Some NHRA national events have hosted performances so remarkable that decades later people still talk about them, and among those frequently discussed races is the 1984 Gatornationals, where Top Fuel's Joe Amato and Funny Car's Kenny Bernstein broke the 260-mph barrier, the only time in NHRA history when racers from both nitro categories have broken the same performance barrier at a national event. Because we made our clutches in-house, we were able to create our own lockup clutch and keep it a secret, but not for very long.
When Joe Amato and Kenny Bernstein broke the 260-mph barrier at the 1984 Gatornationals, the gates were opened for the most explosive era of performance advancement in NHRA history by John Jodauga barrier, speeds increased 40 mph the next eight years, culminating S ome NHRA national events with Bernstein’s historic 301.70- have hosted performances so mph blast at the 1992 remarkable that decades Gatornationals. later people still talk about them, Amato and Bernstein set the and among those frequently stage for their landmark discussed races is the 1984 achievements with respective Gatornationals, where Top Fuel’s speeds of 259.36 and 256.41 Joe Amato and Funny Car’s Kenny during qualifying before Amato Bernstein broke the 260-mph recorded the first 260-mph Top barrier, the only time in NHRA Fuel run (260.11) in the semi’s and history when racers from both followed with a record 262.39 nitro categories have broken the blast in his final-round victory over same performance barrier at a Gary Beck. national event. Amato and crew chief Tim Not only did Amato and Richards unveiled a new Top Bernstein add their names to drag Fueler at the event that featured a racing lore with their taller, more laid-back wing, a performances, which were component designed by 20-year accentuated by each driver Indianapolis 500 competitor Eldon winning his category, but their Rasmussen. feats also triggered the dawn of an “The wing wasn’t much bigger accelerated performance era. It than what was used on the alcohol took more than eight years for cars at the time,” said Richards, When Top Fuel’s Joe Amato and Funny Car’s Kenny Bernstein surpassed the 260-mph Don Garlits’ Top Fuel national “but it was taller, which made it barrier at the 1984 Gatornationals, their performances were commemorated on the cover speed record of 250.69 mph — operate in cleaner air, and was of the event results issue of National DRAGSTER with both cars superimposed in a make- recorded Oct. 12, 1975, in Ontario, located farther behind the rear believe side-by-side scenario. Calif. — to be surpassed by 10 axle, which enabled you to use the mph, but after Amato and principal of the lever to provide wing designs were more like an air Bernstein joined Amato in the Bernstein broke the 260-mph more downforce. The previous foil, which created more drag than record books with a 260.11-mph downforce.” run in his final-round score over By the end of the 1984 season, John Collins. every Top Fuel racer had adopted Bernstein and crew chief Dale the taller wing. Armstrong accomplished the feat After coming close to the 260- thanks to innovative modifications, mph mark during qualifying and recording speeds of 256, 257, and 256 mph en route to the final, When Amato debuted his tall-wing Keystone Automotive/Hurst Special Top Fueler at the 1984 Gatornationals, he essentially established the design template for the modern class entries used today. As the design of the taller wings improved, the front ends were extended, and the wheelbase grew from the 255-inch dimension of Amato’s car to today’s maximum of 300 inches. 16 ✦ National DRAGSTER computer technology. “We all assumed that our clutches were locking up on the
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