Nitromethane: Top-Fuel Drag Racing’s Soup of Choice

June 28th, 2007

The idea is so simple. You pit two cars against each other over a straight, measured distance — an eighth of a mile or a quarter mile. But that’s the last simple thing you’ll ever have to say about drag racing, a sport that has evolved into an extreme, heart-pumping exhibition of pure power and engineering genius.

We’re talking 6,000 horsepower here, making the zero to 60 jump in two-tenths of a second, busting 325 mph and ticking off that quarter mile in under 5 seconds. You don’t do that on a tank of regular from the corner gas station.

Back in the 1950s the phrase “souped up” was coined as a reference to various fuel mixes or “soups” drivers tinkered with in the almighty quest for more power and greater speed. Experiments involved volatile fuels and additives including dinitropropane, acetone, methanol, nitrobenzene, propylene oxide — and the one that won out as the “top fuel” of choice, nitromethane.

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