Not only does "Big Daddy"...
Not only does "Big Daddy" Don Garlits agree with NHRA's shortening of Top Fuel and Funny Car race distances to 1,000 feet, he also favors cutting the nitro percentage that fuel cars use to 70-percent--the stuff that Top Fuelers of yesteryear like his Swamp Rat I (shown here) ran on.
"I am 100-percent in favor of it." -- "Big Daddy" Don Garlits
Long known as much for his stands on driver safety as for his own racing record, "Big Daddy" Don Garlits told MoparMusclemagazine.com that he supports NHRA's decision to trim the race distance for Top Fuel and Funny Car from the traditional quarter-mile to 1,000 feet.
The reduction, in the wake of Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta's fatal crash at Englishtown, New Jersey, will take effect at the Mopar Mile High Nationals at Bandemere Raceway near Denver, Colorado, July 11-13.
"The cars are going too fast for the drivers," said Garlits, who won 17 Top Fuel Championships with NHRA, AHRA, and IHRA during his decades-long career driving his Swamp Rat dragsters. "It automatically gives dragstrips an additional 320 feet to stop the cars in, and it takes 320 feet off the run time of the cars--and most of the cars blow up down in that area anyway." He added that the shorter distance could also lead NHRA to no longer require rev limiters on TF and FC engines, which Garlits blames for adding to engine-parts breakage during runs, while still permitting racing at over 300 mph.
Speaking from his Museum of Drag Racing near Ocala, Florida, Garlits also said that NHRA and its fuel-car racers should cut the percentage of nitromethane in their fuel to 70 percent, which they'd raced with years ago. "Because when you're dealing with that [instead of the higher-nitro-percentage fuel used now], your fuel is no longer dangerous in any way. You'd still get the popping and everything, and you'd still run 300 mph, but you wouldn't have the problems that are facing us."
Garlits also cites U.S. Department of Homeland Security concerns about nitromethane. "They don't like that pure nitromethane out there in the field, where terrorists can get their hands on it."
Garlits recalled that fuel racers could only use "70/30" one time before. "That's what they did in 1958, when they had that huge [rail car] explosion in Mount Pulaski, Illinois. We could only get 70/30 until they realized that the racers hadn't caused the problem. The problem was at a plant when they loaded a tank car with nitromethane, and they had something else in it that hadn't been cleaned out properly--it reacted with the nitro and the car blew up when they humped the car in the railyard.
Garlits continued, "At that time they did a lot of testing, and they found that 70/30 was totally harmless. It wasn't any more dangerous than gasoline or alcohol. That's what we lived with for several years; we did just fine; and they should do that again. Then we wouldn't have to worry about somebody having funny fuel. they should just make it that way [70/30] and ship it from the factory. In other words, there would be no 100-percent nitro in the field, and the Cacklefests would still be OK. We can still have our flames and everything, but it just wouldn't be as dangerous."