NHRA Funny Cars deliver some of the most exciting racing on earth, backed by extreme engineering, precision teamwork, and fearless drivers. Nothing quite matches the fury of two racers blistering the track at more than 300 miles per hour. We wanted to know more about these super powerful machines, so we talked to NHRA pro racer Courtney Force to get the details.
How does it feel to drive a Funny Car? – It's no joke
“You're pretty much strapped to a rocket," says Courtney Force, driver for John Force Racing and the winningest female NHRA Funny Car driver of all time. “It's a 10,000-horsepower car, and we launch at four or five Gs off the starting line—and negative Gs when we pull the parachutes—so it's an exhilarating ride."
Exhilarating might be an understatement here. You might have wondered how much horsepower a Top Fuel Funny Car has, but the answer can only be approximated as there isn't a dynamometer on earth that can survive measuring the exact power level. The roots-style supercharger forces air into the forged aluminum engine at a crushing 65 psi. Like a firehose, the fuel pump can push more than 100 gallons per minute. Each race consumes about 15 gallons, so Force's Camaro burns roughly 60 gallons of nitromethane per mile.
Tipping the scale at only 2,300 pounds, the 0 to 60 number looks like a typo, taking about 0.8 seconds. Force has completed the 1,000-foot track in 3.855 seconds, at a top speed of 331.45 miles per hour. All those stats sound extreme? They should, as this car is built with only the best parts.
"We build everything in-house at John Force Racing," Force said. “That gives our teams a little bit of an advantage. We have a paint shop, a chassis shop, and the guys in our shop in Brownsburg, Ind., really do a phenomenal job with these cars."
The winner is determined by far more just than stats on paper, and fans love how the drivers leave everything out on the track in a tire-smoking and earth-shaking display of power. In the stands, you can feel the engine vibrations in your chest even from hundreds of feet away.
Force broke it down for us, describing how it feels to drive a Funny Car. "Outside of the Funny Car, it's very loud and powerful," she says. “But when you're in the cockpit of the car, I get into my zone, and it becomes surprisingly peaceful. My earplugs and radio are in, and I have a headsock and a helmet that kind of muffles the sound." Force says the race is less peaceful, as no amount of insulation can muffle the ferocious power of the big V8. “The closest thing I could think of would be trying to hold on to a bull for seven seconds—except we've got to do it in four. You can't really compare it to a roller-coaster ride because of the Gs that we pull, but it's definitely a rush and a lot of fun for a crazy, four-second ride."
The street car
The Chevrolet Camaro SS that you can buy from a dealer is a little different. The direct injected 6.2L V8 generates 455 hp and 455 lb-ft. Solid numbers, but we're already losing this race. A supercharger isn't available on the SS model, and the street car weighs in at more than 1,000 pounds heavier than the race car, at 3,685 pounds. The fuel pump can push 66 gallons per hour (not minute), and the SS earns an estimated 25 MPG highway, so at least the street car wins that contest.
We're comparing apples and oranges here: Zero to 60 in four seconds flat is impressive for the price, but it won't keep up with Force's car. The quarter mile passes in 12.3 seconds at 116 mph, also an impressive feat but way slower than a Top Fuel Funny Car. Still, Force says the Camaro SS is a fun ride. "I was driving a Camaro SS as my everyday car," she says. “I got to do to a project with a COPO Camaro, so I've worked a lot with Chevy." Force says that—surprisingly—she had never done a burnout or raced a street car on the track until the COPO promotional event, and the Camaro was a lot of fun. “Having the Camaro SS as an everyday car is perfect for someone like me who loves racing and likes a sportier car on the road."
Experience the speed
No one's going to be driving a Funny Car as a daily driver. Still, there are parts available to help you feel a little more like Courtney does on race day, from superchargers to performance exhaust systems. Maybe get started with an aftermarket air intake or short throw shifter.
Whether you have a Chevy Silverado or a Honda Accord, there's parts and knowledge out there that can show you how to increase horsepower for nearly any vehicle. If you'd rather leave speed to the pros, check out an NHRA event this year and catch some Funny Car racing. See if there's going to be a race near you, or follow Force on her official page, Facebook, or Twitter.
"We're really excited here at John Force Racing," Force says. “Especially for my team since we've teamed up with Advance Auto Parts for our Funny Car for 2017. We've got the same team as I had last year, and if we can continue to roll over what we had going on with our team and our car, I think 2017 is going to be our best year yet." Are you an NHRA fan? Let us know in the comments.