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How to properly pack parachutes for drag racing

Parachutes have been an integral safety component in the world of drag racing for decades now, working in unison with the brakes to bring cars to a safe stop after a run. Chutes come in several shapes an styles, from massive crossform-style models to smaller triangular options. Regardless of the shape or size, there’s one factor that has to be given the greatest care: packing.

Nearly every professional racer packs his or her own chute. While drivers have varying levels of involvement in the mechanical work that goes on in the pits between rounds, you can find just about every driver packing the chutes after each pass.

I remember as a kid asking Pro Mod and Funny Car legend Scotty Cannon why he was packing his own chutes when he had crew guys who could do it for him. While Cannon could have easily been annoyed at my question, asked during the heat of a between-rounds teardown at a big Pro Mod race at Huntsville Dragway back in the mid-90’s, I’ll never forget him stopping what he was doing, calling me into his pit and telling me, as he carefully organized and folded his chutes, that there were two reasons he did that job himself. “First thing, I need these to work every time, so I make sure it’s done right because they just might save my life. Second, if something happens and they don’t work and I get hurt, I don’t want one of my [crew] guys feeling like it’s his fault.”

I was already a huge fan of Scotty’s, and it always stuck with me that he took the time to explain that to me all those years ago. Now when I sit and watch Leah Pritchett, Clay Millican, Antron Brown, Jonnie Lindberg, Ron Capps and Alex Laughlin packing their chutes after each pass, I’m reminded after all these years that they know better than anybody how important those parachutes are, and how bad one of their crew guys would feel if they took that responsibility and the chutes failed.

So for you drivers out there, we have this video below from RJS Safety demonstrating the exact method to correctly pack a chute to make sure it releases cleanly and opens quickly. This is very important information that could certainly save a life, so watch it and make sure you’re packing your chutes correctly!