Dick Wells is 25% of the Board of Directors of the NHRA.
The following e-mails relate to concepts I first publicly proposed during my interview with Bret Kepner, published in the October 1999 issue of Drag Racing USA, and which I've continued to promote in on-line forums such as Nitronic Research and Drag Racing Underground.
October 19th, 2001
Dear Mr. Wells,
As I pointed out in my September 5th letter (below), there is no good
reason for drivers of fuel cars ever to be seriously burned again, even on
tracks that don't have a safety crew the caliber of the NHRA Safety Safari.
To address cockpit intrusion problems in dragsters, I suggest
double-frame construction for the cockpit portion of the frame. The exterior
frame could use arched instead of flat frame members with the exterior frame
mounted to the interior frame through chromemoly plate diaphragms to spread
the load. The use of double-frame construction would also simplify the
creation of fully enclosed driver capsules for Top Fuel cars since the space
between the interior and exterior frames could be filled with insulation. I
suggest making the transparent portion of the canopy as small as practical,
perhaps using double-glazing with tempered Pyrex glass for the outside and
quarter-inch polycarbonate for the inside.
To solve some of the driver egress problems associated with installing a
fully enclosed driver capsule in a Funny Car, an opening could be left in
the body. The capsule could be built to match the contour of the body so
that the capsule actually serves as part of the body. Several months ago
Brent Fanning of Udder Nonsense Racing pointed out to me that even in
existing Funny Cars because the cockpit is relatively well sealed, ram air
can be used to pressurize the cockpit and keep smoke out while the car is in
September 5th, 2001
Dear Mr. Wells,
Below is why over two years ago I first proposed the concept of an X-15
style fireproof capsule that even in a fully engulfed car would keep the
driver insulated from the fire inside a breathable atmosphere.
"...As near as I can tell he went up in flames in his funny car just
before the finish line, steered toward the wall, crossed over to the other
side, hit the wall, went airborne and then came to rest just before the
turnout. The Sheriff's crew chief Scott Mason was down at that end just
after the Sheriff's run and was the first on the scene. It took several
minutes to get the body lifted and when they got in there, Keith's face
shield was melted to his helmet. Scott pried one side up about two inches to
try to get him some air. About that time, the safety crew showed up and
tried to put out the fire. They had to cut the cage off so they could get
Keith's helmet off..."
With regards to cockpit intrusion by another vehicle, there is a highly
informative article on canopy and safety cell design in the September issue
of POWERBOAT magazine. Unlimited hydro builders have, more than in any other
motorsport, taken the lead in anticipating cockpit intrusion. With vehicles
that can slice and dice a driver three different ways (propeller, rudder,
AND skid fin) they have had some extra incentive.