Doorslammers, dragsters, roadsters, or any variation between are the choice for sportsman racers to compete with what trips their trigger. The typical bracket racing dragster, constructed around the 230-inch wheelbase range, has been the hot rod of choice for high-roller big bucks bracket racers since the turn of the century.
The dragster’s ability to repeat on time-slips is the reasoning through the years that has filled the staging lanes at big buck events with “pipe racks.” That not-so-affectionate term is used by purist racers who do not visually appreciate their population or popularity.
What is creating a buzz in the bracket racing community currently is the recent interest in the “shorty” dragster which takes anywhere from 35- to 55-inches from the average overall length compared to your typical dragster.
Bracket racing standout Jason Lynch is the faithful customer who prompted Danny Nelson from Racecraft Chassis to work toward adding a short wheelbase option to his dragster lines. “We custom-built one for Jason and posted images online,” Nelson continues. “The response was just freakin’ crazy. In about the past year, we have already built 17 of our shorty dragsters with more interest every day.”
Landshark Dragsters is one of the longest running shops to offer short wheelbase dragsters. Their 185-inch wheelbase design has been their exclusive offering for almost 20 years. The company took on new ownership two years ago with Roger Hopf and Alex Wiese at the helm.
Another shop that says the telephone is ringing for their short dragster design is Advanced Chassis. The Antwerp, Ohio shop produces high caliber doorslammers, roadsters and dragster of all sorts with their own 195-inch wheelbase dragster option being a brand new venture.
“When images of the new design started circulating, we have had a large amount of interest,” describes Lee Newmeyer from Advanced Chassis. “We already have about 20 people who are kicking it around. Interestingly, it has been door car racers who have expressed the most interest.”
We know some other shops have produced quite a few shorty dragsters in recent times. We are getting a lot of calls with interest as racers have seen our design. It is going to be interesting to see if it’s just a fad or if it is a long-term trend. – Lee Newmeyer, Advanced Chassis
In recent times, the adage that you needed a long suspended dragster to win big races has been debunked by many big events being won by doorslammer competitors. That has caused many racers to reconsider their car of choice.
Nelson’s business mainstay has been as a builder of all things dragster since the late ‘80s. His take on the trend comes from his hardcore customer base. He explains his 200-inch dragster chassis has strong points based around his Top Dragster chassis design he has worked on diligently for the past few years.
“Once racers saw a few of our short cars out there, they started asking a lot of questions about my design,” Nelson adds. “I use the mono shock rear suspension design from our Top Dragster. It offers a lot of adjustability which is needed depending on how much power you want to put down. Jason (Lynch) has been 4.30s in the 1/8-mile in his, and he says it’s great to drive.”
The Landshark design has had every level of horsepower applied to their dragster chassis from very mild small-blocks to upwards of 1,500 horsepower. They claim that aside from additional chassis flex in a long wheelbase dragster, the 4-link rear chassis works primarily the same.
“On the track, the Landshark works like any other suspended dragster,” explains Hopf. “I have not seen any disadvantage such as 60-foot times, traction, stability or anything like that. Many racers have come back to us stating that they are more comfortable in our car when it comes to marginally-prepped track surfaces than a long car.”
Advanced chassis has similar theories when it comes to the shorter wheelbase design. Their broad experience in constructing doorslammer chassis for big horsepower draws similar conclusions.
“Everything behind the driver’s foot box is an identical chassis design to our normal length dragster,” Newmeyer explains. “When you tune a door car chassis, it is based on the car’s instant center. Applying instant center calculations to a suspended dragster is the same. The swing arm adjustments aren’t going to know how much tubing is stuck out front; you adjust for the weights and balances of the overall car.”
Nelson explains, “We have three different suspension setups for these cars, under 4.60, 4.60 to 5-flat and slower than that. It seems like they’re a little more temperamental to horsepower differences than a 240-inch wheelbase car, but racers are very happy with driveability with the right setup.”
Nelson is taking a hands-on approach to his opinion of the future for dragsters. He wants to build one for himself to compete alongside his Top Dragster and Super Comp Dragster.
“I have not driven one myself yet,” Nelson admits. “I plan on using one to go bracket racing with Jason (Lynch) this summer. Racing a Top Dragster and then jumping into a car 55-inches shorter is a big jump. But, it’s a big jump going from 140 to 195 mph between my other two cars. I like to tell my customers firsthand what the driving discipline is like for any of my cars.”
Being a three-car customer turned business owner is what Hopf likes to present to customers concerning his Landshark Dragsters. He describes driving his cars as a non-issue.
“Our three cars have run at all different levels of power,” says Hopf. “A couple of customers claim that they are slightly more responsive to steering at the top end compared to a longer car, but nothing dramatic. My daughters and I don’t even think about the wheelbase; we just race the cars like any other.”
Will these professionally produced short dragsters utilizing proven 4-link or swing arm suspensions become broadly accepted? With the argument made about their driveability and utility advantages, the most significant deciding factor will be if you see them in the winner’s circles.