I’m not gonna say “I Told Ya So”, but I kinda am…
And today I honestly feel guilty about it. Today is not a good day for drag racing in general.
This is the letter from the NHRA Senior Vice President of Race Operations which was made public on October 3rd, 2017. When I first read this letter, my heart sank as I was enraged by the words of Graham Light and this was my reaction. I’m sure you’ve seen it by now and it’s rather painful.
Well Mr. Grahm Light I have some comments so here we go…
The first paragraph is completely true, figures never lie and liars tend to figure.
The second paragraph is where we start to smell the BS. And it stinks folks. It’s starting to sound like a “It’s not you, it’s me” breakup text where it’ll later curtail into a “Think of all the good times we had” backhanded compliment that lands like a ton of bricks on your heart.
In the third paragraph we run into our first boldface lie, which is in fact the whole damn paragraph! I would love to know the “many approaches” they proposed to bring attention to Pro Stock. Seriously, list them out for me Mr. Light. Next they state that they tried to get increased manufacturer support. THEY LITERALLY SAID THAT IN WRITING! I would love to know where the Chevrolet Cut Away Car, the Ford Tech Tip, or the Dodge Pro Stock Pit Report is. If they seriously “tried” to get manufacturer support it was more than likely over evaluated (they asked for too much money). How about a “Camaro Helmet Cam” or “Mopar Moment” posted on social media? A GoPro Hero 6 only costs $399, I mean how low on funds and imagination can y’all be? Instead we get more JFR and DSR with a shot of Kalitta once in a while. The next sentence is about how the switch to Fuel Injection (albeit needed, but poorly executed in timing and tact) 10,500 Rev Limiter, Shorter Wheelie Bars, and Spec Tires were to “cut costs” (not listed) and make the class more “fan-friendly”.
How does any of this in any way, shape, or form on this planet or any other for that matter make any amount of sense for the intentions they described?! This move single handedly put Mopar out of the class. THEY KICKED OUT THE ONLY MANUFACTURER SPONSORING A TEAM WITH A RULE CHANGE! How? The HEMI needs a longer intake runner to make power, not allowing a hood scoop decreases the runner length and shortens the power output (according to Elite Motorsports). Simply said; Advantage Ford & Chevrolet.
The fourth paragraph simply states when paraphrased: But we continued to stick by our consistent, SFI Rated, decision making process which when stated in the NHRA Bi-Laws is as follows. “Do absolutely nothing unless someone dies or we can make more money. Example A.) Harley Davidson showing up with a blank check.” Still negative trends continue because we’re doing the same exact thing as we were in 2008 when things started going downhill. I’d break down that paragraph farther but that’s an entirely other article and I believe my sarcasm serves enough purpose for now. Just can’t believe he took an entire paragraph to express the fact that they as a sanctioning body didn’t do a single thing to help. He should’ve just wrote “Yeah we saw this coming and did nothing, sorry not sorry.” That’s just insulting.
The rest just shows the plan of how to make all these teams give up so NHRA doesn’t end up with another Pro Stock Truck like lawsuit.
This is depressing for a simple reason. This letter confirms that either the NHRA didn’t care, or was too stupid as a whole to notice what was happening and fix it. For that reason this is the last full season of NHRA 500″ Pro Stock Drag Racing.
How & Why
The first is the “How” portion. In reality it’s NHRA’s sandbox and their rules. Pretty straight forward.
Now the “Why?” oh man, that’s the big question. Randi Lynn Shipp (Bo Butner’s Fiancée) had this to say on Facebook when asked her opinion.
I don’t necessarily believe she’s wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen the NHRA desecrate a class to line their pockets (Just Google “Pro Stock Truck” You’ll Find It). If you’ll remember in my article last fall stating that this would happen (Click Here to read Factory Cars to Pro Stock in 2018) I sensed a shift in a new direction (pun intended) and spoke of a possible fix.
The only real difference in the P/S & P/ST Demise is that the NHRA is forced into this due to poor decisions, rather than forcing a poor decision onto the racers and fans respectively.
But what if there was a solution? What if I’ve already talked about it? If you keep scrolling you’ll find it.
The Future of Pro Stock:
Plain and simple. It doesn’t matter what way you cut it the Factory Stock Showdown Cars are bad ass. Take a look at this video and notice the throttle control, the high revving Factory Produced power plants, and the raw speed these cars have. Not to mention the resemblance that these cars have to one you can buy from the showroom. Last I checked the 2018 Camaro doesn’t have options for a Jerry Bickel Chassis, a DRCE IV Block, or a Five Star Carbon Fiber Body.
These cars are insane. 1,400 h.p. on a 9″ tire. It just makes for one heck of a race to watch every run. Even the NHRA knows this as they’ve been drinking the Drag Coverage Kool-Aid by airing the finals of the Factory Stock Showdown on FS1 (exactly 1/4 of P/S air time) to gauge the interest of fans. I’m not sure what they have found but I can bet that it only scratches the surface.
The Dodge Demon is a car that has no format. It’s essentially a “street/race” car. Dodge does not participate in NASCAR or NHRA Pro Stock. Why? Because you can BUY the car from Dodge. Why watch it, when you can live it? If Factory Stock becomes Pro Stock watch the Dodge stock rise as race fans flock to the car that is illegal according to the NHRA to race at the track because it’s “too fast”. This letter below is the greatest advertisement Dodge could ask for! As someone who lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area I have allegedly witnessed these cars ruining the hopes and dreams of ZL1 and Mustang owners. These cars rule the street.
As for Ford & Chevrolet they’re still producing their steroided up pony cars going into 2018. While executives in Detroit are not pushing for this to happen publicly the rumor is that they’re foaming at the mouth for a Pro Factory Extreme class.
Dollars Make Sense
The teams, sponsors, and NHRA cannot let spending get out of hand. While it almost is in the Factory Showdown class there is a solution to the biggest cost. Manufacturer Supplied Horsepower. Basically the short and skinny version of this is the Manufacturers supply pistons, rods, cranks, and heads to NHRA. NHRA measures everything from weight, volume, and dimensions on the parts then sends them to a Brodix or Dart to engrave a unique CNC code on all of these parts (much like Racesaver Sprint Car Engines where Brodix manufactures the heads). Blocks and Cylinder Heads are engraved with an ID linking all the parts together along with a unique RFID sticker. In case of a new record or protest the engines will be torn down and the I.D. Engravings on the crank, rods, and pistons will be found. After each run a tech inspector scans the unique RFID tags and stickers in a simple “Pass-Fail” inspection. RFID Seals will be placed on the cylinder heads-to-block and block-to-oil pan. If a seal is broken all parts mentioned must be inspected once again and the process is repeated and pays a $500 fine (goes into points fund). First five seal breaks are free. If engine fails it is immediately turned into the NHRA and a new engine is allocated to that team. Manufacturer will be allowed to claim 5 total engine failures and Complete Engine Seal Breaks before fines incur. After five broken seals the fine steps up to $50k (into the points fund). Only the NHRA will have access to the RFID Codes & Seals. The throttle body, headers, intake, cam, and valve spring package is completely up to the Team/Manufacturer. Best part is, the MANUFACTURERS OWN AND BUILD THEIR ENGINES. Just like Toyota Racing Development. Teams only lease them for a season at $50k a piece (better than $35k a race). At the end of the year all engines must be returned with seals in tact. If part I.D. numbers do not match, points money will not be paid and suspensions handled accordingly. It keeps everyone accountable. Any team found guilty of foul play with RFID tags or engravings faces three year suspension. Manufacturers must submit their parts for the next year no latter than October 1st. These are off the hip numbers, but the equation is there, just needs some fine tuning. There are some finer details to it but that’s the upfront idea.
This brings back the manufacture wars between these guys, it creates drama, and it makes for GREAT racing. All things that point to an amazing class where fans, racers, and manufacturers all win. When that happens the money follows and NHRA wins. Pro Stock used to be “The Working Man’s Class”. Now it’s the “My daddy has a lot of money” class. It’s not their fault, they didn’t pick to be born into wealth, but it’s true. We’ve lost the identity of Detroit supporting guys in T-Shirts and Blue Jeans on a big stage. Take a look at Street Outlaws. Why is it so popular? Because Joe the Plumber likes cars, and can relate to the drivers. Joe the Plumber can’t relate to Tanner Gray who’s family has to weigh cash in semi trucks to count it. I’ll say it again, I have nothing against it, it’s just not something everyone can understand. However the average American man can relate to working on a project until 2 A.M. Yes it’s a Professional Class but not a Gentleman’s Class where the winner receives a bouquet of roses. Once again a whole other article can be dedicated to this idea alone.
When it comes to a class sponsor to pay for tow money, deeper purses, and an “All Run Shootout” of the other 16 cars that didn’t qualify I know of a multi billion dollar company that supports two Pro Stock Cars, is growing rapidly, and the owner has refused staggering his salary for two years. I’ll let you guess who that is but the NHRA has the right phone number over there. They already dig this stuff. Who knows, with enough popularity maybe racers can earn rides based on talent alone again… just maybe.
Pulling the Chute
That’s it folks. The blame for this conundrum has fallen upon both the NHRA and the teams honestly. But the NHRA honors tradition, and the teams have a lot of money invested in their programs. That’s why this hasn’t happened yet, and they will both ride the sinking ship like honorable captains. The scenario is right, the timing couldn’t be better for drag racing to IMPROVE it’s professional door slammer category, and the class practically exists. There’s a million things left on the table for this to work, but it can. The only way it happens is if you the reader wants it to happen. Contact the NHRA and bash them over the head with it if you believe in it. If you don’t then contact them and tell them that. I personally hate to see 500″ Pro Stock Racing go away, I’m really gonna miss it, but there’s nothing we can do to save a class that can’t be saved. I feel bad for the countless people who have made this class a mixture of engineering, art, and courage. More importantly I feel sorry for the smaller teams owning 500″ stuff now. Whatever you do, good luck.
Until next time keep it shinny side up,