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What are Top Fuel dragsters?

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Quick Answer

Top Fuel dragsters are the fastest class of the National Hot Rod Associations drag racing series, and the engines burn a 90-percent nitromethane and 10-percent methane alcohol mixture instead of gasoline. The cars can accelerate to over 300 miles per hour in less than four seconds, and one Top Fuel dragster generates more horsepower than all of the race cars in the first four rows of the Daytona 500 combined.

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The Top Fuel dragsters use nitromethane because it can generate much more power with each combustion of the engine. Nitromethane does not produce as much energy as gasoline pound for pound, but eight times more of it can be fit into the same cylinder as gasoline, which in turn generates a much more powerful stroke. The oxygen-rich nitromethane requires much less oxygen to combust, allowing for the higher concentration of fuel.

This makes Top Fuel dragsters use significantly more fuel. Under full throttle, 11.2 gallons of nitromethane is consumed by the engine per second. That rate is equivalent to how much fuel a fully loaded Boeing 727 jetliner uses to produce 25 percent less power.

A typical supercharged Top Fuel dragster can generate over 6,000 horsepower and go from a dead stop to 100 miles per hour in 0.8 seconds.

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