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Watching the Outlaw Imports class at the recently completed World Street Nationals at Orlando and the crowd’s reaction got me to thinking about the NHRA’s Pro Stock class.
I remember attending the drags at Amarillo Dragway as a kid and the Super Stock classes - the precursor of Pro Stock - rivaled the nitro classes for the interest of the fans, racers and the press. In those days regulars like Jack Moss, Fenner Tubbs, and Don Gay had Super Stock Fords, Mopars, and Pontiacs sponsored by local or state dealers and they (more than the nitro cars) were the crowd favorites. That was a long time ago. Today Pro Stock just doesn’t have the glamour or attraction to fans it once had.
At the Orlando race there were a LOT of ticket buying customers who came to watch the Outlaw Imports only. It was obvious from the reaction of the crowd that all the brands represented had their own fans. More importantly, the cars and the engines powering them were easily recognized by those fans. The whole scene reminded me of the long-gone glory days of NHRA Super Stock and Pro Stock.
Nobody really likes change. Change often means pain, consternation, expense, and interruption. For the most part people are opposed to change, preferring to maintain the status quo and stay in a nice, safe rut.
Well, safe and in a rut is where Pro Stock -- the class that really introduced America’s big three automakers (including now defunct brands Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Mercury, and AMC) to the sport of drag racing -- wallows these days.
With the demise of Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Mercury, the NHRA Pro Stock class will be limited to Chevy, Mopar, or Ford bodied cars powered by an outdated 500-inch, gasoline-burning, aluminum V-8 that cannot be found in any current Detroit-built automobile.
Today’s NHRA or ADRL Pro Stocker resembles a factory-built passenger car about as much as a nitro-burning Funny Car does. The average American car buyer cannot relate to today’s Pro Stockers so the old catch phrase, win on Sunday, sell on Monday, just isn’t working. The result has been that the Detroit factories have all but abandoned NHRA Pro Stock.
Instead, their involvement in doorslammer racing has been targeted at building Stock Eliminator cars fifty at a time. Both Ford and Mopar have done this for the past few years while virtually withdrawing from the NHRA professional class of Pro Stock. Mopar has one factory-backed team (Allen Johnson) while Ford and GM have none.
Add to that the fact that NHRA steadfastly refuses to allow built-in-America brands like Toyota and Honda to participate, and you have a class that can only be described as elitist and stagnant.
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