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NHRA to shorten track for fastest categories

For the first time in the 57-year history of the NHRA, drag races for its two fastest categories will not be contested over a quarter-mile distance.

The NHRA on Wednesday informed its national event track operators, including Las Vegas Motor Speedway, that Top Fuel Dragsters and Nitro Funny Cars will be limited to a distance of 1,000 feet, beginning with the series’ next competition near Denver from July 11 to 13.

The NHRA said in a news release that the reduction of racing by 320 feet is an interim safety initiative that will continue until the organization determines how to slow the cars from speeds of 330 mph. One industry source said the goal is 310 mph.

Other NHRA categories will continue to race a quarter-mile.

Top Fuel driver and Las Vegas resident Rod Fuller does not like the decision.

“It’s always been a quarter-mile. It’s the standard,” said Fuller, who is fourth in Top Fuel points with one title this season for David Powers Motorsports.

Fuller said he anticipates it will take a little more than three seconds to complete a pass on the shortened course, compared with elapsed times as low as 4.4 seconds over the quarter-mile.

“The races will be over too quick,” Fuller said. “With all the great minds in drag racing, I know these cars can be slowed up. I’m not happy.”

But Chris Powell, president of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which hosts two NHRA national events each year, supports the change.

“I applaud NHRA,” Powell said. “I believe racing to 1,000 feet will be every bit as exciting as racing for a quarter-mile.”

The change follows the June 21 death of Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta, who crashed during qualifying for the NHRA event in Englishtown, N.J.

Kalitta’s engine exploded near the finish line as his car continued at high speed to the end of the track, where it struck a pole supporting a safety catch net and exploded again. Kalitta died at the scene.

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