Slingshot Rail Dragsters

The Puzzler

RAY: This was from my 'Life Can Be a Drag' series and it was sent in by Kathy Sebastian.

'When I was a kid back in the 60s, my dad fell in love with drag racing. It seemed that every weekend he would drag me to see those things called Slingshot Rail Dragsters tear up the track.

Now, if you remember, these dragsters were weird looking, very long and open-framed cars, I guess, with a humungously powerful engine positioned just in front of the driver, who was seated in a cage in the very back of the vehicle. The front tires, which were way up front, were essentially bicycle tires and they were inflated to something like 80 PSI so as to minimize rolling resistance - nice skinny little tires, high pressure. While the rear tires were just the opposite -- the ones that were driven by the engine were huge racing slicks inflated to 10 PSI so as to maximize rolling resistance or traction. Even at that they would always manage to lose traction and start smoking before they could get out of the gate. It made for great theater and a lot of extra noise.

Well, when these cars started reaching quarter mile-speeds of 200 miles an hour and above, the crews noticed that after each run, the front tires came back with very low air pressure, in fact almost flat. This phenomenon was not observed on the rear tires. The question is, what caused the front tires to deflate? Where was the air going? And why?

Think you know? Drop Ray a note!

[ Car Talk Puzzler ]

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