How It Works: Ron Capps’ NHRA Funny Car Tires
When Ron Capps hits the gas pedal on his 10,000 horsepower NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T funny car, a symphony of brutality is unleashed. As the engine RPM start to climb, the multi-disc clutch engages, sending power through the locked rear differential. That power explodes through the driveline, ending at the point where the tires touch the ground. From there it is the crucial job of the special funny car tires to keep the car accelerating for the entire 1,000′ run.
The tires on your car have a few things in common with Ron’s. Yes, they are round, made of rubber, and hold air. But that’s about it. The hand-made funny car tires used on a typical NHRA funny car are built to actually absorb the initial violence of the car’s launch. They also have a smooth tread pattern (known as a “slick”) to maximize contact with the track. The track itself is treated with various compound to increase traction, often to the point of making it sticky like glue! The tire has to survive the forces involved between the immense grip of the track surface at the tread on the outside edge, to the sudden twisting motion generated at the wheel hub when Ron hits the throttle.
Watch below as NHRA Announcer Brian Lohnes walks us through how these special tires work:
As you can see, this is not your average tire shop special. Funny car tires (which are the same as top fuel tires) have been refined over the years to cope with ever increasing horsepower levels. Whereas it wasn’t uncommon to see racers in the early days of drag racing smoking a set of slicks all the way down the track, today’s drag racers are set up to grip the track from launch. Spinning tires aren’t generating forward momentum, so certain components can be tuned to prevent the tires from losing traction. That’s where the experts on the Schumacher Racing crew use their decades of combined experience to read the track and tune the car for maximum performance.
Here’s what it looks like when Ron Capps drops the hammer on a 329 mile per hour run and puts those tires work: