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NHRA Pro Mod series close to reality?

By Jeff Burk

RO has heard enough from several reliable sources to believe that there will be a Pro Mod exhibition series in NHRA for at least the 2006 season and possibly beyond. This is good news for those racers trying to decide what races and with which sanctioning body they will attend next season.

It’s an open secret that Mike Ashley’s organization has been working very hard to convince the Toyo Tire Company to sponsor the series and, from what we are hearing, they are very close to closing the deal. I personally believe that Toyo, a company that obviously wants to have a much stronger presence in NHRA than they presently have, would benefit from a sponsorship of the NHRA Pro Mod program.

However, I don’t believe that the future of NHRA Pro Mod depends completely on the Toyo deal and here is why. Even if Ashley and his group cannot bring Toyo Tire to the table, I believe Ashley's group and some of the more wealthy NHRA-only Pro Mod owners will step up and fund the series. For some of these teams and owners racing at the IHRA or ADRL isn’t an option either for business reasons or their own egos.

Not racing at NHRA national events in 2006 probably isn’t an option for Mike Ashley's team or his sponsors. Since Ashley has raced minimally if at all with the IHRA in the past, it’s a good bet all his sponsorship is based upon him competing at NHRA events and could be voided if his team doesn’t race at NHRA national events. Rather than lose all of that funding outright, Ashley could put part of it into a fund to support the series and still be ahead.

Based upon my information I’m fairly certain that should the Ashley group not be able to secure a major title rights sponsor for the NHRA Pro Mod program they will solicit selected owners, sponsors and manufacturers to fund the program much like CART and other major series have in the past. I believe he may have already gotten commitments from some of the above to financially support the series.

I also think that whatever happens in the way of sponsorship, barring some person or company putting up the annual $800,000-$1,000,000 required to maintain the series status quo, the series structure will change drastically either in payout, number of races or both. My sources say that the Ashley group has already conducted a “straw poll” to see if those racers committed to racing in an NHRA-based series would race for less round money and prize money. The racers are willing to make concessions if that is what is needed to keep the series alive.

The only questions remaining in my mind is not if there is going to be a series, but where and how many races will be held and what kind of purse structure will the series have.

The series began as a five-race deal and as long as they get to race at Indy, E-Town, Dallas, and Las Vegas I think that would satisfy most sponsors. Because Mike Ashley has basically given his word to the NHRA Pro Mod community that there will be a series in 2006 and based upon his own commitment to his sponsors, there is little doubt in my mind that there will be an NHRA Pro Mod series in 2006.


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