John and Johnny Pluchino are the very definition of an underdog in big-time drag racing; they don’t have tons of funding and they do everything with the help of a small team. That doesn’t stop the Pluchinos from being competitive in the brutally difficult PDRA Extreme Pro Stock and Pro Outlaw 632 classes. For 2018 the team is making some upgrades to their program and have their eyes on winning class titles to show the world you don’t have to be a big-dog to have a nasty bite.
The Pluchino family racing team consists of John, who drives a Mustang in the Extreme Pro Stock class, and son, Johnny, who pilots a Ford Escort in the Pro Outlaw 632 class. John has multiple event wins under his belt and won the 2016 PDRA Extreme Pro Stock championship. Johnny won the first PDRA Outlaw 632 race, so the team knows what it takes to make it to the winner’s circle.
According to Johnny, the team has no problem being an underdog and taking on the biggest teams in the PDRA.
“We’re a small budget team who prides ourselves on being able to do a lot with a little. We raced for the last 10 years with the same engine in Pro Stock that was built in 2005 and didn’t have a spare. Being able to do something like that is unheard-of in Pro Stock these days. Our small crew is all volunteer; in fact, they pay their own way to the races. That’s dedication.”
The Pluchino team plans on making all the stops on the PDRA tour in 2018 with both of their Fords. With goals of winning championships in both cars this season, the team is stepping up their program across the board.
“The biggest change for this season is in our Pro Stock program. We purchased an updated engine that Jon Kaase is working on right now. The new engine will be using Kaase’s new Ford Hemi cylinder head design. This set of heads will require us to run the car a little bit differently, but the performance potential is much higher. We are looking forward to the challenge and making some big power,” Pulchino says.
Since the Pluchino family already has one PDRA Extreme Pro Stock title under their belt, they know how steep that mountain is to climb. You have to be nearly perfect and can’t be a car that’s just in the middle of the pack if you expect to win it all. The team is ready for the Pro Stock grind with their new combination and plans on challenging for the title.
“We will need to be a top three level car E.T.-wise and we will need to qualify up front in order to put ourselves in a good position come raceday. Then on raceday, the driver needs to consistently let the clutch out before the guy in the other lane. After racing with my father my whole life I can tell you if he has a good racecar behind him, and he is more than capable of getting the job done as a driver. Lastly, we can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. The easiest thing to do in this sport is to beat yourself, and we need to avoid doing that,” the younger Pluchino explains.
The Pluchinos have also been putting some work into their Pro Outlaw 632 program this offseason. Car owner Dominic Addeo has been working with Jon Kaase Racing Engines to develop a new mill to power the Escort. This will allow the team to really concentrate on putting more power down to the track and trying to unseat Dillon Voss as the PDRA Pro Outlaw 632 champion.
“When we ran in the past we didn’t have a purpose-built Outlaw 632 engine … we kind of just evolved into running the class. With PDRA’s support of the class, the level of competition is quickly becoming second to none. We’re going to do this the way we know best: naturally-aspirated. With that being said, we’re ready to send some nitrous teams home early in 2018,” Pulchino says.
Being a team that is underfunded poses a challenge for the Pluchinos, but they take it in stride and use it as fuel to motivate them. The team works hard and uses what resources they have to get the best possible performance out of both cars.
“The big challenge will be having the time to test as well as focus on both cars. We don’t have a 10-man crew where the driver worries about driving and the crew chief worries about making the right call. My father and I not only drive and tune the cars, we’re also doing the clutches, transmissions, data review, and so on every round. I would have a hard time believing there’s a harder-working team in drag racing,” Pluchino explains.
Having a strong team is what has made racing on a tight budget possible and Pluchino recognizes that. “Without the help of Bill Madden, Brud Beneke, Rob Madden, Anthony Addeo, and Dominic Addeo, none of this would be possible. These guys allow dad and I to play the role of co-crew chief on each car and get the driving done as well.”
You can see the Pluchino family kick off their 2018 season at GALOT Motorsports Park during the PDRA East Coast Nationals. All the racing from the East Coast Nationals will be broadcast live RIGHT HERE on Speedvideo.com. This broadcast is brought to you by Jerry Bickel Race Cars, Comp Cams, Driven Racing Oil, Moser Engineering, Flying A Motorsports, and Howard Cams.