Pro Stock, 5 points.

On this weeks WFO Radio Nitro, Joe Castello had a pretty in depth interview and discussion with Alan Reinhart and Richard Freeman about Pro Stock. (link to the show at the bottom.) The conclusion was a call out for a 5 point plan to reinvigorate the class. As you know if you follow my column, I’ve already written 2 about this issue. In response to Joe’s call, lets have a fresh go at this with some new perspective.

Dodge

#1 We need to accept the fact that Pro Stock isn’t the King of the Doorslammers class anymore, that cats out of the bag. Currently there are 2 classes that are faster. Pro Mod and Top Sportsman. If we just look at this weeks race, Pro Stocks field was stretched between a 6.564 to a 6.924 and the top 16 spread in Top Sportsman was 6.201 to 6.811. 2 different classes to be sure, but if you want quick Door cars you now have several options.

#2 Body styles. It’s been said before by many, including myself, we need to get back to stock body lines, simple as that. The drift away from using the classic “Body in white” that was the norm for so long needs to be reversed. Stock rear quarters, roof and a pillars at a minimum. The classic Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday is really hard when the cars at the top of the “Factory” class don’t resemble whats on the showroom floor.  With one caveat, conversion from a 4 door to a 2 door must be acceptable.

#3 Pro Mod or Factory Stock will never replace Pro Stock, they will always take up their own unique niche in the Drag world. As great as it is, factory stock is already in danger of drowning under ever increasing development costs, and unless the manufacturers want to keep sinking endless sums of cash into going faster and faster it will start to suffer. The Pro Mod racers have already expressed they are happy with the space in the NHRA they already have, a 24 race schedule for them would be too much.

#4 The NHRA itself. The NHRA as a sanctioning body needs to get out of the mindset that the Nitro classes are the most important class out there. Are they great? for sure, do they attract the fans? for sure, but they’re supposed to, that’s how they’re hyped; all the advertising is built around them.  At any given National event there are several classes running, and any given class could use more exposure. This goes for not just Pro Stock, but other classes as well. What about Competition eliminator? My point here is the NHRA needs to balance how they advertise and promote the races better. If they believe it or not there is a significant number of fans who attend the races for more then just the Nitro classes.

#5 Drivetrain. I see 2 options here. So pull the belts tight and hang on, don’t pull the chutes until the end.

500 cubic inch spec engine based on the DRCE(Drag Race Competition Engine) block the Chevy guys use. We already have a precedence for this; the nitro classes. They can badge it however they want, Toyota, Chevy, Ford but the reality is they’re all based on the Dodge Hemi, a variant to be sure but a Hemi nonetheless. No offence to the Dodge guys or the lone Ford guy i’m aware of but the Chevy guys are kings right now, and have been for several years. Without major corporate support the Fords and Dodges will never be competitive. It may be great when a Dodge picks up a Hundredth but if they’re still a tenth behind they have a long costly way to go. So take that all out of the equation and run a spec block and heads like the nitro guys do.

358 Small block with a spec blower. Richard Freeman floated this on the WFO radio show and when you stop and think about it, it might be a really good idea. There are already several readily available 358 combinations out there from the NASCAR guys, Ford, Chevy, Dodge and Toyota and boosted with a supercharger makes a pretty interesting possibility.  Plus it has the advantage of fitting under a more stock appearing hood line then what we have now. In my opinion, this is the way to go, coupled with a manual clutch and a 5 speed this could be cool.

Pro Stock is an iconic class, and it’s demise would be a great loss to the sport. But as you know manufacturers have drifted away for various reason. But if they don’t want to jump in as it sits now, we have got to make some wholesale changes to reinvigorate the class. If we increase participation who knows, maybe they (The manufacturers) will take a second look and if  we can make changes to welcome them back, we can address that in due course. But trying to keep them happy is part of the reason we are in this situation.

honda

Honda V8

One last thing. Lets assume for a minute we go with the body specs and 358 engines I’ve suggested as the best options, those open the doors to more then Dodge, Ford and Chevy in Pro Stock. As mentioned, Toyota has a stout 358 program and Honda had a V8 in production for Indycar until 2011. If Toyota and or Honda wanted to jump in, and Toyota in particular has shown a strong commitment to the NHRA, then I say welcome, the more the merrier.

Here’s a link to the WFO radio Nitro show.  http://wforadio.com/wfo-radio-nhra-nitro-07042017/

On a side note. If you want to have a little fun between races, be sure and follow Riki Ratchman on his ride across America this year, yes the same Riki from the Cathouse, Headbangers Ball and currently host of Racing Rocks radio. he is raising awareness for Cystic Fibrosis and raising money for the Claires Place foundation. A worthy cause that we here at Lit and Loud fully support.

@RikiRachtman

@clairewineland

clairesplacefoundation.org

#Rikisride17

@RikisRacPac

 

As always, Be Safe and Have Fun.

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All Stars, Can it be better?

zmax

You know, after the All-Star race it’s always the same refrain “It was boring” “It was confusing” and I get it..it is boring. At the end of the day, it’s Stock cars running around in a circle, making pit stops once in a while. This year, it seemed to be amplified, and why? Because we already have stages at every race as it is, so there’s nothing different there.  For some reason NASCAR added a bizarre twist this year by adding an “option tire”,  and (as NASCAR loves to do) put a damper on the tire with a new rule. You have to put on 4, but you can take off 2 if you want, once you take them off, you can’t put them back on. Yeah, I didn’t get it either.

So what can be done? Well if we look at the Charlotte Motor Speedway as a whole, we see the complex has the 1.5 mile oval sure, it also has a 1/4 mile dragstrip, a 4/10’s dirt oval and a road course in the oval infield. So why not explore the options available?

Wouldn’t it be cool to see the “Stars” of NASCAR on a dirt track? We hear every year after the Eldora Truck race that the Cup cars would be awesome on a dirt track, so lets try it. They run the Trucks on dirt at Eldora, and more than a handful of drivers have experience on dirt, so it’s not like the know how isn’t there, heck Goodyear even makes a tire for it. Eldora is a half mile oval, and the Dirt track at Charlotte is only slightly shorter –  It can be done.

Then there’s the road course. We already run 2, and with this road course on the schedule to be part of the season in 2018 it might be nice for the Cup cars to see the road course in advance even in a limited sense. It’s there, may as well use it now.

Now we come to the Drag strip. The “Wildcard”. Honestly, outside of Kurt Busch i’m not sure how much Drag racing experience Cup drivers have, but it would be pretty cool to see the Cup cars on the Dragstrip. Run them 4 wide like the NHRA pros. Top 2 move on and other 2 are done. Single eliminations with 2 qualifying sessions. To me, this track is the most interesting. Let the crews set up the cars as they see fit, to accelerate 1/4 mile at a shot and see what happens. I would expect to see mid 10’s at between 125 and 130 MPH, maybe more, who knows.

It really wouldn’t need to be 1 or the other of these ideas, In my mind it would be a combination of the tracks. Maybe Thursday at the dragstrip, Friday at the Dirt track and the finale on Saturday on the big oval. No extra travel involved, same car all weekend (of course they always have a back up on hand). Each track awarding points for wins and positions, with the finale a lets say 200 mile shootout on the Big oval. Who knows what we might find? Maybe Matt DiBenedetto is a master drag racer, and wins his way into the finale, or maybe Danica turns out to be a dirt track whiz, and wins her way in. One thing for sure it would spice up the All Star race.

What about ticket sales? The drag strip seats way less than the oval, and the dirt track even less so,  tickets would be at a premium. I for one would love to see a drag race between Logano, Johnson, Earnhardt and Busch. Given the opportunity would definitely go, and dirt tracks are popular across the country. If the tickets to these events were a little more exclusive then the oval, and they sell out, all the better.

The crossover aspect for the NHRA and NASCAR are unreal, for 2 sanctioning bodies on the rebuild, the possibility to grow into other markets would be amazing, put some hard core drag racers onto NASCAR and put some NASCAR fans onto the NHRA. For sure if needed, we could get some NHRA pros there on a Thursday night (even if it’s a NHRA race weekend, they don’t race until Friday), heck for that matter get a couple NHRA officials and announcers to help out.

At the end of the day, given what the All Star race is, it would be great to see it expanded and use the facility’s available to NASCARs advantage. Mix up the show and create some excitement where it is sorely lacking. Throw the Cup guys a curve ball and see who comes out a true “All Star”

Ba safe and have fun.

On a side note. If you want to have a little fun between races, be sure and follow Riki Ratchman on his ride across America this year, yes the same Riki from the Cathouse, Headbangers Ball and currently host of Racing Rocks radio. he is raising awareness for Cystic Fibrosis and raising money for the Claires Place foundation. A worthy cause that we here at Lit and Loud fully support.

@RikiRachtman

@clairewineland

clairesplacefoundation.org

#Rikisride17

@RikisRacPac

 

 

 

Dodge Demon, Diamond or Dud?

038-Dodge-Demon-2018-gallery-desktop.jpg

You know, as a car guy you can’t help but be impressed at first glance of the Dodge Demon. It’s a very impressive piece of work, 840 horsepower, 9.60’s from the factory at over 140 MPH. But what”s the reality of this car? Is it as amazing as it seems?

Lets put the performance in terms of drag racing into perspective.  This car, off the showroom floor is faster than most Stock class cars, some Super Stock. Quicker than the Super Gas index and less than a second slower than Super Comp. In a car that you can go to a dealer and buy.

But here’s the thing. Should you be able to? It takes a Competition license to drive most of the aforementioned classes, and much more safety equipment than the car comes with, no roll cage, no 5 point harness and does come with for example, a line loc and a trans brake that are not toys, in the wrong hands or malfunctioning they can be downright dangerous. A car that can run these numbers is not a toy, and it’s certainly not for the faint of heart.

If they (Dodge) wanted to make a car with these capability’s why did they not go the extra step and create a car that could at least meet minimum rule standards out of the box? I know why of course, the idea is to build a sick car that could roll off an assembly line quickly, without to much inconvenience and not bother with a hand crafted roll cage or anchoring for a legit racing harness.

letter

The famous letter from the NHRA states “Don’t bring this car to our tracks” Now Dodge for some reason see’s this as a badge of honor. But it’s not. What that means is that as soon as you drive it home, you have just bought a car that is unable to compete at any NHRA sanctioned track. Unless you slow it down to slower than 10 seconds. Which is still impressive, but how do you expect a novice to know how to safely scrub a half second off his ET? I know that I would not like to be in the lane next to a novice running at or close to 140 MPH without the skills to understand the nuances of controlling a car at that speed.

Back at SLP Terry “Zeke” Maxwell had an saying about who we built the Camaro SS and Firehawks for, 1/3 of our cars were for collectors,1/3 were for racers and 1/3 were for the casual car guy to have fun with. Of the 3000 scheduled Demons to be built, 1000 to collectors=ok, 1000 to racers=ok, but the thousand to the novice are the problem.  Should the NHRA bend the rules as so many have suggested? absolutely not. These rules have been forged over the years in terms of blood and lives, they are tried and true. And while we do have an occasional incident with an injury, those rules account for a truly staggering safety record when looked at over the whole of the sport. And Just looking at the basic crash test results of a standard Challenger finds it at the bottom of the pony car list  (according to the results for the IIHS see link below) and I for one would not want to be in a Challenger at 140 MPH with no roll cage crashing. And it’s the little things, why for instance would they put a 4 point harness into the car, why not take the extra step and put the 5th point in. How do they (Dodge) know that whoever buys the car will have the skills needed to put the Skinny’s on the front properly? It seems to me that Dodge makes a lot of assumptions about the skill level of the average car buyer.

Sure you could argue that anyone can buy a Ferrari or Lamborghini and that’s true, but those cars, while they have impressive performance are unlikely to ever be used in North America to their true capability’s, but this car, any stretch of pavement could get it into trouble, not to mention cars around it.

So to get back to the first question, Is this a great car? Yes, with caveats. It’s a great car in the right hands. In the hands of a drag racer who knows what he’s doing it’s a masterpiece. A true racer will make sure the car has the safety products it needs and the experience to use it. Should the average guy buy one, even a car fan? No way. It’s too much car. In the end, if you want to buy a street pony car to have fun with, go get a nice Hellcat. I know it “only” runs 11’s with 707 Horsepower, but it’ll be a much more civilised ride for daily use.

One last question. If Dodge wants to improve it’s image to the Drag racing world, why didn’t they sink that R&D money into the Challenger Drag Pak program? At the last Factory Stock shootout event (Charlotte) only 1 of 8 cars was a Challenger. As it stands now, the Camaros and Mustangs are running away with the series.

http://www.autonews.com/article/20160530/OEM11/305309968/challenger-outmuscled-in-crash-tests

On a side note. If you want to have a little fun between races, be sure and follow Riki Ratchman on his ride across America this year, yes the same Riki from the Cathouse, Headbangers Ball and currently host of Racing Rocks radio. he is raising awareness for Cystic Fibrosis and raising money for the Claires Place foundation. A worthy cause that we here at Lit and Loud fully support.

@RikiRachtman

@clairewineland

clairesplacefoundation.org

#Rikisride17

@RikisRacPac

 

As always, Be Safe and Have Fun.

Reality Bites? NHRA

Others point their finger
If they don’t like what they see
If you live in a glass house
Don’t be throwing rocks at me “Shelter Me” Tom Keifer.

Gray

You know, in light of the recent incident between Gray and Elite Motorsports both on the top end and pits during the Houston race. It got me thinking. You will see all over social media opinions over this, pro and con. But the overwhelming thought is “we need this in Drag racing”. And maybe we do. But here’s the thing, it’s not as if we don’t have our share of reality moments, we just choose not to talk about them.  And when we do it will be a week or 2 and we move on. But behind the scenes, they’re always there.

Why for instance has Mike Dunn only driven for a relatively short span in his entire storied career for his Dad? The great Jim Dunn? Jim’s had cars on the track the whole time with various drivers. And parallel to that, what happened between Jim and Chad Head? The word was Chad stepped out to concentrate on the family business, but then we find out Chad is working at Kalitta Racing, and Jim has Jonnie Lindberg driving. Did, as the rumours say, Jim fire Chad? Awkward.

And what of our famous Funny car champ? We all know his 3 daughters, successful drivers in their own right. Respected and adored by their fans and fellow competitors. But here’s the thing. He has 4 daughters. But yet it’s the strangest thing. No one talks about her. If she wants her privacy that is of course totally fine, but it seems unfair to never even mention her name. She’s even married to the President of the company? Heck I’ve seen and heard more of her daughter than her. I have some, but you’d be really hard pressed to even find a picture of her. Weird

And the list could go on and on. But aside from the fact that these are our “Stars” it’s none of our business. And all the social media speculation serves nothing except to give some keyboard cowboys a few thrills. The reality is, there’s some real personal drama out there in our world that would rival the most gaudy reality show. And real faces behind real pain. The ones I’ve listed above are really pretty mundane in comparison to the rest.

And on track, There’s 2 problems. One is, and a completely respectable one to have. The sport went through a phase when we sadly lost a spate of our young drivers in accidents. Russell, Johnson, Medlen, Kalitta, you know the names. I noticed a definite change in attitudes after that period, a more respectful and appreciative attitude towards each other as competitors. It was as if after a period of invincibility everyone became aware that the dangers were very real and the guy in the other lane was just as vulnerable as yourself, and worthy of your respect if you liked him or not.

The second of course is the Politically correct era of corporate sponsorship. You have to wonder about the whirlwind careers of Bazemore and Cannon to name a couple. These guys came into the sport on fire (In the case of Bazemore often literally) Talking a big storm, getting in everyone’s face, not afraid to speak their minds and sure as hell not backing down to anyone. Only to fade away and rarely to be heard from again. Did the corporate world end them? Were they to controversial to keep handing money over to? Only they know for sure, but from the outside, that’s sure what it looks like. And as we all know, if you don’t have the bucks you don’t make the runs.

Talk is great, a way to attract new fans, or reinforce the ones you have, do we like to see Force and Shoemaker have words? Sure. And by the way, the best part of John Force getting into feuds is his seeming innocence that someone might be upset, in his mind if Prock went to DSR and it was “Just business” then him bringing Prock back was “Just business” as well. No harm no foul. Or driving Al Hoffman crazy, innocently unaware that he was driving Hoffman insane. How could Al possibly not like him or be angry at him? Do we like Leah Pritchett admitting she loves beating Brittany Force? Of course. But to let things escalate to throwing punches in the pits? maybe not. That’s not good for anyone. Regardless of what sponsor is on the door.

Watch at about 1:05

 

In the end I’m reminded of when Don Prudhomme ran to a burning, unconscious Don Gay Jr to get help get him out of the car, or a very concerned Khalid AlBalooshi watching a crashing Antron Brown behind him, that those moments are what make Drag racing great. And all the bickering or feuding  off the track are meaningless, that it’s what happens on the track and in the background that are whats important.

 

 

On a side note. If you want to have a little fun between races, be sure and follow Riki Ratchman on his ride across America this year, yes the same Riki from the Cathouse, Headbangers Ball and currently host of Racing Rocks radio. he is raising awareness for Cystic Fibrosis and raising money for the Claires Place foundation. A worthy cause that we here at Lit and Loud fully support.

@RikiRachtman

@clairewineland

clairesplacefoundation.org

#Rikisride17

@RikisRacPac

Be Safe and Have Fun

 

Sportsman Clarity?

emmonsI understand the vast majority of “Mainstream” Drag fans are fans of the Mello Yello Pro series with the Pro classes, but there is a whole other world of racing that happens between those cars. The last National event at Wild Horse Pass in Arizona an incident occurred that has sent shock-waves through the sportsman pits.

In the quarter final round Jerry Emmons was disqualified for “excessive braking”. Allow me explain why that is so alarming. As a driver, braking at the finish line is as much a part of index racing as cutting a light on the starting line; you have to be able to judge your opponent and decide in a fraction of a second what to do, take the stripe, ride it hard to the line or cut them loose and let the cards fall where they may. You show me a bracket racer who cannot drive the finish line and I’ll show you a driver who is always at the buyback window, or loading up after first round weekend after weekend.

If the NHRA is going to start making arbitrary judgements regarding National event runs, it throws all past knowledge up in the air. If racer X is racing hard in the late rounds the last thing they need to worry about is “If I get hard on the brakes am I going to be DQ’ed?” All while going 100+MPH. This is huge, because when I and every racer I’ve spoken to look at Jerry’s run, it’s a masterful job of driving. He was in control and at no point did he appear to have an issue. To me it was a clean run, about as good as could be done, as a matter of fact it was what I have coached people to do in that circumstance.

No one wants to see results like the run above, but Thomas Fletcher at the time was a relative newcomer, not a rookie but not with the experience as Jerry Emmons. That run, according to the rules was a disqualifying run, he crossed the centerline.

I am aware that there were “warnings” issued. OK, he was warned and according to Jerry himself (as heard on WFO Radio, Link at the bottom) he addressed the situation, checked that the car was mechanically sound and continued on. That’s all he could do, and should have been expected to do. You could no more tell John Force in the semis he had to not exceed 315 MPH then to tell a sportsman racer he had to make a wholesale change to his setup on the car for any given round.

Here’s the thing, I’ve never heard of the NHRA seeing a pedalfest between 2 Nitro funny cars and going to the drivers to issue a “warning” for dangerous driving. It could be argued that a sideways tire smoking Nitro car is exponentially more dangerous than a Stock car hard on the brakes. So if that’s the reason, it rings hollow. I’ve had a couple people tell me that it was done because the NHRA wanted to send a clear warning to the sportsman racers that on Sunday, you don’t jeopardize the show and screw up the pros when they would be live; in other words, “don’t mess up our schedule”. I have 2 problems with that, first I really really don’t want to believe the NHRA has that level of disrespect to the sportsman racers and two if that was the case would they use one of the Emmons brothers as an example, with Lucas Oil on the car the same Lucas Oil that is the series sponsor? It just seems like that would a bad business decision to me.

At the end of the day, the whole situation has many scratching their heads, and all racers who roll through the gates at a National event need to have clarity. The rule book is vague at best on this issue and literally hundreds of racers out there need to know what is and isn’t acceptable finish line driving? Clearly and without the risk of an arbitrary call.

Below is the link to the WFO radio interview with Jerry Emmons

http://wforadio.com/jerry-emmons-03072017/

Be Safe and Have Fun

On a side note. If you want to have a little fun between races, be sure and follow Riki Ratchman on his ride across America this year, yes the same Riki from the Cathouse, Headbangers Ball and currently host of Racing Rocks radio. he is raising awareness for Cystic Fibrosis and raising money for the Claires Place foundation. A worthy cause that we here at Lit and Loud fully support.

@RikiRachtman

@clairewineland

clairesplacefoundation.org

#Rikisride17

@RikisRacPac

Dollars, all about the dollars.

Money, it’s a gas, grab that cash with both hands and make a stash. Money, Pink Floyd

ChrisBennett-NoMercy-FC

Chris Bennett

It is all about the budget if you want to run a nitro class, the never ending pursuit of sponsor dollars. Some have and some want. But here we come to a situation where we will see if the last few years of Drag Racing have helped or hurt the sponsorship hunt.

The emergence of “super” teams occurred during a time of stagnation in the NHRA, the growth of teams like DSR, JFR and Kalitta Motorsports were all a good thing. When the sport was at it’s weakest at least there would always be a reasonable car count in Top Fuel and Funny car. We now come to a crossroads, the sport is on a rebound. Full credit to the NHRA itself. It weathered the storm, got a new TV package and has made some good investments in the future. The question is, can the Nitro classes improve their numbers?

We will never see 20 or 25 sponsored Nitro teams at the track, it’s unnecessary. A good solid 16 to 18 would be ideal.  As it is now, we have a good 8 to 10 cars on the grounds that can win on any given weekend, but for all that we still have some events that can only pull 14 or 15 cars to even try and qualify.

But now the “Super team” problem. How does Joe X go in front of a sponsor to get a deal, and rationalise to them the reasons for the money, if almost all the winners are from a mega team? There’s no denying that on any given race weekend the chances are it’s going to be a DSR, JFR or Kalitta Racing team in the winners circle. Is that a bad thing? No that’s the objective, that’s the whole reason they show up. Where does that leave the independent? How do they justify a sponsorship when Joe X is going up against the mega teams?

And we come to this weekend. As most of you know, Terry McMillen and Leah Pritchett are tied for the 10th and last spot in the Countdown. On paper and in person both of these 2 deserve to get in. They both display hard work and have massive fan support. Terry runs a independent team with great sponsors and Leah after a turbulent start has landed on the DSR mega team in the 4th car with some pretty good sponsors of her own. Every win or success by an independent is a win for the little guy. Every win or success by Steve Torrence or Tim Wilkerson is a plus for the sport as a whole because it gives other Independents something to point to and say “look, it’s hard, but we have a chance” and that goes a long way to a sponsor. No sponsor expects to win every weekend, nor should they. But they should at least know that their dollars are going to have at least some success.

RL_JimCampbell-FC

Jim Campbell

Luckily there is a long line of potential Nitro cars out there that would be a factor on the tour with a little corporate money. Guys like Jim Campbell, Chris Bennet, Steve Palmer, John Bojec and Brandon Welch and a whole host of Alky class drivers like Tedesco, Sanford, Westerfield and Ferre who have at least dipped a toe in the Pro ranks. Any of these teams could and would make a major sponsor very happy, but they need to have a product other than first round loses every week to sell.

Of course not to mention the teams as well. No one wants to go out to the race track every weekend, no matter how much you love it, only to put the car on the trailer after the first round week after week. So even if they don’t win the Wally, it is great to see guys like Jeff Diehl make the semis twice this year and Bojec making the semis once last year.

You have to hand it to Jim Dunn racing. look back over just 2016 at the names on the side of that car, Mooneyes, Oberto, Circle K, Alo just to name a few off the top of my head. It must be a logistical nightmare. They are at every event, ready to go. Are they a threat to win? No, but they put on a great display for the sponsor and can go rounds with a little luck. I imagine that they would like a little stability with their sponsors, but the job they do with what they have is phenomenal. It really is a model others could use given a lot of hard work.

So..bring on the little guy, The more Wally’s for Wilkerson, Pedregon and Torrence the better, show that in a pit area dominated by Super teams the independent has a shot.

As far as McMillen and Pritchett, may the best team win. I can make a strong argument that for the sport, it’s better if Terry gets the spot and a win for the little guy.  I can also make an argument that it’s good for the sport if Leah wins. So who knows?

Be Safe and Have fun

Pro Stock..the future?

You know I had it made in the shade, thinkin that it’s not so bad after all
That’s when I woke up, smelled the coffee.- Heavens Trail, Tesla

You know, I’ve started and stopped this column 3 times already. Revising it down, rethinking some parts, but the reality is how do you break down a class that is so broken into a few hundred words? Sure, if you listen to NHRA world, everything is fine. The racing is great and there’s more to come. But is the class really ok?

There was a time when Pro Stock was “King of the Doorslammers”. In terms of performance and stature after the nitro classes they were it. But with the welcome addition of Pro Mod and even Top Sportsman the luster has come off the class. No longer are they the quickest and fastest door cars on the grounds. In most cases no Pro Stock car could even qualify for a Pro Mod show and would be lucky to be in the top 10 in a Top Sportsman field.

2014 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Hmm, Stock Camaro

camaro

Pro Stock Camaro…seem legit? The first problem is above. These are the “Factory Hot Rods” but I don’t see to much that compares between those 2 cars. I’m not sure when the NHRA decided it was its’ job to equalise the aero for the manufacturers. But when you take away brand identity, a sticker across the windshield is not enough to give it back, in fact you shouldn’t need the sticker at all. If it’s a Camaro, it should resemble a Camaro.

The recent rule changes are baffling in that it’s not clear what the objective was. To improve performance? No the cars are as expected, slower; to improve appearance? No all you’ve accomplished is making them look like turbo Pro Mod cars.

The problem is fan appeal. The average fans don’t get the class anymore, it has become very cerebral. You have to understand what is going on under the body, you have to understand what is going on in those 500 cubic inches. If the class is going to grow and survive they must bring back the fans, with a clear understanding of what is happening on the track. A heads up 500 inch class is not enough anymore.

If we allow that these are not the quickest and fastest door cars at any event, then maybe we need to accept that and rebuild. Lets get stock body dimensions out there, lets get stock pieces under the hood. Why do we need big tire, 4 link tube chassis cars, have you seen what some other sanctioning bodies are doing on a 10.5 tire? Have you seen what NHRA Factory Stock is doing? Several of those Factory Stock guys have stated that at the right weight they could be in the 7″s. What is better, a mid 7 in a stock bodied car, or a 6.50 in a modern Pro Stock car? When it comes right down to it, that’s a second, and I’ll sacrifice that second for a stock appearing Camaro.

Video Credit Robert Jackson.

 

One of the refrains you hear a lot from the NHRA is “Just wait, there are more cars coming” as if the car count was the problem. But the car count isn’t the problem. The fans in the stands don’t know or care if there’s only 15 Top Fuel cars on the grounds, they sure as hell don’t care that there’s only 14 Pro Stock cars. Would it be nice to have full fields? of course. I spend a lot more time at Regionals than I do Nationals. As a matter of fact it’s 3 to 1.  I’m not sure who the NHRA is asking, but the answer I get most often when I ask Sportsman if they are considering the jump up to Pro Stock is NO. To paraphrase two competitors in particular (1 running Comp and 1 running Top Sportsman) -No, why would I abandon a competitive car, that I can win with for a class that’ll bankrupt me and I’ll have zero chance at winning, and if the fields do grow, I may not even qualify for.  I can’t argue with that logic. The NHRA needs to consider that many Sportsman already consider themselves touring Pros, even if they don’t have a Pro class designation.

NHRA needs to just throw away the current rule book, look at the big picture of what people are doing with Stock bodied cars across the spectrum of Drag Racing and reinvent the class. For some reason there’s a resistance to elevating the Factory Stock cars into a new Pro Stock (even though that’s where the Factory support is) they need to evaluate the need for 500ci engines and the big tires. They need to look at screaming small blocks, 10.5 tires and gasp…clutch your pearls, turbo 4 cylinder Hondas or Toyotas.

Carey Bales Turbo 122 Cubic Inch 2016 Honda Accord.

 

Out of all this, 4 things give me reason to think I’m not the only one who see’s a problem with Pro Stock.

No. 1  V. Gaines stepping away. His stated reason was he’s not having fun anymore. Now sure, some could and have argued that V was older and would probably have stepped aside soon anyway and I’ll admit I was surprised he raced this year. I had heard 2015 would be his last year, but still for a guy who only raced for fun to quit so abruptly was a big surprise.

No. 2  I recently was live messaging with a friend who is a Sportsman racer and crews on a Pro Stock car part time. As the Pro Stock qualifying session ended and the fans started to get in their seats for the Nitro sessions, his last comment to me was and I quote “This class is really on life support, the fans don’t even come to watch us race anymore”

No. 3  In the June 3rd National Dragster column, Peter Clifford (Pres of the NHRA) called  the changes to Pro Stock a “Miss”. So that gives me hope that at least the higher ups in the NHRA know there’s a problem, even as the Public relations folks are spinning a pretty picture.

And 4th, maybe the most damming of all. In a recent Competition Plus poll a whooping  72% of responders said that Pro Stock was dead. If that doesn’t say a lot, I don’t know what does.

http://www.competitionplus.com/drag-racing/news/survey-says-readers-weigh-in-on-the-state-of-nhra-pro-stock

Is there hope? Of course, as long as you have the men and women out there  still supporting the class, There’s always hope, but we are going to need a major overhaul to the class to bring the fans back to the seats. I suggest we start to look hard at the rulebook now to get ready for the 2018 season with a new look Pro Stock, more representative of the cars on the road in North America today.

Be Safe and Have Fun