Not exactly top fuel: electric cars come to top-level drag racing


Don Garlits sets electric quarter-mile drag racing record

Don Garlits sets electric quarter-mile drag racing record

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Electric cars have started to dominate racing series from the Pikes Peak hill climb to formula cars to Saturday night grudge matches between Tesla and Dodge Challenger owners at rented local drag-strips.

At professional levels, though, racing organizations have been slow to change, and stock cars and drag racing organizations have been the among most resistant to electric powertrains.

Fans go to hear the roar of engines, and in some cases, even to smell the exhaust. Especially in professional drag racing, where top-fuel cars can hit more than 300 mph in a little over 3 seconds, fans may go to see flames spitting from the cars' exhaust or to their breath literally taken away from them as the massive engines roar past.

CHECK OUT: Volkswagen's ID R Pikes Peak race car shows why you should care about electric car racing

Just days after the electric Volkswagen ID R race car trounced the course record at Pike's Peak, Glen Cromwell, president of the nation's top professional drag racing series, the NHRA, says electric car races are around the corner for perhaps one of racing's most traditional professional sanctioning bodies.

"We are watching it very closely," he said in an interview with Autoweek magazine. "It's an important part of our future." He said the organization has talked to its major sponsors and is already developing marketing materials for electric racing.

In an interview with Autoweek, Bob Tasca III, a Ford dealer and one of the sport's top funny car drivers, said electric dragsters will come sooner than most fans think.

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"I would love to see it impact the NHRA, because the electric technology that's here and coming down the road, it's instant torque. We need to move the car now," Tasca told Autoweek.

"With the new electric technology in the car, it would be badass. It would be unbelievable! You're going to see it, and I'm all for it," he said.

Referring to the series' founder, Cromwell said, "Wally Parks's mission was to provide a place to race. If the demand from the consumer is there, we'll provide a class. The NHRA will evolve."

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If one of the top competitors in one of the most traditional forms of motorsport can embrace electric cars, the general audience and  public may not be far behind.

Fans may not even miss the roar of blown, nitroglycerine powered V-8s. "The interesting thing is, it makes noise," Tasca said. "It makes a very cool sound. It's different, obviously, to a nitro funny car. You won't need earplugs, but it's a pretty cool sound."

Tasca, however, doesn't think traditional drag racing is going to disappear. "I don't think it's going to replace a nitro funny car any time soon" he says.

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