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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Top Fuel Safety Q&A with Jim Murphy

By Dale "Coyote" Smith

Jim Murphy's most recent vintage Top Fueler features a high windscreen that protects him from potential fires. Photo by Tom West
Jim Murphy's car features a high windscreen that protects him from potential fires.
Photo by Tom West

I was surfing the Nitromaniac site, reading posts. Someone posted a topic regarding the safety of the current AA/FDs against contemporary Top Fuelers and Funny Cars. I have become acquainted with Top Fuel and Funny Car veteran Jim Murphy, and I replied to the post in saying that I'd contact Jim for thoughts and opinions regarding this issue. While I was at it, I thought that draglist.com readers would enjoy reading Jim's responses. Here is the interview...

Dale: Jim, you have had plenty of time in all three types of cars (Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Nostalgia Top Fuel), so I figured you would be one, if not the best, source for information on this topic. Paul Romine got singed pretty good last month, but you looked pretty clean after your recent flare ups. When it comes to fires, as a driver what car do you feel safest in?

Jim: My feelings about fires are this: get the "BEST, BEST, BEST" safety equipment you can and keep it in good shape. I haven't talked to Paul about his deal, but it was my understanding the gloves and boots he was wearing were legal but not of the highest rating available (Funny Car SFI 20). I believe that if Paul would have had on all Funny Car stuff, his chances of being burned would have been much less. As far as the safest car when it comes to fires, I would have to say a rear engine dragster (NHRA or IHRA).

Dale: Jim, you have "had the heater on" with your car while wearing both a full-face helmet and with the mask. Which do you like more, and why?

Jim: I really like the old style mask for this nostalgia deal. I feel it's as safe as a full helmet "without outside air supply" and has the right look. A few guys have told me that they feel somewhat claustrophobic with he old style vs. the full helmet, but it doesn't bother me. You may notice that my windscreen comes up pretty high and is at a fairly steep angle. This came about the last year Herbert was alive we had two fires in one day at Bakersfield. We redid the windshield after that. It was obvious from the first that this was going to work a lot better. My goggles got nothing on them as it all went overhead. This was the same thing with the fire at the March Meet. The fire all went over the top of me. 

Dale: Finally, clutch and tranny failures seemed to be the biggest inspiration for the rear engine car. But that seemed not to have too much impact with funny cars. As far as concern for the driveline, how do you feel between your current ride and that of your last funny car? Obviously, the rear engine design doesn't compare, unless you feel there is a benefit to seeing something happen before it can get worse. 

Jim: Well as far as my current car goes, I believe that by using real good parts in the driveline that are designed for today's type of nitro power, we're not even coming close to breaking them with the restrictions in our class. We had the rear end in the last car for four and one half years with no problems (we checked at the end of each year and then put it back in). In the new car, I have a housing that was fabricated out of 4130 and it's a bulletproof kind of deal. The failures that I'm seeing on TV with the dragsters seem to be with the tires. 

Dale: Thanks, Jim. With your permission, I'd like to post these answers on the Nitromaniac message site, and forward to this to Bill Pratt's draglist.com website.

Jim: Dale, you're welcome to use this however you would like. Enjoyed seeing you at the Pomona race, also although we didn't have much time. We seemed to be in a big time thrash most of the weekend. I do think we're getting close with the new car as it's now running 6.0s as easy as the old car would run high teens or low twenties. Having Tim back on board has been a big boost for me. He's enjoying himself and seems to be on a mission with this deal, so it should be lots of fun next year. See you at the March Meet.

Dale "Coyote" Smith
Wings Electro Sales
Materials Manager
(561) 798-6606 x145
(561) 793-8175 FAX
(561) 309-8937 cell


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