The Physics
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Acceleration of a Dragster

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Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Henderson, Tom. Describing Motion with Equations. The Physics Classroom. "A dragster accelerates to a speed of 112 m/s over a distance of 398 m." 15.8 m/s2
Davis, Davis E. American Driver: Unimaginable Acceleration. Automobile Magazine "In order to exceed 300 mph in 4.5 seconds, dragsters must accelerate at an average of more than 4 g's." 39.2 m/s2
Fish, Randy. 50 years of NHRA Drag Racing. Nitrofuelers. October 2001. "He rocketed through the quarter-mile in a blistering 10.30 seconds at 143.95 mph." 6.24 m/s2
McBridge, Donald. Speed and Acceleration. [see table below] 32.3 m/s2

Two cars, side by side, face a long road ahead. Their goal is to complete that long road in the shortest possible time. The race is filled with acceleration, top speed, skill, and concentration. It is what makes up the basics of drag racing, a popular sport played worldwide but known as an American and Canadian leisure.

The distance dragster are required to complete is usually ⅛ of a mile or the more popular ¼ of a mile. Even though there are no turns and twists in drag racing nor many drivers to guard against, drivers have to be very skilled at gear-shifting in order to not lose grip of the dragster.

An average car can complete ¼ mile in 15 to 20 seconds but a top fuel dragster, a long and narrow car built purposely for race car driving with very front thin tires, can complete the same distance in 4.5 seconds. In order to achieve the greatest acceleration, drag racing vehicles are made to be lightweight. Dragsters are usually 4, 6, 8 cylinder vehicles.

The 21st century has led to a great interest in drag racing. In current races, cars are separated into different types depending on engine capacity, configuration and number of cylinders, and horsepower to weight ratio, and whichever driver completes the ¼ mile the fastest goes on to the next round. Many strategies are employed during drag racing, such as burnout where drivers apply water to their tires and then have the car exit the water to heat the tires to make them stickier. Before reaching the finishing line, a car might slow down if they have a huge lead so not to get a breakout. Winners get cash prizes and trophies but most drag racers compete for the thrill of top speed.

Speed and Acceleration
Type Acceleration Top Speed
Distance speed time acceleration Gs
Rocket Dragster 1/4 mi. 386 mph 3.58 sec. 5G 386
Rocket Dragster   0-100 mph 0.5 sec. 9G  
Top Fuel Dragster 1/4 mi. 333 mph 4.4 sec. 3.3G 333

Anam Ahmed -- 2007