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Races shortened for safety reasons

DRAG RACING

The old quarter-mile has been changed to 1,000 feet.

February 10, 2010|By Jim Peltz
  • Top-fuel driver Scott Kalitta died when his Funny Car crashed and burst into flames in 2008.
Top-fuel driver Scott Kalitta died when his Funny Car crashed and burst… (US Presswire )

In mid-2008 when the NHRA indefinitely shortened its top-fuel and funny car races for safety reasons, it raised a question: Should there be record speeds and times kept for that distance?

The National Hot Rod Assn. initially decided no. But starting last September, the sanctioning body started allowing records for the shorter distance, partly because the records earn their drivers championship bonus points in the sport's top-level Full Throttle Series.

The distance for NHRA drag racing always had been one-quarter mile, or 1,320 feet. But after funny car driver Scott Kalitta was killed in 2008 and some other drivers seriously hurt in racing crashes, top-fuel and funny car races were cut to 1,000 feet.

The idea was to keep tracks at the same length, but shorten races so that speeds would drop -- top speeds had reached 336 mph in the quarter-mile. It would also offer drivers more distance to slow down if something suddenly went wrong.

NHRA officials are still looking at alternate ways to reduce the cars' horsepower or otherwise slow them down, and it has yet to decide whether to permanently stay at 1,000 feet or return to the quarter-mile distance.

james.peltz@latimes.com

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