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.
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.
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