Drag racing is a sport that, at least over the past half a century and change, has been somewhat defined by ‘fads’ — by the latest and greatest thing to come along. Classes have come and gone, and so too have the organizations that contested them. One moment something is the hot new thing, and the next it’s little more than an earmark in history.
But one constant throughout that period of time — and if the current state is any indication, for many more years to come — has been Pro Modified.
The class, birthed in 1990 by the International Hot Rod Association out of the no-holds-barred Top Sportsman Quick 8’s of the late 1980’s — has received a lot of praise over the years, and every last bit of it has been rightfully earned. But what it truly deserves credit for is just how well it has stood the test of time, despite the odds that would suggest it should have reached a crescendo years ago and began the slog back down the mountain to mediocrity. The leaders of the IHRA at the time certainly are owed significant credit for the vision that they carried out all those years ago, but many, many people have played a pivotal role in not just keeping Pro Modified alive, but taking it on a continual upward trajectory.
The IHRA remained the preeminent venue for Pro Modified racing throughout the 1990s, and even as late as 2003 it still wasn’t uncommon to see nearly 60 cars attempt to qualify for a 16-car field — something no other heads-up category in the sport has equaled in the last 30 years. Incredibly enough, despite the fact that such a showing at an IHRA event is, as said earlier, but an earmark in history, the class has only grown from that point.
Since that time, the NHRA, the ADRL, X-DRL, PDRA, NMCA, and countless other highly successful, more regional organizations dedicated partially or entirely to Pro Modified racing have come along, putting the eliminator on display in every nook and cranny of the nation — and the world — and providing racers with endless opportunities to compete. Sure, it’s fragmentation, but in this case, it’s in a positive way.
No longer are the staging lanes at Rockingham jammed with 50-plus cars in one class all attempting to make it into one field, but on any given weekend, there are Pro Mods racing, somewhere.
Consider that in 2016, more than 130 racers competed in the PDRA’s Pro Extreme, Pro Nitrous, and Pro Boost classes combined, and 41 different competitors entered at least one NHRA national event. And that’s only two series. From coast to coast, there are Pro Mods. And there’s plenty more in Australia, in Qatar, in Bahrain, Europe, and Brazil, making Pro Modified a truly international affair — one that is undeniably a staple and no longer a fad.
So popular has the NHRA’s 15-year old Pro Modified class become that many would-be racers find themselves in a logjam to gain entry — the 28-car fields (30 at Indy) filling up in a matter of hours. That the fields in every venue are on the upswing and another six-figure racecar is churned out of a chassis shop seemingly every day suggests that, like Top Fuel and Stock Eliminator, Pro Modified really is here for the long haul — somehow completely immune to the common trajectory in heads-up drag racing of an injection of money by a few pricing a once red-hot class right out of business. Maybe it was just the right idea in the right era, the right leadership involved from day one, or maybe, perhaps, Pro Modified is just that damn cool.
Actually, we’ll go with that last bit.