The NHRA or National Hot Rod Association is America’s largest drag racing sanctioning body. It was founded in 1951. Today it has several types of professional classes for cars and motorcycles. Some of which can trace their origin to the very early days of professional drag racing. Those classes have evolved and changed significantly over the years improving performance greatly.
Top Fuel Dragsters
The fastest class is the top fuel dragster. Also known as “rails” due to their long and narrow shape are capable of incredible speeds and acceleration. They have evolved over their 50 some year history, but one thing remains the same, going fast. They are characterized by their long narrow body and large back tires and skinny, almost bicycle like front wheels. The driver sits in front of the supercharged nitro-powered Hemi-V8. In place of a traditional steering wheel, there is an airplane yoke looking control. They have a single-speed system engagement. Depending on driver preference there may be a canopy covering the driver. It is common for dragsters to achieve speeds of over 320 mph.
Top Fuel Funny Cars
Top fuel funny cars, easily recognizable by their lift-up bodies, share the same engine and drive system as the dragsters, although they bear more of a resemblance to a road-going car than a dragster. Their body is designed to maximize aerodynamics. The driver sits in the middle. Like dragsters, they have massive back tires to deal with the large amount of power they have.
|A top fuel funny car. Picture by NaBUru38|
Pro Stock cars, also known as “door slammers” look more like a road-going car then funny cars. As their nickname suggests they have opening doors. They also have 5-speed manual transmissions and steering wheel that look like something similar to what is found in a road-going car. Unlike funny cars, the driver sits on the left side of the car. Until a few years ago they had large hoods scoops. They no longer have them giving them more of a production car appearance.
|A pro stock car. Note the hood scoop. Picture by GSenkow.|
Pro Stock Motorcycle and Top Fuel Harley
One of the two main motorcycle classes in the NHRA is the pro stock motorcycles. They are powered either by a straight four or a v-twin engine. The manufacturers represented are Suzuki, Harley, and EBR. They sport a massive back tire which is the size of a car tire. Unlike the car classes, there is quite a bit of variation in the looks of the bikes. The Harleys, for example, do not have any bodywork covering their engine, much like their road-going bikes. It is common for a Pro Stock Motorcycle to reach speeds of over 195 mph. One of the most noticeable features of the bikes is their long wheelie bars.
Top Fuel Harley
A fairly new class is Top Fuel Harley. These bikes are unique in the fact that they have a parachute to help them slow down, much like other drag cars do to help deal with the higher speeds. This one-make class is modeled after Harley Davidson “baggers”, with large front fairings and they are powered by V-Twin engines using nitro.