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News and Analysis
Many NHRA Stock and Super Stock racers (including DRO’s resident Stock Eliminator racer, Jok Nicholson) have been less than thrilled by the recently announced changes in the NHRA Stock and Super Stock contingency program. But the racers’ angst aside, it would seem to me that the efforts of the PAAC and especially Scooter Brothers and NHRA’s Graham Light actually kept the class-winner contingency programs for those classes from disappearing totally.
The PAAC is a small group of people, some racers, some manufacturers, some not even involved with NHRA that meet with NHRA officials four times a year to discuss and attempt to identify and solve NHRA issues as well as look into the future and try to make things better for NHRA, manufacturers, and racers.
Stock and Super Stock racers probably don’t know this, but the PAAC had actually been working on a plan for a couple of years to save class racing. Before Brothers, who, aside from his duties at Comp Cams is also the incoming Chairman of the Board of SEMA, and Light, NHRA’s Senior VP of Racing Operations, got together with the other PAAC members and came up with a preliminary (preliminary being the prime word here) restructuring of the Stock and Super Stock class eliminations and payout, there was a good chance that the manufacturers’ support of those class racers was going to disappear completely. Manufacturers had made it very plain to the NHRA that the cash payout for class winners just wasn’t doing the manufacturers any good financially or publicity-wise, and unless it got fixed they were done.
Almost everyone can agree that there are just too many classes in both Stock and Super Stock. Over the years, in an effort to please everyone, both classes went from relatively simple eliminators with cars being classed by their weight to factory-claimed horsepower and whether the car had a clutch or an automatic trans to a much more complicated program that no one but the racers really understand.
The two classes have become nightmares for the NHRA tech department. Those in charge of making sure every car is legal according to the rule book require a massive amount of knowledge about a hundred or more possible combinations with new classes being added each year. The variety boggles the mind and it is nothing short of amazing and an indication of their dedication that the NHRA tech guys have been able to police those classes up to this point.
And then there is the issue of the amount of time and man-hours it takes to run those Eliminators, especially at Indy, Gainesville, and Pomona, where the entry lists for a single Eliminator can approach 150 or more. Eliminations and class run-offs can go for days at those events.
One of the problems NHRA and IHRA drag racing faces is the increasing number of “professional touring” sportsman racers. Racers making a living as sportsman racers was something that neither Wally Parks nor anyone else ever considered would happen when they invented the Sportsman Eliminator classes. Who could foresee that there would be racers making a living racing Stock and Super Stock cars, and in the process, working every possible angle to improve their cash flow?
One example of working every angle is some Stock and Super Stock racers looking at national event pre-entry lists and then adding a little weight or making some other minor change so they can enter more than one class with the same car. Doing that could assure that racer the class winner money. In the past there were a lot of racers making singles in classes just to collect the cash. Since those two Eliminators bracket race after qualifying, it didn’t make a lot of difference what class a racer qualified in.
Scooter Brothers told me that when he totaled up the cash paid to Stock and Super Stock class winners for 2010 by the COMP Performance Group companies it was around $70,000, and Comp simply didn’t see enough benefit to the company to justify that amount.
In talking to some other manufacturers about this problem, he found the same reaction. They didn’t feel they were getting value for their dollars spent paying for class winners, and their solution was to just drop out of the program all together. However, if a more realistic plan were in place more companies agreed that they would take a look at joining in class posting.
That is where the NHRA enters the story. The PAAC, Charlie Nielson, and Brothers went to Graham Light and explained the problem.
“I want to say that prior to my working with Graham Light on this problem my opinion of Graham was that he was mainly interested in operations, getting the races run off, and making sure the Pro cars were taken care of with very little regard for the little guy,” Brothers admitted, “but working with him on this problem has changed my mind and I’ll tell you why.