There was a time last season when NHRA was prepared to begin testing to create the semblance of a plan to return to the traditional quarter-mile nitro racing distance. The plan fell apart, and not much was done to revive the idea.
When Del Worsham visited Qatar during the off-season, he decided to attempt to run a quarter-mile in his Funny Car for Sheik Khalid and the Qatar Race Club.
“I wanted to go 300mph pretty bad over there,” Worsham admitted. “I felt like it would be kind of a cool thing to do. The problem I had was that they didn’t have 1,000-foot speed cones. They were only at a quarter-mile and an eighth-mile. I couldn’t run 300-mph in an eighth-mile so to run 300mph in a quarter I had to drive it past the normal 1,000-foot, which I did and shut it off and got it to 304mph.
“When I shut it off, and I pulled the parachutes, it decelerated fast before the quarter-mile. I was scared I didn’t make it, but luckily we did.”
Worsham ran a 4.821 elapsed time while coasting to 304 miles per hour. He admitted the extra 320 feet might as well have been another 660.
“When we first went to 1,000-foot your time clock in your brain was quarter-mile, so we fought shutting off at 1,000-foot because it just wasn’t the right place to shut off,” Worsham explained. “We’re more than ten years into 1,000-foot now, and your body has adjusted and the time clock in your brain has. So now to go quarter-mile, you know where 1,000-foot is, you just leave your foot down.
“It’s a long ways. It’s fast, and the car is going really fast, and it’s revved up, and they’re really not tuned or setup to go quarter-mile, so I was kind of doing something it wasn’t really set up to do.”
Those extra 320 feet can make or break a fuel car.
“Even though it’s only 320-feet and it’s only a little over one second in actual time, you’re going very fast and your covering distance about 300-feet a second,” Worsham said. “It’s quite a bit, so it is a long ways. I was just exhibition running. I wasn’t trying to race. I wasn’t trying to push the limits or do anything further than I thought I could get away with so I really wasn’t too worried about it. If I was racing and going a quarter-mile, having to push it that far in this day and age, it would be a different story.
That’s why when Worsham heard the rumor of NHRA considering returning to quarter-mile at select events, he immediately had more questions than answers.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘How are we going to do that in this day and age?” Worsham recalled. “I believe these cars will run 340 mph to 350 mph probably and I’m not sure if there’s an easy way to make them not do that or if we don’t want to do that. If we’re going to race, I like opening up the rules and going fast and running things to the limits. To run a car to its limits at a quarter-mile is going to be very, very fast, so it’s going to have to be some pumped down version of what we do today.
“I believe with track prep and bodies and knowledge and abilities and just evolution in general, I don’t think going 312mph in a quarter-mile would be as exciting as going 300mph at the eighth.”
The only way quarter-mile racing would work in today’s current nitro world is a restrictor plate kind of competition.
“If you want to use that word,” Worsham added. “It would definitely be restricted racing for drag racing. However, they wanted to do it. But again, once you open up the door, the things we know today and even if you went to a four-disc clutch, there are ways to beat all these things today, and we’ve all learned. We’re ten years down the road and 40-years in lock-up clutches, 45 years into billet heads.
“There are some smart people out here, and that’s a long time. If we go quarter-mile racing, I can promise you it’s going to be fast.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019