Last summer, chatter began to circulate regarding the possible inclusion of mountain motor Pro Stock cars — once the bread and butter of the beleaguered International Hot Rod Association — into the NHRA’s factory hot rod eliminator as a means to boost participation in the category. That, of course, did not come to fruition for the 2018 season, but nevertheless, the rumor has persisted — despite full 16-car fields at every national event to date and a level of competitive parity unlike that seen at any time in the modern era.
And while the NHRA isn’t suggesting such a concept is on or beyond the drawing board, they aren’t expressly denying that it is, either.
Jessica Hatcher, NHRA’s Senior Director of Public Relations and Communications, conceded that the organization has been in negotiations to conduct a mountain motor Pro Stock exhibition at the upcoming Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, the sport’s grandest stage. The exhibition would follow a similar format to those the series has conducted at Mello Yello Series national events over the last two seasons, involving regional programs such as no-prep, 8.5-inch tire cars, and the like.
We certainly want to continue to highlight different forms of racing through exhibitions like these, but that’s all that we’re hoping to accomplish at this point. – Jessica Hatcher, NHRA
“We’re still working on some scheduling issues for the exhibition. Indy is one of our busiest races and we like to do fun things for the fans there, so it’s been discussed to do an exhibition similar to what we’ve done with the big-tire and small-tire cars at other races this season,” Hatcher notes. “We certainly want to continue to highlight different forms of racing through exhibitions like these, but that’s all that we’re hoping to accomplish at this point.”
The question remains whether the motive behind this potential exhibition is to expose the NHRA fanbase to the 800-plus-cubic-inch machines prior to any decision to integrate them with the traditional 500-inch cars next year or beyond.
A Pro Stock crew chief whom we conferred with confirmed that the idea is indeed more than simply a rumor or some thoughts on the backside of a napkin, but nevertheless, the NHRA isn’t alluding to anything beyond their plans at Indianapolis. Said crew chief confirms he’s fully in favor of integration, as it would immediately spark the participation of Ford and Chrysler-branded vehicles and other engine platforms, such as those with the GM semi-hemispherical and Ford Boss Hemi cylinder head designs.
As a further consideration, the NHRA’s proposed exhibition could quietly serve as a means for the technical department to monitor the performance of the mountain motor cars in identical conditions to those of the 500-inch cars, providing a basis for rules structure should integration become reality. Our source noted, “we think they are about .3- to .35-seconds quicker than a 500-inch car. I think we would add weight to them and rpm-limit. Once we run on the same track and conditions we will know more. We’ll see what happens at Indy.”
The mountain motor cars have run almost exclusively over an eighth-mile distance in recent years, with the ADRL and PDRA, making their performance over the extra 660-feet somewhat of an unknown. The quarter-mile national record stands at 6.209, set by Pete Berner in 2010.
NHRA Pro Stock, downtrodden over the last decade by escalating costs and highly-diminished participation, reached its low point last October when the series revealed its intent to reduce the raceday field to eight cars at nearly a third of its events in 2018. In the days that followed, the racers successfully negotiated to maintain its 16-car format — and the results have been nothing short of positive, with full fields and nine different winners through the first 14 races of the season.
“Everything that I’ve heard about Pro Stock internally has been positive and we’re excited about the parity within the class,” Hatcher conveyed. “It’s been really cool to see so many different winners within this one category, and to see so much real competition throughout. It’s exciting, and I hope our fans are loving it as much as we are.
Hatcher added, “from the start, we listened to our racers and we moved forward with their plan and their support and it’s worked out for everyone involved.”