How Loud Is A 10,000 Horsepower Nitro Car Exactly?

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Anyone that’s ever seen a nitro car make a pass live and in person can attest to just how loud they truly are, and while they may not necessarily be able to put a number on it or draw any direct comparisons to other sources of ear-splitting decibels, “really freaking loud” generally serves as a sufficient explanation to those who have only seen it on television (which, we should point out, doesn’t accurately convey the sounds at all).

So, just how loud is a modern-day, 10,000 horsepower (or is it 11,000, as we’re hearing these days?) fuel car, and what could you conceivably compare it to, you might wonder? Well, heads-up door car racer Kenny Hubbard, who also appears to be a bit of an audiophile, as well, utilized some high-end hardware and software from Term-Lab commonly used for audio competitions to accurately measure the decibel output of a nitro car at the recent NHRA Springnationals near Houston. And the result? Well, pretty freaking loud.

Hubbard, armed with his laptop and the Term-Lab Magnum sound measurement device, gained some VIP access to the starting line at the Royal Purple Raceway during a session of Funny Car, and recorded both the burnout and the launch of a pair of cars from just a few feet away, registering 141.4 and 149.3 decibels, respectively. He later took his equipment down to the fence line at around the 800-foot mark, where a 127.5 dB reading was recorded as the Top Fueler of Antron Brown blasted by at around 300 mph.

It should come as no surprise that the World Health Organization considers the output at close proximity to a fuel car to be in their “do not expose yourself to this” range, while the 127 dB in the spectator area falls within the recommended range of only 1 second of exposure per 24 hours.

Conversations generally occur at around 60 dB and extended exposure time to levels of around 85 dB can actually cause permanent damage to the inner ear. The 140-plus dB levels on the starting line actually fall into the range where immediate nerve damage can occur to anyone not wearing ear protection.

What other machines and items can produce that kind of sound? Try jet engines at takeoff, fireworks, and even a fighter jet launch. Only such things as a shotgun, a.357 magnum, a Howitzer cannon, or a rocket launch produce greater noise levels. At 194 dB, sound waves actually become shock waves, which, if you ask us, would be a pretty interesting addition to the assault on the senses that a nitro car is already.

Videos credit Kenny Hubbard

About the author

Andrew Wolf

Andrew has been involved in motorsports from a very young age. Over the years, he has photographed several major auto racing events, sports, news journalism, portraiture, and everything in between. After working with the Power Automedia staff for some time on a freelance basis, Andrew joined the team in 2010.
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