Here’s the Differences Between NHRA Top Fuel Dragster and a Top Alcohol Dragster

If you’re new, or not so new, to the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing game, you’ve heard mention of both Top Fuel and Top Alcohol dragsters. So, what’s the difference?

Both are restricted to a maximum wheelbase of 300 inches, and both designs feature the engine behind the driver and have wings on the front and rear of the cars to keep them on the ground. Both travel on 17-inch rear slicks from Goodyear, but Top Fuel Dragsters race on a 1,000-foot course, whereas Top Alcohol Dragsters compete at the traditional quarter-mile distance.

A Top Fuel Dragster—distinguished by a supercharged, custom-built, 500-cubic-inch engine—boasts 11,000 horsepower and burns nitromethane. By contrast, a Top Alcohol Dragster’s output is about approximately 4,000 hp. Most alcohol dragsters burn methanol, although a few burn ethanol. Injected engines with no supercharger can burn a small percentage of nitromethane.

Acceleration is eye-popping in both cases. The Top Alcohol Dragster launches at 3 gs from a standing start. Even more impressive is the Top Fuel car, which jumps off the starting line at 5 gs and goes from zero to 100 in less than one second.

The fastest speed on record is 338.17 mph (Top Fuel) at 1,000 feet. A Top Alcohol Dragster can travel as fast as 285 mph in the quarter-mile. However, in drag racing, elapsed time is the determining factor in winning rounds. The quickest Top Fuel pass on record is 3.623 seconds. The quickest elapsed time from a Top Alcohol Dragster—the quickest and fastest car that runs on the full quarter-mile track—is 5.090 seconds.

The primary braking system for each is a pair of parachutes activated by a hand-controlled lever inside the cockpit.

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