Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type



School of Environment

Director of Thesis

Dr. Thomas Owens

Second Reader

Dr. Philip Crotwell


Dragsters raced down a 1,000 ft track at the zMAX Dragway and the resulting ground motion was recorded, analyzed, and displayed live to fans. At the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals on April 26 – 28, 2019 and the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals on October 11-13, 2019 the ground motion was recorded with novel devices anchored on the track walls. The devices were fit with Raspberry Pis, precise clocks, and accelerometers recording at 400 samples per second. In April, the geometry of the devices was located near the start line and in October, devices were anchored to the outside wall at positions distributed to 1,000 ft. Each race generated seismic waves and our devices recorded this signal, calculated, and published the peak ground acceleration in g every 0.25 seconds to a public website in real time for the race fans.

Post processing focuses on two categories of racecars: Top Fuel and Funny Car. These vehicles race with the greatest velocities and created the largest ground motion signal. Post processing answers quantifiable questions including, what race and category produces the most ground motion, the maximum distance of noticeable motion, frequency of prominent motion, the characteristics of the seismic wave, and the speed of the seismic wave compared to the speed of the racer.

In October, two vehicles raced, resulting in peak ground acceleration values at 1.20 g. In April, four dragsters simultaneously propelled themselves down the track, producing peak ground acceleration values at 2.87 g.


Visit the zMax Dragway where we conducted the research in this thesis!

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