FACT #14: The rear tires are actually inflated to only 6-7 PSI. It depends on the track condition and whether it is a new or used tire. New tires require an extra PSI or two.
With such low pressure, the tires compress and grip heavily off the line. Down the track, however, they deform in such a way one wonders how the car is not jumping off the track (more on that in Page 5).
According to assistant crew chief, Brad Mason, the driver's primary job is to get a good, consistent burnout, nail the reaction time, and keep the car pointing straight. The burnout is an important part of the race, and a certain amount of heat is needed in each tire for an optimum launch. The burnout is very systematically performed.
To give the cars even more traction, after every few passes the track workers lay down a fresh layer of rubber by spinning these four slicks backwards to a merciless screech as the tractor pulls forward. If I recall correctly, this layer goes down the entire length of the track and then back again (pictured here on the way back).
With the ever-changing track and weather conditions, crew chiefs are assessing constantly, as seen here by our host and assistant crew chief Brad Mason.
According to Mason, who's walking in front of the car (dude, get out of there!), the burnout is very important to nail consistently. Tire grip is everything, and getting the most out of it is something Antron Brown is an expert at. Notice the throttle bodies aren't even visually cracked open here. Still, the sound of a Nitro burnout is very distinct–horrific in itself—but nothing like the launch.
Many times you’ll see a Nitro driver botch a run within the first second because the tires slipped too heavily. The car will be coasted to the finish line at around 80 mph, but still with an 8- to 9-second ET.
Fact #18: If you lined up next to an NHRA Top Fueler in your scary 700 WHP Fast-and-Furious “10-second car” on drag radials, when the light turns green all the Nitro car would have to do is floor it for one second and lift before your car's even crossed the 50-ft mark to coast to a win at the 1000 ft mark. This would be even worse if the Nitro car ditched the rear wing.
Getting the tires to grip and the chassis to stay planted is what the Matco Team excels at. Notice the wrinkled tires right at the start, along with the powerful exhaust pushing the car down. The front tires stay planted even though there are no wheelie bars.
Keeping the front tires planted at launch is not to be taken for granted, even with a 25 foot wheel base, as this other team's Top Fuel driver is quickly finding out. I'm glad the front didn't land right there—it appears he'd be turning straight for me!