Why cars lose control in drag races?


in street races or drag races, they launch and are fine before jerking to right or left and crashing. Why does that happen? Don’t you just hold the wheel straight?

In: Physics

When going balls to the walls, even on a straight road, there’s a lot of adrenaline flowing. At that speed, even the slightest movement can change the direction of the car, correcting it quickly could easily cause a loss of control

Because the rear wheels are losing traction.

If you accelerate very hard in a car with rear-wheel drive, the rear wheels may be a spinning at 50 mph while the car is only doing 20 mph. When that happens the car loses its directional stability, so it will likely veer off to one side.

edit: To explain a bit more, the car will only go straight if both the rear and the front tires are able to transmit lateral (side) forces. They can only do that when they’re gripping the road, but not when they’re skidding. The front wheels may do the steering, but the rear wheels are important as well because they make sure that the rear of the car actually follows the front wheels. When the rear wheels are spinning too fast, they won’t follow the front wheels, and in that case the rear axle will be steering the car.