, but any tuning
tweaks have to be
done between runs.
42 SEPTEMBER 2012