NHRA still looking to pare Pro Stock schedule to 16 races
Where has the NHRA Pro Stock class heard this before?
Racers received a letter this weekend from incoming NHRA Vice President of Operations Josh Peterson during qualifying for the NHRA Toyota Nationals. It sought the drivers’ feedback to the notion of reducing the schedule in 2019 from 24 races to 16, with purses to remain the same.
The NHRA initially presented to the Professional Racers Organization [PRO] a proposal suggesting a reduced purse for a 24-race schedule in 2019 and a 2020 lineup of just 16 races.
Moreover, NHRA official have indicated the sanctioning body is considering limiting the fields to eight cars in 2019 or later, depending on whether the class can fill 16-car grids on a consistent basis.
All of this is what the NHRA tried to do last season, with an uproar from teams. This time around, drivers and team owners are providing mixed reaction.
NHRA President Glen Cromwell told Competition Plus, “We did send a letter to teams, but an official decision and announcement has not been made.”
It’s compiling feedback from the affected parties before finalizing any changes.
Matt Hartford said, "For a guy like me who only runs 16 races a year, I love it, because now I have a chance to race for a championship. If they had made it 24 races and cut the pay, I wouldn't have run at all."
Such a switch wouldn’t disturb Vincent Nobile, who works a variety of jobs in addition to racing. He said, “It makes it a lot easier. For someone like me, who doesn't only drag race, it's great. I have three jobs at home. For some of the guys out here, all they do is drag race. "
Richard Freeman, optimistic about the class despite some high-profile defections, was in favor of a more limited schedule. Current points leader Tanner Gray, 2015 NHRA Rookie of the Year Drew Skillman, and reigning champion Bo Butner won’t be back in 2019. But Freeman plans to enter some races, and Fernando Cuadra will compete along with at least one of his sons, saying this is the perfect time to invest in the iconic but beleaguered category. Pro Stock Motorcycle leader Matt Smith has said he will compete in Pro Stock next season.
"I think it is going to be great," Freeman said. "I think it needed to be done a long time ago. I'm not sure on the race count, but you've got to start somewhere. I would have preferred 18, but that's what [NHRA] wanted to do, and we will embrace it just like everything else. I think you will see an influx of participation. I think it has a lot of [Pro Stock teams] talking."
Freeman said customer Alex Laughlin joined Hartford and Nobile – also his associates – on board, as well.
"This is [NHRA's] sandbox, and we all have to play in it," Freeman said. "I'm fired up for the 16 races for me and my group."
KB / Summit Racing headliner Greg Anderson was a skunk at Freeman’s garden party, saying only, “I'm not happy about it all."
Nobile said, "It's not just Pro Stock that has struggled. I wish [class critics] would open their eyes. I understand it's not the most exciting car to go down the track [but] you have to appreciate Pro Stock in order to enjoy it. It takes a whole of time, research, and development to get these cars to go as fast as they go. We do make it down the track 99 percent of the time, and I understand the fans like to see wild and crazy things. That's not what Pro Stock is all about. It's about making the most of the little bit we have. We don't have 10,000 horsepower, so we make the most we have out of a little bit."
The NHRA has rewritten rules forcing the class in the past three years to junk carburetors, switch to electronic fuel injection, remove their distinguishing hood scoops, provide more open viewing access to the fans, and use a new fuel formula. The NHRA recently said it would not, as considered, invite Mountain Motor Pro Stock racers to join the class. But how much another change will affect these drivers remains to be seen.