THE ULTIMATE THRILL RIdE
eople ask Matt Hagan all the time what
it’s like to drive a Funny Car, and the
2011 NHRA Funny Car champion and
2010 and ’ 13 runner-up is all too happy
to paint a vivid picture of a typical (if
that’s the right word…) 1,000ft pass in
his 300mph-plus Dodge Charger R/T.
“Leaving the starting line in one is
like sitting at a stop sign and getting hit
from behind by a dump truck going 45
mph,” he says. “Your entire body is
planted back in the seat.”
Funny Cars don’t have transmissions –
which is nice, because no one in their
right mind would ever think of taking
their hand off the wheel, even for an
instant, to shift. Drivers don’t pop the
clutch to leave the starting line – just as
no transmission could possibly withstand
the torque of a 9,000hp nitro engine, no
pedal-type clutch could handle it, either.
Drivers touch the clutch pedal only to go
from forward to reverse, and vice versa,
Once both drivers are pre-staged, each
throws the fuel pump on the high side,
rolls into the stage beam, and braces for
the unimaginable ride to come.
“For the first 100ft or so, you’re not
even driving the car,” Hagan admits.
“It always hikes the front end, so you
can’t make any corrections.
“At about 300ft, your vision starts
to go away. It comes back into focus
somewhere around 500ft, and then when
the clutch and engine go 1-to-1, it’s like a
lightning strike and sounds like someone
slammed the water with a boat paddle.
On a good run, the car starts pulling a
whole ‘nother G at that point. Even as fast
as you’re already going, 270-some mph,
the car is still trying to pick up the front
end, and it just keeps doing it the rest
of the way to the finish line.
“I’d driven a Pro Mod and thought
I knew what fast was,” Hagan adds, “but
going from a Pro Mod to a Funny Car
is like going from college football to
the pros. The game is just a lot faster.
My biggest fear was the unknown –
I’d heard all the horror stories about
getting burned up. I was so scared my
first time, my visor fogged up as I was
trying to get the courage to stab the gas.
“For the first couple years, the car was
still just too fast for my mind to get
acclimated to it. Eventually, it becomes
slow motion. At 300-some mph, you’d
think there’s no way, but it does. But it’s
still unbelievable how hard that thing
pulls. You always think it’s got to quit at
some point, but it never stops until you
take your foot out of it.”
Class record speed
Class 1,000ft E T record
Maximum G force
NHRA FUNNY CAR
When it comes to wild rides, a 320mph, 9,000hp NHRA
Funny Car has pretty much anything on wheels beat.
What’s so funny?
“at about 300ft, your
vision starts to go away.
It comes back into focus
somewhere around 500ft”