NHRA MOVES “MOUN­TAINS” TO SAVE PRO STOCK RAC­ING— AGAIN!

Big mo­tors to the res­cue?

Drag Racer - - Contents - Text by Jeff Burk Pho­tos by Ron Lewis

“WE ARE LOOK­ING FOR­WARD TO SEE­ING THE MOUN­TAIN MO­TOR PRO STOCK CLASS RUN AT AN NHRA NA­TIONAL EVENT,” SAID NHRA VICE PRES­I­DENT OF COM­PE­TI­TION NED WAL­LISER. “There's been some in­ter­est in in­cor­po­rat­ing these cars into our cur­rent Pro Stock field. In or­der to de­ter­mine if that's even a pos­si­bil­ity, we need to see these ma­chines per­form un­der the same con­di­tions as our Pro Stock cat­e­gory.”

That was the an­nounce­ment from NHRA's Com­pe­ti­tion De­part­ment just prior to this year's U.S. Na­tion­als. It caused al­most as much ex­cite­ment from for­mer IHRA Pro Stock rac­ers and their fans as when Pro Mod was an­nounced as an ex­hi­bi­tion class for the 2001 U.S. Na­tion­als. Based on con­ver­sa­tions be­tween NHRA and Pro Stock rac­ers, it ap­pears that, bar­ring some­thing un­fore­seen, NHRA will soon an­nounce it is adding “Moun­tain Mo­tor” to its Pro Stock class for 2019!

NHRA and its Pro Stock rac­ers have known for sev­eral years that the im­mense amount of money re­quired to build and race a com­pet­i­tive, 500-inch, big-block-pow­ered Pro Stock is hin­der­ing the class. At the end of the 2017 sea­son, the lack of full, 16-car Pro Stock fields at na­tional events was a prob­lem that needed to be ad­dressed.

NHRA's ini­tial so­lu­tion was to limit the num­ber of na­tional events at which Pro Stock would par­tic­i­pate or re­duce the qual­i­fy­ing fields from 16 to eight cars for the 2018 sea­son. Nei­ther was ac­cept­able to the Pro Stock teams.

In an at­tempt to keep the class rel­e­vant, the ma­jor play­ers in Pro Stock—KB Rac­ing, Gray Mo­tor­sports and the Elite Mo­tor­sports teams—re­port­edly guar­an­teed NHRA a min­i­mum of 16 en­tries at ev­ery na­tional event and agreed to race for a smaller purse. The re­sult has been full Pro Stock fields.

So, what caused NHRA to even con­sider al­low­ing Moun­tain Mo­tor Pro Stocks to be­come part of its pre­miere Pro Stock class? There are many fac­tors at play. These in­clude the fact that three of the NHRA star Pro Stock rac­ers are con­tem­plat­ing leav­ing the class at the end of 2018. The $45,000 per-event ex­pense of rent­ing a com­pet­i­tive 500-inch Pro Stock mo­tor for 24 races might also be an­other rea­son.

Ris­ing star, 19-year-old Tan­ner Gray, who is in con­tention to be the 2018 NHRA Pro

Stock World Cham­pion, is re­port­edly go­ing to give up his NHRA Pro Stock ca­reer to race in the NASCAR K&N late-model stock car se­ries in 2019. There is also a strong in­di­ca­tion that Drew Skill­man and 2017 NHRA Pro Stock World Champ Bo But­ner won't re­turn.

The like­li­hood of these teams be­ing re­placed by cur­rently le­gal 500-cu­bicinch en­trants is ex­tremely re­mote. Thus, NHRA de­cided that what the class needed was a big­ger pool of rac­ers from which to draw. The or­ga­ni­za­tion ap­proached the for­mer IHRA—now PDRA Moun­tain Mo­tor Pro Stock—teams to see if they had in­ter­est in com­pet­ing as an NHRA Pro Stock racer: They do!

So, what do cur­rent NHRA and Moun­tain Mo­tor Pro Stock rac­ers think about the idea of adding Moun­tain Mo­tor Pro Stocks to the cur­rent NHRA pro­gram?

We went to the U.S. Na­tion­als and talked to driv­ers and own­ers from both sides. Some of them wanted to go on the record; oth­ers didn't. We got some in­ter­est­ing and in­for­ma­tive an­swers.

GREG AN­DER­SON •

NHRA PRO STOCK SUM­MIT RAC­ING EQUIP­MENT/KB RAC­ING

“I'm all good with it. I like the con­cept; it's go­ing to throw a wrin­kle into it. It's go­ing to be hard to gov­ern them week to week to make sure they are equal. That will also bring at­ten­tion to the class. It will bring some­thing new to the class, some ex­cite­ment and some more cars to the class, and that's what we need. I don't see any neg­a­tives to it. We will just have to see down the road to make sure one group doesn't have an ad­van­tage over the other— that's the key. It brings va­ri­ety to the class, it's go­ing to bring at­ten­tion to the class. That's a good thing."

JOHN MONTECALVO •

MULTI-TIME IHRA PRO STOCK CHAM­PION

“We have been wel­comed here [to the U.S. Na­tion­als] with open arms. Ev­ery­one at NHRA has been very good to us. Our cars look a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, sound a lit­tle dif­fer­ent and bring some­thing new to the class. I'm sure you saw that all the NHRA guys were up there on the line, watch­ing us when we ran. I think mix­ing the two cars to­gether would be a good thing. Ev­ery­one wants a lit­tle con­tro­versy. With­out that, things get bor­ing. If they can find a way to make both kinds of cars com­pet­i­tive, I think it would be good for the

sport. If NHRA can give the 500-inch mo­tors a lit­tle and slow us down a lit­tle, and adding weight [to Moun­tain Mo­tor cars] is not even be­ing con­sid­ered, some peo­ple talked about that, but that is not the an­swer. Keep us where we don't have to make a bunch of changes.

“What it is go­ing to do is bring more peo­ple into the class. Some of these guys run­ning Top Sports­man are spend­ing a lot of money al­ready. If they can go down to Sonny [Leonard] or [Jon] Kaase and buy a mo­tor to run Pro Stock, they might want to come over here and run Greg An­der­son or who­ever and be part of a pro­fes­sional class with­out spend­ing a lot more money. I think some of those peo­ple might step up and go Pro Stock rac­ing.”

[Ed­i­tor's Note: We did some re­search, and the cost of a brand-new Sonny Leonard Moun­tain Mo­tor Pro Stock en­gine is ap­prox­i­mately $125,000, ready to race. We couldn't find a com­pet­i­tive 500-inch NHRA Pro Stock mo­tor for sale, but you can lease one for the sea­son ... for around $1,000,000 for 24 races.]

BO BUT­NER • 2017 NHRA PRO STOCK WORLD CHAM­PION

“We need to come in and be hon­est, run hard and see what these Moun­tain Mo­tor cars can run. It's hard to bring some­one in and slow them down; we need to speed up the 500inch cars. We need cars—what­ever it takes. If ev­ery­one will put their heads to­gether and get them close, it will work. We need to make the cars a lit­tle more un­pre­dictable and make our cars faster, and the fans will love it. I just don't know how many of those guys can run the full 24-race cir­cuit; I strug­gle with that. We need cars—pe­riod—so ... what­ever it takes.”

ROYCE FREE­MAN SR. • ELITE MO­TOR­SPORTS NHRA PRO STOCK

“I think it is the best thing in the world that could hap­pen to Pro Stock to com­bine these two groups of cars. We ran Moun­tain Mo­tors for five years be­fore we came to NHRA, so we know a lit­tle about those things. We will have to do a few things to the 500-inch mo­tors to make them faster; they can do two or three things to the Moun­tain Mo­tors to slow them down about 15 hun­dredths, do two or three things to the 500-inch mo­tor to pick them up 15 hun­dredths, and we are there.

“Give us [NHRA Pro Stocks] the hood scoop back and a cou­ple things. We can pick up 15 hun­dredths pretty easy with these mo­tors if NHRA will help us out a lit­tle bit. This ‘setup' we are run­ning right now ru­ined the class. Erica [En­ders] set the speed record at 215 with carbs; those Moun­tain Mo­tor cars are run­ning 220 to 221 out there to­day.

“The NHRA driv­ers are all for this. I haven't heard any­one against it. It will be a great deal for all of us. All we have to do is get NHRA to fig­ure out how to get them equal and make it a driver's race—who­ever lets the clutch out first. I know all those Moun­tain Mo­tor guys. They are good peo­ple. They want to run quar­ter-mile; those mo­tors aren't made for

eighth-mile. Those Moun­tain Mo­tor guys are in hog heaven here.

"They haven't been on a track like Indy. If you no­ticed when they ran, ev­ery NHRA driver was out there watch­ing those guys run to get an idea of what they can do. Right now, they are run­ning about 25 hun­dredths quicker than we are. Take a lit­tle from them and give us a lit­tle, and it will be great for the fans and for the class. We will do what­ever we can to help make this work.”

SCOTT “WOODY” WOODRUFF •

JEGS DI­REC­TOR OF ME­DIA AND MO­TOR­SPORTS

“I was per­son­ally very pleased with what I saw with my own eyes at Indy re­gard­ing the Moun­tain Mo­tor cars. There were a lot of eye­balls watch­ing these cars, and I think they put on a great show for their class. Ev­ery­thing from the way the cars sounded to how they looked could clearly be seen and heard as a dif­fer­ence to the cur­rent Pro Stock cars. NHRA has done a very good job with the par­ity in Pro Mod with three dif­fer­ent power-adders. I know that NHRA could also be suc­cess­ful in cre­at­ing par­ity if Moun­tain Mo­tors were in­cluded for use in NHRA Pro Stock. Hav­ing the cars run at Indy was good for ev­ery­one in­volved.”

CRE­AT­ING A LEVEL “PLAY­ING FIELD”

The in­clu­sion of Moun­tain Mo­tor Pro Stocks into the NHRA Pro Stock class is a mar­riage of ne­ces­sity. With­out the in­clu­sion of these en­trants, the fu­ture of NHRA Pro Stock in its cur­rent form is un­cer­tain. It has be­come a class made up al­most en­tirely of Ca­maros, where a driver's re­ac­tion times win more races than the car's per­for­mance.

So, to save the Pro Stock rac­ers and the class, NHRA es­sen­tially is con­sid­er­ing mak­ing ob­so­lete the in­sanely ex­pen­sive 500-inch Pro Stock cars by invit­ing the much more af­ford­able, quicker and faster Moun­tain Mo­tor Pro Stock­ers to the party. The fact that Ford Mus­tangs are com­pet­i­tive is a bonus for fans.

One other se­ri­ous ad­van­tage to a Moun­tain Mo­tor Pro Stock racer is that en­gines are eas­ily ob­tain­able and rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive com­pared to an NHRA-le­gal vari­ant. Sonny Leonard and Jon Kaase are the main en­gine builders for the Moun­tain Mo­tor rac­ers. A turnkey Sonny Leonard GM or a Jon Kaase Ford or Hemi is in the $125,000 range.

Ac­cord­ing to Pro Stock racer John DeFlo­rian (Jerry Haas Race Cars' lead fore­man), his Sonny Leonard Chevy is good for 30 laps be­fore it needs fresh­en­ing. We have heard the same in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the Kaase Fords.

The main is­sue NHRA faces go­ing for­ward is,

How will it slow down the 6.20/225 mph Moun­tain Mo­tor Pro Stock­ers and get the 6.40/210 mph, 500-inch NHRA cars more horse­power so they can com­pete?

We queried an en­gine builder (who asked not to be iden­ti­fied) con­nected with one of the NHRA en­gine leas­ing groups re­gard­ing the dis­par­ity be­tween the two en­gine types. Given the fact that 800-plus-inch Pro Stock mo­tors eas­ily make a lot more horse­power and torque than a 500-inch Pro Stock mo­tor, what could be done to equal­ize them?

His re­ply? If the NHRA re­moved some of the cur­rent re­stric­tions, the 500-inch mo­tors could make more power and be com­pet­i­tive. He said that al­low­ing big­ger-throt­tle body/fuel injectors, repo­si­tion­ing the lo­ca­tion of the in­jec­tor and do­ing away with the rev-lim­iter of

the 500-inch mo­tors would pick up an ex­tra 50 horse­power. He also thought the gas that Moun­tain Mo­tor rac­ers are us­ing would help the 500-inch cars make more power. He added that at higher el­e­va­tions, the 800-plus-cu­bic-inch mo­tors would have a big ad­van­tage over the 500-inch mo­tors, and they would have to fig­ure that out.

For­tu­nately for the Pro Stock teams and fans, NHRA should have no prob­lem cre­at­ing a level play­ing field for all con­cerned. This is be­cause it has been able to ac­com­plish ex­actly this feat with the Pro Mod class, which has three dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent en­gine com­bi­na­tions (blow­ers, tur­bos and ni­trous) com­pet­ing in one class.

One of the big con­cerns for the cur­rent NHRA Pro Stock teams is, Will this rule change solve the lack of en­tries that brought on the cur­rent Pro Stock sit­u­a­tion?

We be­lieve that hav­ing enough en­tries will be the very last prob­lem the NHRA has to solve. In the fu­ture, the class's prob­lem won't be lack of en­tries; rather, the prob­lem will be too many teams and not enough space. Will there be an in­flux of Moun­tain Mo­tor teams at­tend­ing all 24 na­tional events? Prob­a­bly not, but there will be many rac­ers who will go to 12 or 16 races a year, which will keep the fields more than full.

There are many wealthy hobby rac­ers in the NHRA Pro Mod and Top Sports­man classes who are spend­ing, or have in­vested, as much money in their pro­grams as some NHRA Pro Stock teams.

The Pro Mod teams get to call them­selves “pros,” but they don't get treated as such.

Pro Mod win­ners aren't in­vited onto the podium with NHRA pre­mier class win­ners at the con­clu­sion of each event. They get

The fu­ture of Pro Stock looks bet­ter than it has in 20 years. For the last three decades or so, GM and Chrysler have dom­i­nated Pro Stock ... The Ford brand will now be com­pet­i­tive with Chevy and Dodge in Pro Stock. Now, we will see “small-block” 500-inch Pro Stock­ers rac­ing against 800-plus-inch Pro Stock­ers.

lim­ited TV ex­po­sure from the NHRA broad­cast com­pared to what the Pro Stock rac­ers re­ceive.

Pro Mod teams are cur­rently ex­pected to en­ter all of a sea­son's races and pay the en­try fees in ad­vance. The Pro Mod or­ga­ni­za­tion's mem­bers are re­spon­si­ble not only for their own purse, they also have to de­liver to NHRA a $50,000 spon­sor for each race. Top Sports­man rac­ers face greater iden­tity is­sues. It is con­ceiv­able there are rac­ers in both those classes who would gladly take the op­por­tu­nity to en­joy the ben­e­fits of, and race in, one of NHRA's three elite pro classes and have the op­por­tu­nity to be on the win­ner's podium with the stars of the NHRA.

The fu­ture of Pro Stock looks bet­ter than it has in 20 years. For the last three decades or so, GM and Chrysler have dom­i­nated

Pro Stock. Ford-pow­ered

Pro Stocks with a chance to win dis­ap­peared when Bob Glid­den re­tired. The Ford brand will now be com­pet­i­tive with Chevy and Dodge in

Pro Stock. Now, we will see “small-block” 500-inch

Pro Stock­ers rac­ing against 800-plus-inch Pro Stock­ers. (Per­haps for­mer champ Allen John­son can be per­suaded to build an 800-inch Chrysler and re­turn to Pro Stock.)

Con­cern­ing the pos­si­ble fu­ture of NHRA Pro Stock fea­tur­ing a healthy in­jec­tion of Moun­tain Mo­tor Mad­ness— to quote ZZ Top: “The fu­ture's so bright, I gotta wear shades!”

NHRA in­vited a group of Moun­tain Mo­tor Pro Stocks to its Indy party, and John DeFlo­rian won the spe­cial event.

John Konigsh brought his Mus­tang to the Indy Pro Mod gather­ing.

What to pos­si­bly ex­pect when walk­ing through the NHRA Pro Stock pits in 2019—a Sonny Leonard 800-plus-cu­bic-inch Chevy; a Kaase 800-plus-cu­bicinch Ford; an Elite 500 cu­bic-inch GM

The NHRA Indy Long Dis­tance Award eas­ily went to Aruba's Trevor Eman.

A pre­view of U.S. Na­tion­als Pro Stock 2019? Dwayne Rice's Moun­tain Mo­tor Ca­maro lights 'em up.

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