What caused this car to break apart (drag racing)?

See video here. (This happened over 10 years ago.) Two dragster cars are accelerating off the line, one of them veers over onto the lights in the center of the track and part of the lights goes flying off and hits the other car, which immediately blows apart violently as if hit by a bomb.

How was that thing that hit the car able to cause so much damage?

It’s the speed that did the damage.

well, nitro (Top Fuel) dragsters have about 9,000 to 11,000 horsepower (nobody knows for sure.) The drive tires have very thin sidewalls to allow them to flex and “wrinkle” so as not to overpower the contact patch with the track (you can see this effect here.) at the point this incident happened, those funny cars were traveling about 300 mph. If anything was to strike the side of the tire at that speed, the tire would come apart. and the resulting imbalance would destroy the axle and/or rip it free from the car.

Looks like whatever hit the car triggered it’s parachute, which then sent it out of control.

It’s also worth noting that when things start going pear shaped, the car is expendable. The safety cage around the driver is all that matters. So long as that remains intact, the engineers don’t care if they have to get the shell of the car off the track with a dustpan.

Did something hit it? Looked to me like a blowout triggered the chute, or maybe that the chute pulled part of the car into the tire causing the blowout.

I think so - look at footage starting at 2:28

There’s no question at all, if you freeze it exactly at 2:29 you see some object of a red color flying from the middle of the track into the car on the right, seemingly dislodged by the car on the left, and if you pay attention closely you can also clearly see something else of a darker color go flying towards the camera at the exact moment that the red object makes contact with the car.

Force’s car blew its left rear wheel from the debris hit. The crash was further complicated because his frame broke in half leaving his legs exposed. That type of frame used thinner tubing in areas to get more flexibility and some blamed the frame design. It has been a topic of much discussion in the racing community.


Sure enough. I was watching with the sound off the first few times but I guess the announcers called it out as well.

Yeah, impact of the light(?) on the tire made the right rear tire go up. That caused critical failures across the rear of the car. Not fun.

Those blocks are styrofoam timing marks. Also if you hit one you’re penalized.