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I spent four days at Carl Weisienger’s Orlando, Fla., track for his first annual Sport Compact heads-up only race and I have to tell you that I consider this race a glimpse of what NHRA Pro Stock racing ought to be (or at least be heading for).
The field was restricted to cars who went 10.99 or quicker with the only rules being that the cars had to meet NHRA safety specs and that no V-8 engines were allowed. There were 72 cars entered trying to make a 16-car field.
The bump for 16 cars ended up being a 7.59. Most of the quick cars had factory stock bodies, flat hoods with turbocharged and injected rotary or in-line four- and six-cylinder engines making up to 1,400 hp under their FLAT hoods. Wheelbases ranged from 89-91 inches for the Toyota Starlets (think Fuel Altereds with doors) to 106-inch wheelbases for late models.
The cars weigh from 1700 lbs to around 2250 and they all buzz the engines past 10,000 RPM routinely! The Starlets have run as quick as 6.80s at over 205 mph.
I think what I saw at the Orlando race is what NHRA Pro Stock should be. These cars have big races at Maryland International, Acto, and E-town annually. These are serious cars, drivers, and technicians racing heads up with no quarter asked or given.
The race and the racers at Orlando reminded me a lot of the early days of Pro Mod circa 1986 and I recommend you get to one of these races and check your V-8, 500-inch prejudice at the gate. Turbocharging, fuel injection, manually shifted five-speeds combined with six-second ETs and speeds over 200 mph -- Whoopee Nurse!
Did you know that every year they have a race at Atco, NJ, for these mini Pro Stock-type cars called the Pan American race? It is a heads-up event that pits sixteen cars from the Caribbean, who get invited to the race based upon points and performance, against the sixteen quickest qualified cars from the U.S. on that day. This race happens each year in July and I will damn sure be at the next one. What a great way to both promote the “Sport Compact” style of racing and drag racing period.
Why couldn’t the NHRA have a race like this every two or four years with the best of Europe and Australia versus the best from U.S.? Now that’s a race that the U.S. stick-and-ball media could get behind. It would be drag racing's equivalent of professional golf’s Ryder Cup. Even better, they could have the race at Indy one time and in Europe or Australia the next.
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