The NMCA prides itself on being home to the best doorslammer racing on the planet. At any NMCA event, you can see a variety classes that include wild radial tire cars, Nostalgia Super Stockers, and Pro Mods all on the track. In 2016, the NMCA added another great category to the mix with their own version of the classic Pro Stock class. This new eliminator has everything a heads-up racing fan loves: screaming small blocks, less restrictive rules, and fresh faces ready to do battle. In short, this exciting new version of Pro Stock could forever change the landscape of naturally aspirated drag racing in the United States.
Before the time of power adders, going fast required a killer all-motor setup, and the kings of the naturally aspirated world were NHRA Pro Stock racers — legends like Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, Ronnie Sox, and Warren Johnson, who all banged gears while zinging their small-block powered machines to the moon. Now, the NMCA is taking this age-old formula for exciting racing, giving it a facelift, and putting it in the spotlight once again.
The Start Of Something New
According to Rollie Miller, General Manager of the NMCA, the origins of the new Pro Stock class actually came from outside the organization. “The class was the brainchild of Bob Book of Book Racing Engines. He approached Dave Werremeyer, our tech director at the time, with an idea of a heads-up, naturally aspirated class with small-blocks. Book then brought onboard Richard Maskin of Dart for support to help get the class rolling with the NMCA.”
The general idea of the NMCA Pro Stock class was to bring naturally aspirated racing back to the forefront of heads-up racing, and allow racers to have more freedom in how they built their combinations. To help move this along, the NMCA looked beyond the traditional idea of what a Pro Stock car is. Racers in the class will have the option to run any body style they want, as long as the chassis is up to spec for the class. This helps racers get into the game without having to invest a lot of money into a brand new, expensive chassis or body.
This change from the traditional NHRA Pro Stock body styles will help bring in some new blood to the class. “The goal was to attract naturally-aspirated racers from the Comp Eliminator ranks and other heads-up N/A classes who wanted to go really fast. Of course, putting the engines in a Pro Stock-style chassis would shift a lot of focus to the engine builders,” Miller says.
The concept for the NMCA class also came from a series in a different country, the Australian National Drag Racing Association (ANDRA). How that class performed on the track helped push the NMCA toward the ruleset they designed for their own class. “The ANDRA Pro Stock class had a significant amount of influence on the rules because that is the baddest small-block N/A class in the world,” Miller explains.
In 2016 the NMCA Pro Stock class provided very tight racing and wheels-up action at the events they participated in.
The ANDRA’s version of Pro Stock uses a smaller 400 cubic-inch base for their engines, compared to the traditional 500 cubic-inch motors you see in the NHRA. That doesn’t mean these motors aren’t mighty; they crank out nearly 2.75 horsepower per cubic inch.
NMCA Pro Stock hit the track as an exhibition class at the NMCA All-American Nationals in 2016 at Lucas Oil Raceway, followed by the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl, and finished out the year at the NMCA World Street Finals. These first few events showed the potential of this new class with several different body styles on display, along with some different powerplants in play. There were ex-NHRA Pro Stock cars in the fields, and even a 1953 Studebaker all competing at each event.
This is a drivers class, so you have to be good on your shift points to get the best elapsed time out of of the car. -Nino Cavallo
Long time drag racers like Steve Graham were attracted to the class because of the variety and the ANDRA Pro Stock roots the category offers. “Bob Book, who builds my Comp Eliminator engines, called me one day, and asked if I could get my car back to his shop in Illinois to run an engine he had built for this new class. I saw an opportunity I couldn’t pass up to be at the track with top shelf power and race at venues that normally I would never get to,” Graham says.
Out of the three events contested in 2016, Graham was right in the mix, as he was runner-up at the inaugural Indy event, and won the second at the Super Bowl by defeating Nino Cavallo.
When it comes to this new style of Pro Stock racing, Cavallo is no joke. He won the ANDRA Pro Stock title in 2015 and is looking to make a run at the NMCA title in 2017. “I just love the sound of a small-block screaming, and smashing that five-speed down the track. This is a driver’s class, so you have to be good on your shift points to get the best elapsed time out of of the car. It’s a great buzz for me to come and race over in the states. You guys are the best at this, and I love the challenge to compete against the best in the world,” Cavallo says of his love for the NMCA Pro Stock class.
There will also be new teams stepping into the mix, trying new combinations. Greg Hogue, Randy McMahon, and Al Weiss are teaming up to field an interesting car for the NMCA Pro Stock Class. McMahon will be piloting a 1986 Camaro that’s an old Don Ness Pro Stock chassis for the team. The car is owned by Stan and Matthew Thomas, and will use a motor that has been designed by Pro Stock legend Warren Johnson. Their combination will be different than most, and will highlight the innovation you can expect to see. The team will be using a Dart Next block filled with quality parts assembled by Tommy Keeter of KPE, and topping it off will be a set of Edelbrock LSR heads that have been worked over by Frankenstein Engineering Dynamics.
Heart Of The Beasts: The Engines In NMCA Pro Stock
The rules for the NMCA Pro Stock class have been kept relatively loose compared to most naturally aspirated heads-up classes. A 401 cubic-inch limit has been imposed and the engine blocks must use a factory bore space. The cylinder heads can only have two valves per-cylinder, but they can be made of aluminum or even billet. The make of the head must also match the make of the block, so racers can’t use a Hemi-style head on a Chevrolet block.
One thing is for sure about the NMCA version of Pro Stock: all ‘Big Three’ brands out of Detroit will be represented.
For induction, racers have the option of either using an EFI system or carburetors, and they can be made of billet, as well. VP Racing Fuels will be the only accepted fuel brand, however, racers can use whatever fuel offering they want from VP. One of the key rules is that the motors can only be spun to 11,000 rpm, but outside of that, the sky’s the limit for those who choose to compete in the class.
Engine development and innovation are going to be a huge part of NMCA Pro Stock, and that’s what I hope will be the attractive part of the class. – Bob Book
Having such a wide open set of rules will allow for NMCA Pro Stock competitors to use their imaginations when it comes to their engine. “It gives the engine builders freedom to think outside of the box, but without the need to tap into extremely exotic materials,” Miller says.
The NMCA Pro Stock powerplants may only be 400 cubic-inches, but they're still able to generate enough power to punch into the six-second zone.
Even with an open set of rules like these, there will be precautions put in place to help keep things from getting too out of control, according to Book. “You can’t come up with your own engine combination that you keep to yourself. If someone who is very intelligent, and has the financial backing like a Johnny Gray or KB Racing comes into this class and develops their own parts, they have to make them available to everyone in the class. That’s going to be something we really push to keep the playing field as as level as possible.”
Since the NMCAis allowing racers to mix and match motors with different chassis, there’s likely to be a wide range of engine combinations in play. “The most common engine will be the small-block Chevy, in some form or another, because there are so many different combinations out there for them. I would expect to see lots of Dart Iron Eagle blocks with heads from guys like Matt at MBE, CFE, and Slawko Racing Heads because of their experience in the Australian Pro Stock class. I also expect there will be a lot of Ford combinations, as well, based on how the rules are set up.The small-block Mopar is one of the most popular right now in the Australian class, and I expect that here, too,” Book says.
During the first few races the class had on the 2016 NMCA tour, racers were running in the low seven-second range at around 190 mph. Kevin Lawrence set the current class record at the NMCA World Finals, running a 6.97 at 197 mph in Nino Cavallo’s Dodge. Book seems to think the cars will be going much faster in 2017. “At the start of this year, I think we’ll see guys getting into the 6.80s very early. By the end of the year, I think you will see people dipping into the low 6.80s at close to 200 mph. After these teams get a handle on the cars and setups, things will get very interesting.”
With a set of rules that has large margins for interpretation, the door is wide open for innovation in this class for the motors. Never before have engine builders had the opportunity to do so much in naturally aspirated heads-up racing.
Steve Graham did well in 2016 with his Book-powered NMCA Pro Stock car. He was able to run in the low seven-second range and score a victory at the Super Bowl.
“Engine development and innovation are going to be a huge part of NMCA Pro Stock, and that’s what I hope will be the attractive part of the class. Really innovative and skilled people will shine in this class because it gives them the opportunity to be creative. When you look at this from a naturally aspirated class standpoint, allowing the billet parts and any form of induction has never been done, so they can go wild with new ideas,” Book says.
The Future Growth Of NMCA Pro Stock
NMCA Pro Stock is poised to see some big growth during the next few racing seasons. With the rules that have been crafted by the NMCA and Book, there’s a huge opportunity for racers from different classes to get involved.
The inside of a NMCA Pro Stock car is similar to the ANDRA or NHRA Pro Stock class cars, but they have a bit more flair!
“Competition Eliminator racers are capable of crossing in without an index to worry about bashing. There are a few Comp categories which are legal to come right in and race in our Pro Stock class. While not all combinations would be competitive, like say a 296 cubic-inch small-block Chevy, this class would be an excellent option to get some testing in before a national or divisional event,” Miller says.
Besides Competition Eliminator racers looking to go heads-up racing, this class provides an opportunity for traditional Pro Stock racers looking for a change. It can be a huge time and cost commitment for a racer to run the entire 24 race NHRA schedule. The NMCA Pro Stock class offers a six-race series that allows them to still win a title. “ While we can’t compare this class to the professional Pro Stock category, it’s certainly a great outlet for that type of racer who wants a fast N/A class, but doesn’t have the resources to go NHRA Pro Stock racing,” Miller explains.
The NMCA’s goal with their version of Pro Stock is to grow the class and to provide naturally aspirated racers a place to really show what their combination can do. Their passion to provide these racers a platform to race is unmatched, and the energy is real. Fans will get to experience the ultimate in naturally aspirated, gear-jamming, heads-up racing when the NMCA Pro Stock class hits the track again in 2017.