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The 55 Minute 10,000 Horsepower Engine Swap

Last year, we brought you video live from Leah Pritchett’s pit between rounds several times, watching her crew turn her 11,000 horsepower Don Schumacher Racing Top Fuel Dragster around for the following round. We enjoyed you guys asking questions and us being able to relay those to Leah and her crew to try to get answers to anything you guys threw at us.

It’s one thing to watch “the thrash” live, but when you speed the footage up a bit, you really get a feel for just how much work goes into doing a complete engine swap in less than an hour. This time-lapse footage from Hagerty Classic Cars gives us a bird’s eye-view from the canopy above Tony Schumacher’s multi-time world championship-winning dragster as his crew gets to work dropping a fresh engine between the frame rails.

Having watched this process in person, I can tell you that these guys manage to completely disassemble the engine down to the bare block, inspect it for damage and swap a fresh block in if needed, then rebuild the powerplant back to ready-to-run status all in about 35 minutes if pushed to do so. They typically have around an hour, but they still knock the rebuild out in around 45 minutes just in case there are problems once the engine is test-fired before the next round of competition.

The crew guys each have their assigned jobs, from left and right side head guys to supercharger guys to bottom end guys and the all-important clutch guy, while the drivers typically mix the fuel and fill up the 22 gallon tank and pack the chutes. The crew chiefs and tuners analyze the data from the previous runs, factor in the weather conditions and figure out what changes to make in the tune, and everybody does their job with hardly a word said between them as everybody focuses on the task at hand.

Once the work is done, they tow the car back to the starting line and send the driver down the track, hopefully in around 3.7 seconds at over 320 MPH. If they manage to turn on the win light, they go back and do it again for the next round!