The year-long research and development work by Don Schumacher Racing to design and implement an enclosed cockpit to increase the safety for drivers of Top Fuel dragsters continues at a measured pace with no specific deadline for introduction.
According to Mike Green, crew chief on Tony Schumacher’s U.S. Army dragster and lead man on developing the unique safety design, which borrows technology from fighter jets, the project is moving forward because a positive outcome will reduce the risk of racing the 320 mph cars.
"We’re looking to improve driver safety for everyone in Top Fuel," Green said. "The enclosed-cockpit design would seriously reduce the risk of debris – or even fire – getting into the cockpit, thus making it considerably safer for the driver.
"Our work in reducing debris intrusion has led to our redesigned, slightly different angle, windshields and shrouds introduced this season on the DSR dragsters driven by Tony, Antron Brown and Spencer Massey. We believe this new windshield goes a long way to keep out flying debris as well as fire, but, of course, is not as effective as a closed cockpit, which is why we will continue the development of it."
Green has worked with James Brendel, who builds capsules for racing boats and supplied the one which DSR tested in the off season on Schumacher’s car. In addition, the NHRA has been kept up-to-date throughout the program.
"When it’s ready to go, we believe the enclosed cockpit will be much safer for everyone involved in Top Fuel, as well as any racing category in which the driver is exposed," Green said. "We are still working on making it cost effective and weight conscious, as well as easy to adapt to our current race cars.
"We take this program very seriously in light of the potential safety benefits for all drivers."