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What’s it like to stand near an 8,000 horsepower engine when it starts up?
“The ground shakes, your whole body shakes,” said Tyler Witt, a student at Bedford Science and Technology Center (BSTC).
Witt was part of a group of 36 students that Troy Witt and Kevin Fike took to Z-Max Dragway in Charlotte, N.C., for the national runoffs for top fuel dragsters last month. Fike teaches automotive service technology and Witt teaches auto body technology.
It wasn’t just an outing. They were invited to participate in YES Day. YES stands for Youth Education Services. YES works with the Army, the National Hot Rod Association and auto repair schools and dealerships to put on the event. It was an invitation-only event and BSTC was one of a number of schools that had invitations.
It began with a 45-minute session on career goals. Drivers talked about how they got to where they are. The drivers also gave autographs.
Then the students got the opportunity to see racing like they would never see it otherwise.
“They had the opportunity to go in the pit area,” said Fike.
“We actually got to watch the pit put the engine together,” said Tyler Ellesworth.
This got their attention and Eli Meador cited some of the statistics concerning the cars. The engines produce 8,000 horsepower — that’s 1,000 horsepower per cylinder — and 14,000 pounds of torque. They accelerate to 320 mph in 1,000 feet.
Troy Witt said that this means the drivers take between four and five Gs during their acceleration from a dead stop to their maximum speed.
Matthew Reed cited more statistics. The shaking that Tyler Witt mentioned registers 2 on the Richter Scale. They burn 30 gallons of fuel on a run. The fuel, by the way, is not gasoline. It’s nitromethane.
“They said they have to tear them [the engines] down and rebuild them after every run because the fuel was so potent,” Reed commented.
“I thought it was amazing how even the smallest thing on the track could mess up a whole run for the cars,” sad Gabe Wheeler.
Wheeler said that a bolt or even a pavement chip on the track could cause problems.
“We actually saw some cars catch on fire,” said Reed. “I got a video of one of them.”
The students enjoyed the day and it prompted some to look ahead.
“It really got me thinking about what I want to do,” said Harley Graham, one of the young ladies with the group.
Fike said that this is the third year that BSTCs automotive programs have taken students to the event.
“As long as we get an invitation, we are going,” he said.