Drag racers still content with shorter races as NHRA heads to Pomona
After the death of drag racer Scott Kalitta in a mid-2008 crash, the NHRA took the dramatic step of temporarily shortening races for the 300-mph funny cars and top-fuel dragsters in its premier Full Throttle Series.
As the series heads to Pomona for its season-ending races next week, the change -- shortening races to 1,000 feet from the traditional quarter mile, or 1,320 feet -- is still in effect. And that's fine by several drivers in contention for series championships this year.
"I think it was actually brilliant on NHRA's part," Jack Beckman, who is a single point behind Matt Hagan in the funny car title standings, told reporters Wednesday. "They solved a whole lot of issues with one change there."
The National Hot Rod Assn. in Glendora took the step both to limit speeds of the 7,000-horsepower dragsters and to give them extra distance for slowing in case of catastrophic problems. Another benefit: Cars and parts last longer, lowering costs.
"Slowing these things down, especially if you have a [para]chute failure, and at some of these racetracks, it's gotten to be a dangerous proposition," Beckman said.
Del Worsham, a seven-time winner this season in the top-fuel class and only two points behind Spencer Massey in that division's title hunt, said "I'd rather accelerate as fast as we are right now to 1,000 feet than have to slow down to [race on] a quarter mile."
"I'd rather keep going faster," Worsham said. "If we have to shorten the track a little more to keep accelerating, so be it."
The NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona are Nov. 10-13.
-- Jim Peltz
Photo: NHRA top-fuel drivers Del Worsham (far lane) and Tony Schumacher (near lane) during qualifying last Thursday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Credit: Jason Zindroski/US Presswire