The Mountain Motor Pro Stock contingent is full of optimism following their two-day exhibition i front of a packed house at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
Eight big-inch Pro Stock competitors, including John Montecalvo, Trevor Eman, Dwayne Rice, John Konigshofer, Dillon Voss, John DeFlorian, Brad Waddle, and Elijah Morton, participated in the class’ first-ever appearance at an NHRA Mello Yello Series national event, as part of what the NHRA has publicly disclosed as an exploratory initiative for potential integration into the traditional 500 cubic-inch Pro Stock program. The eight racers put down a series of 6.3- and 6.4-second laps at upwards of 220 mph on Saturday and Sunday at the sport’s most prestigious drag race, and the group says the response from the fans has been overwhelmingly positive.
The meeting was a general discussion about our concerns and some of their concerns. We would like to do this, they would like to do this, and I believe the 500-inch guys would like to do it, it’s just a matter of figuring out how. – John Montecalvo
On Sunday morning, the teams met with NHRA officials, who they say presented a number of potential scenarios to successfully integrate them into the Pro Stock category, and while a final decision and the technical details surrounding it are still forthcoming, the drivers, team owners, and their crews all walked away from the meeting hopeful for what 2019 has in store. While they say this development came about relatively quickly, a number of teams indicated to Dragzine that they have already begun seeking additional sponsorship that would allow them to compete with the NHRA next season.
John Montecalvo, one of the veteran members of the Mountain Motor fraternity and a former International Hot Rod Association Pro Stock champion, believes the NHRA and its Pro Stock teams are open to negotiating and developing a constructive plan to combine the two engine combinations and create a viable eliminator with greater options for all involved.
“The meeting was a general discussion about our concerns and some of their concerns. We would like to do this, they would like to do this, and I believe the 500-inch guys would like to do it, it’s just a matter of figuring out how. I don’t know their direction — I think everyone needs to sit back after this, as it came together rather quickly, and evaluate how the weekend went and take it from there. This isn’t something that is going to happen overnight, but I would say it has a good possibility of happening,” he explains.
Montecalvo continues, “We were very well received here by the fans, and well received by everyone from the NHRA. We were their guests, they opened the door for us and invited us in, and we’re very happy with how things went this weekend. It’s been a very open situation between us and them, and I expect that we’ll hear something from them in the next week or so and have more dialogue. Everybody would like to see it happen.”
Ohio native Dwayne Rice spent a number of years competing with the NHRA in Competition Eliminator, and the move would, in a sense, bring his career full circle. Following his NHRA tenure, Rice competed in the IHRA Pro Stock category during the 2000s and returned in 2014 to race with the ADRL and later the PDRA. Rice, quick to credit the PDRA for the professional program they’ve provided the class with, concedes that competing in the NHRA’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series remains the grandest and most coveted stage for drag racers, and one he he’s very much excited about the possibility of competing in.
While a host of t’s remain to be crossed and i’s to be dotted, this morning’s meeting left Rice highly optimistic.
“They’re [NHRA] going to try gathering a bunch of data and run us with with the 500-inch cars next year,” he says matter-of-factly of his takeaway from today’s discussions. “They said they’re looking at 2019, they’re not looking at 2020. They haven’t said that it’s a done deal, but they presented a lot of information. They said the 500-inch teams, that it was their idea, and that they’re very welcoming of us.”
Rice says they have been provided with Sunoco race fuel — the spec racing fuel brand in Pro Stock — to dyno their engines with to help the NHRA in its ongoing data-gathering efforts.
“They’re talking about putting rpm limits on us, easing up the rpm limits on them. Maybe letting them have the scoops or whatever carburetor or fuel injection they want. They said everything is open and they’re welcoming of any suggestions and data, and if it does come together, it’s going to be like Pro Modified was, where the combinations are closely monitored and changes are made on a per-race basis until they get the parity fine-tuned.”
The Extreme Pro Stock competitors have, as a means of limiting costs for the sake of the health and viability of the class, collectively agreed over the last several years to curb engine development costs — a gentleman’s agreement, if you will — but their potential participation in the NHRA could well change all of that. That fact — the required costs to meet the NHRA’s regulations and that to be competitive — ranks among the group’s primary concerns.
“That’s the unknown. We don’t know what kind of restrictions will be put on us. We’ve always done our best to contain costs within the class, and that’s why we’ve lasted so long,” says Montecalvo. “But what will happen [regarding development costs] remains to be seen … it’s the NHRA’s game, and it’s up to what they want to do. We’re open to whatever their suggestions are, and once they come up with a plan, I’m sure there will be a lot of conversation before things are finalized. If we feel their plan is reasonable, we’ll take it from there.”
“I’m the only wedge engine here, and it’s the fastest in the country, so I can’t say we aren’t going to throw a bunch of money at it. I have my blood, sweat and tears in this thing… every dime I have. It’s real … it has a real GM part number on it,” says Rice of his unique 840 cubic-inch Chevrolet wedge powerplant and the costs to make it competitive.
They said everything is open and they’re welcoming of any suggestions and data, and if it does come together, it’s going to be like Pro Modified was, where the combinations are closely monitored and changes are made on a per-race basis until they get the parity fine-tuned. – Dwayne Rice
Montecalvo, Rice, and the DeFlorian camp shared in no uncertain terms that, regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s exhibition, they intend to continue supporting the PDRA, which has provided their brand of Pro Stock racing a professionally-run venue in which to compete over the last several years.
“We definitely want to support the PDRA,” Montecalvo says. “We aren’t looking to desert them, but we’re definitely looking to do some races over here, too. I can’t do 24 races, but I could do quite a few.”
There are currently an estimated 28 Mountain Motor Pro Stock teams in existence (but not all are active) and Montecalvo says, if anything, the move to NHRA would promote greater participation among the big-inch racers.
“Some have been sitting home because they do want to run quarter-mile, and others just aren’t ready to come out, but the biggest thing I see is that it’s going to bring out more competitors. To me, if I was running Top Sportsman, I have the car…I go to Kaase, to Sonny’s, to Ron Miller, to Mike Allen — all four engine builders — buy a motor and be able to go Pro Stock racing. I think it’s going to bring in a lot of new competitors,” Montecalvo shares.
Race says with a considerable influx of sponsorship he’d be open to contesting a full 24-race schedule, but otherwise would target the East coast events.
“It will be interesting to see what they come up with. Pro Stock over here has been suffering we’ve been suffering, so if they add the Mountain Motors cars it might create a great situation for all of us,” Rice says.