The 2023 season marks the beginning of a new era for the Top Alcohol Funny Car class with the introduction of a new rules package designed not only to increase participation, but also to promote equality and a level playing field.
The most significant rule overhaul, and the one that will undoubtedly stand out to fans the most, is the introduction of an injected nitro combination for Funny Cars. Like the combination that has proven popular in the Top Alcohol Dragster class, the injected nitro Funny Cars will have a minimum weight of 2,300 pounds and will race at 5.35 pounds per cubic inch with a maximum of 90 percent nitromethane.
The new combination gives racers two viable options, including the conventional supercharged methanol combination that has been around since the inception of the Pro Comp class in 1973 and the return of the injected nitro combination, which has been popular with Top Alcohol Dragster for decades. competitors. .
According to Josh Hamming, chairman of the NHRA Top Alcohol Rules Committee, the revision of the rules was the result of many months of productive meetings with racers, team owners, manufacturers and NHRA personnel.
“We’ve had discussions internally and externally for years about the viability of an A/Fuel Funny Car combination,” said Hamming. “We got together as a group in Charlotte last spring during the Four Wide race. That was the official start of the process that got us to where we are today. After that, we had a few Zoom meetings and invited all current racers to join in. We kept one for racers in the East and one for those in the West. We welcomed all thoughts and opinions, not only regarding the A/Fuel combination, but also for other changes as a whole. We covered a variety of topics, including technology, performance, and even the race format.
“Since the first meeting in Charlotte, we as a group have had multiple meetings with racers and many one-on-one conversations with racers, including current, former and future racers about these changes,” Hamming said. “We have also been in regular contact with the Sportsman Racer Advisory Committee and as a group we all agree that this is a positive step forward.”
Whenever there are multiple combinations in a particular class, the topic of parity is always central. The Top Alcohol Dragster class is a prime example with supercharged methanol and injected nitro cars racing side by side. Historically, there have been occasional rule changes in the name of uniformity, both combinations remain competitive.
“Like the dragsters, we will do whatever it takes to maintain equality,” Hamming said. “We don’t want one particular combination to dominate. Our plan is to take a conservative approach to the performance of each new combination and look at their performance before determining if additional adjustments are needed. No one knows exactly how they are going to run. We need to establish a baseline and go from there. We understand that the injected nitro combination is new and there is likely to be a lot of untapped potential. Our biggest goal is to achieve and maintain a healthy number of cars. The ultimate goal would be to monitor performance and make only very minor adjustments as needed. This year we made a small adjustment regarding the fuel temperature on [injected nitro] dragsters, and that seemed to help keep a level playing field. That is ultimately where we want to be with the Funny Cars.”
So, when will NHRA fans see the first injected nitro Funny Car in action, and how competitive can they be? It’s a little early to say as the rule review was only recently made public, but there is a growing sense of optimism that several racers are talking about exploring this new avenue.
“As for their popularity, it’s too early to say how many A/Fuel Funny Cars will be built and when they will be built,” Hamming noted. “There are some safe bets that certain people will build them just because of their background and experience with injected nitro cars. We are also aware of a number of cars that currently exist. We have also had a few conversations with racers who started out are collecting parts to build a car.”
While the introduction of the A/Fuel combination will be the biggest change to the Top Alcohol Funny Car class in 2023, it is not the only change. Next season, bodies from 1969 or newer will be accepted. Previously, entries were limited to the 2000 model year and newer. That modification could potentially allow a nostalgic racer to cross over using their existing nostalgic body. Electronic fuel injection is also allowed, and the same goes for two-stage ignition systems and billetroots superchargers.
“Our goals here are simple; we want to help the class grow and keep it interesting for both the racers and the fans,” said Hamming. “I am also pleased that we were able to have these discussions and ultimately formulate this set of rules with the input of virtually everyone who has an interest in the class. The whole process was very productive and I am looking forward to the results.”