. . . seems to be uniquely American, although it seems to be spreading to the UK and to Australia. I use do do it a bit myself in this car, which I built myself.
The car burned pure methanol and generated something over 750 horspower. It was a matter of strap your butt into the seat, hit the loud pedal, and hang on for a little less than 9 seconds. Then, at about 175 mph (which is a bit over 281 kph), put it in neutral, hit the kill switch, and pop the parachute.
It's not without risk, though. Having sat in the seat - albeit at a much slower speed - I really understand the tragedy of this:
The driver was Scott Kalitta, 46 years old, and a 2nd generation drag racing veteran. He was the son of Connie Kalitta, one of the early pioneers of of the sport, and the one-time mentor of Shirley Muldowney (Heart Like a Wheel).
This was undoubtedly the worst accident I've seen in almost 50 years of watching and participating in drag racing. The fire en-route was undoubtedly from spilled oil. The huge explosion at the end was due to the load of nitromethane fuel on board. Seems to me that it's short-sighted of the raceway to put a concrete wall at the end of the shut-down area.