The Fuel We Burn: Nitromethane

Nitromethane, otherwise known as "nitro" is best described by HotRod Magazine, which notes "Nitromethane-or CH3NO2-is one member of a family of explosive compounds that contain nitrogen and oxygen." For more details, please check out HotRod's great article, What is Nitromethane, Anyway?

Now that you have read a little bit about nitro, lets discuss how we get it and use it.  When you run an NHRA national event, a driver has to buy it onsite at the race from their provider.  In years past, it has been VP but this year, it is changing to Sunoco.  This is the NHRA’s way of making sure everyone is running the same fuel and that we are all on a level playing field.  When we buy it, we receive 42 gallons of 100% nitromethane in a drum.  The rulebook only allows us to run 90% nitro. Many teams cut down the percentage with Alcohol.  Now every team will run a little different percentage based on their tune up, but it can’t be over 90%.  Our tune up is based on a percentage of 88. The first thing that I do when I get the fuel is pump it into 5 gallon containers and then adjust the percentage down to 88. Everyone does this differently, but I weigh out a certain amount of the 100% nitro and add certain amount of alcohol.  I then use my nitro tester to see where I am at as far as percentage. 

There are two types of testers: a digital one that sucks up a little fuel into a straw and then tells you what percentage you are at and a manual process where you use a chart, a thermometer, and a hydrometer.  I do it the manual way.  I can usually get within a couple tenths of percent of the 88.0 I am shooting for and then I will fine tune the adjustment from there.  When we go to run the car, we always carry what we call a cutter or chicken juice.  This is two different bottles of 100% alcohol to be able to dump in the tank of the car to knock down the percentage by .25% or .50% depending on what bottle we poor in.  This adjustment is done if the weather conditions or track conditions change significantly from when we leave the trailer up to the point we make our run.

If you recall, in my last blog post, we talked about the size of the fuel pump that we run.  Remember these cars use a lot of fuel.  When we warm the car up in the pits before the run, we use 4-6 gallons of fuel.  Then during the run which is 1000’,  we typically use 12-13 gallons.  Between the warm up and the actual run we will consume a total of a about 17 gallons.  So if anyone is doing the math that means we get about 89.76 gallons per mile.

Have questions about fuel or how we use it? Feel free to send me a tweet at @Kwurtzelracing or comment on this post!