The nitromethane-fueled engine that powers a big-show Funny Car is controlled chaos at best, and at its worst becomes into a horsepower-infused bomb that will rip a racecar to tatters if it explodes. Jason Phelps had a front-row seat to the show when the latter of the two happened to the engine right in front of his feet at Santa Pod Raceway during the “Not The European Finals”, turning the body of the “Gladiator” Funny Car into carbon-fiber confetti in an instant.
Nitro Funny Cars are one of the toughest vehicles to drive in all the world — they’re a 10,000 horsepower bucking bronco that wants to go every direction but straight. Phelps is an experienced racer that has been wheeling these beasts for a long time, but no amount of seat time will prepare you for “the big one” when it happens just a few feet in front of you.
Phelps stated during his interview that he knew something was going wrong when it happened, but there was no warning prior to that the Funny Car was about to turn into a rolling fireworks display. The explosion was so violent it stunned Phelps for a second and quickly covered his visor in oil, so he was driving almost entirely by feel at that point. Thankfully, Phelps’ years of driving experience allowed him to stay calm and keep his demolished car for from wandering into the other lane or striking the wall.
In this video from SantaPodTV, you can see just how violent the explosion was and how much devastation was inflicted on the engine. The supercharger was literally shredded, the block was damaged beyond repair, and a cylinder head was rendered useless.