How to Become a Funny Car Driver

by Francis Walsh

Being one of the first sanctioned bodies for speed, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) lets qualified drivers compete in any level of drag race competition from novice to extreme. What starts out as a race between two daily drivers and ends in a nitro fuel funny car final makes people want to get their license to drive in the NHRA or other sanctioning body's event. The racetrack is where it starts, and it's also the place it ends for most. The way to become a funny car driver is to study and learn your way around a drag racing program built to compete when drag racing is in season.

Join the NHRA (see Resources). Becoming a member of the NHRA will give you an opportunity to become a driver in either the Top Alcohol Funny Car class or the Top Fuel Funny Car class.

Park your funny car in the "Tech" center of the track(s) where you'll be earning your license. Not just anyone can be a funny car driver and not just any car is ready to race. A funny car must meet the NHRA's sanctioning rules and guidelines to pass the equipment test for the licensing passes you need to drive. Tech your funny car and correct any issues it may have with outdated equipment, such as old seat belts and helmets, and safety features, such as parachutes.

Drive through your first licensing pass. For both alcohol and top fuel funny cars, you must demonstrate the ability to operate the vehicle safely. The first stage of the race is staging and launch. The first license pass tests your ability to react well when the race starts and all the power from a 1,500 to 8,000 horsepower engine at launch. Getting off the line straight and at full power, cut the engine and coast down the track.

Drive through the second licensing pass at half speed. This involves a full-power launch and a half-track, full-power run, which will test your ability to handle an acceleration up to and over 200 miles per hour. Cut the engine after half track and coast down the track. Return the funny car to refuel and cool. Then go back to the start for the third and final run needed for a successful licensing procedure for the NHRA.

Start the third run at full power and continue down the track at full power. The miles per hour that you achieve will determine the type of license you receive. Funny car drivers must be licensed for either alcohol or top fuel; each has fuel and speed requirements. Pass the test for your NHRA funny car license using these techniques and you can continue racing a funny car until the license expires.


  • check Attend a drag race school to get up to speed. Roy Hill's Drag Racing School (see Resources) has produced a large number of successful funny car drivers who didn't grow up in a funny car family or organization.


  • close If your funny car is not up to par with the regulations of the sanctioning body, you won't be allowed to participate in that vehicle. A successful funny car driver has a team of engine and vehicle technicians that prepare the car before each race. No preparation will leave you open for failure and possible injury from poor performing parts and equipment.

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About the Author

Francis Walsh has been working as a freelance writer since 2003. He has contributed to websites such as Shave, Autogeek and Torque & Chromeas, as well as provided content for private clients. Walsh has worked as a performance part-packer and classic car show promoter, now serving as crew chief for Nitrousfitz Racing.

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  • photo_camera Nitrousfitz Racing