The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is renowed for their diversity in drivers. Such is the diversity that African-American, Hispanic-American, Middle Eastern, Asian, Jewish and Women have all had success in the top levels of the NHRA. When it comes to Hispanic drivers, one immediately thinks of Cruz and Tony Pedregon.
Cruz started in Top Fuel in 1991, and moved to Funny Car in 1992, winning the Championship, being the only driver to beat John Force for a championship in the 1990’s. Tony followed suit in 1993, but didn’t win his first Championship until 2003. They both ran the full schedule in 1998, Tony won 2 events, one at Texas, the other at Denver. During that season, he wore these Simpson Holeshot drag boots.These boots are unlike most racing shoes because they are designed to cover both the shoe, and the end of the leg of the driver suit. Why would funny car drivers wear such boots? Well, to answer that, let’s look at the design of the inside of a funny car. This is a Ron Capps diecast, but it shows how the car is set up. The driver sits almost on top of the rear axle, with the 10,000 horsepower engine, and nitromethane fuel tank directly in front. Should there be an engine explosion, which isn’t uncommon, the fire would blow back into the driver. There are firewalls in place, but those can’t always be counted on to protect the driver from the full effects of fire in the time it takes to get a funny car stops. That’s where these boots come in. They will give that little extra bit of help to the driver in exiting the car.
They are rated 15, not bad for 1998 standards, but would have a 20 rating in 2015. Both boots have been signed by Pedregon and he added the inscription “’98.” Both have Simpson warranty tags, and the right boot has an SFI tag 3/3 tag. To understand the degree of protection drag racing requires from driver uniforms, you need to understand the rating. NASCAR suits, both driver and pit crew have an SFI rating of 5, which means that they will protect the wearer from 2nd degree burns for 10 seconds. NHRA top fuel, funny car, top alcohol dragster, and top alcohol funny car have ratings of 20, which means that the suit will protect the wearer from 2nd degree burns for 40 seconds.
It’s amazing the risk that drag racers take. It’s also amazing the amount of damage a mistake in the engine can cause, and we will examine that much closer next week.