The NHRA-approved cockpit canopy for Top Fuel dragstersEnlarge Photo
Safety is always a consideration for any form of motorsport, and sanctioning bodies are always looking at ways to make racing safer. One such effort involves enclosing open cockpits
to shield drivers from debris (and, we suppose, improve aerodynamics).
In NHRA competition, Top Fuel dragsters can reach speeds of up to 330 miles per hour, which means that any kind of debris impact with a driver can have dire consequences. In 2008, Don Schumacher Racing
began the development of the dragster canopy, based upon existing safety standards for drag boats.
Last January, seven-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher debuted the canopy
on his U.S. Army dragster during pre-season testing at Palm Beach International Raceway in Florida. A total of 13 runs showed that aero advantages to an enclosed cockpit were small.
Schumacher’s best enclosed-cockpit run of the night was a 3.761 second pass at 324.28 miles per hour. Since then, running a conventional open cockpit, the driver has run as quick as 3.746 seconds, admittedly under different environmental conditions.
Still, as Speed TV
points out, the NHRA is requiring that competitors using the approved-for-competition canopy add a 0.75-inch wicker bill to the top trailing edge of the bubble to negate any potential aerodynamic (and elapsed time) gains.
Tony Schumacher will debut the cockpit canopy at this weekend’s Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd, Minnesota. There’s no word yet on when (or if) other teams will embrace the new design.