After months of discussion and deliberation, the NHRA Technical Department on Wednesday announced that the prototype enclosed cockpit canopy for Top Fuel dragsters has been approved for competition use, beginning with this weekend’s NHRA Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, Minn. Tony Schumacher, who tested with the canopy extensively in pre-season testing in January on his U.S. Army dragster, will be the first to utilize the newly approved part during qualifying in Brainerd.
“We were able to see the finished product yesterday and give our final approval to the Aerodine representatives,” said Glen Gray, vice president of technical operations, NHRA. “The product includes a fresh air system, fire bottle, and kick-out panels. The cockpit canopy will be available to any team that wants to use it starting this weekend in Brainerd.”
The enclosed canopy will be manufactured and distributed by Aerodine Composites Group and will be made available to all Top Fuel teams as an optional, but not mandatory, component.
“We are very, very excited to be able to take NHRA and Top Fuel Dragsters into a new era of safety,” said team owner Don Schumacher, a longtime safety innovator since he began driving and owning Funny Cars in the mid-1960s. ”I’m proud of what our talented people at DSR were able to develop with Aerodine, and thankful that NHRA invested the time into studying it and then approved it once we were able to incorporate their requests.”
“This never has been about performance. This is about safety,” Tony Schumacher said. “I want every driver to have one. We aren’t hiding anything. Again, this is just all about making it safer for all the guys in Top Fuel.” ”When I sit in this car under the canopy I have a level of comfort in a racecar that I haven’t had in a long time. Every driver should have that feeling. I’ve lost some good friends out here and don’t want to lose any more.”
Originally conceptualized and designed by James Brendel of Hondo Boats and Brendel Safety Capsules and DSR crew chief Mike Green, the current cockpit canopy is the second-generation design, developed by Brendel and Aerodine Composites and made from Kevlar and carbon fiber.
In the approval process, the NHRA contracted the Purdue University Center for Systems Integrity to perform an aerodynamic competitive analysis assessment using Computer-Aided Design and Computational Fluid Dynamics modeling. Based on the findings, the NHRA instituted the addition of a three-quarter-inch wicker bill affixed to the top rear edge of the canopy to negate possible aerodynamic advantages. Additionally, kick-outs on the lower side panels for fire hose access, reflective canopy fasteners, and a fresh-air breathing system for the driver like that used by Funny Car drivers was mandated by NHRA Technical officials.