Have you ever stopped to think that while watching a drag race, the thrill of two ear splitting, 8000 hp, nitro burning, ground pounding, fire breathing monsters, blistering down the track side by side at 330 mph in a little over 4 seconds, that there are two drivers in those cars enduring more positive and negative G-forces in that short period of time than most people will receive in a lifetime? Astronauts (such as those on the Shuttle Atlantis) receive about 3.5 Gs on liftoff, while a Top Fuel dragster driver will experience approximately 5.3 Gs on launch and on occasion, higher than that in negative Gs on deceleration!
What are G forces? The gravitational force – or G-force – on an object, is its acceleration relative to free-fall. Accelerations not produced by gravity are termed “proper accelerations”. In the case of our Top Fuel Funny Cars and Dragsters, at launch, the driver actually experiences both positive and negative forces however due to acceleration the positive forces from the front are overcoming artificial gravitational forces at his back more than 5.3 times. Instantly, upon deceleration, the opposite occurs. Due to the negative reaction of the parachute braking system, or any violent deceleration, forces from the back overcome forces from the front and because the driver is steadfastly anchored to the car, sometimes the number of negative Gs experienced on deceleration can be higher than positive numbers at the launch.
Just one example of many, on how G forces can affect a driver: Legendary champion drag racer Don Garlits, after a long career of driving Top Fuelers, experienced brief sessions of wooziness at the end of runs and eventually developed detached retinas in both eyes due to continuous, extreme, positive and negative G forces. This ended the active participation portion of his career.
Today’s drivers don’t just “Stab and Steer”. By necessity, the professional ranks of drag racing drivers are some of the best athletes in the world.
Thanks, See ya’ at the races