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Written on a coaster from a 'dive bar' on Fremont Street, downtown Las Vegas
A couple of columns ago I wrote about the changes coming to drag racing. Little did I realize at that time just how much change is on the way.
In a period of approximately 72 hours:
1. The NHRA track in Memphis was closed by the owners, Dover Entertainment and the NHRA, which instead of finding another venue for the race, quickly reduced the number of national events from 24 to 23.
2. For the first time in NHRA history, three Top Fuel teams from outside North American qualified for the show and there were 25 Top Fuelers on hand.
3. Then came perhaps the biggest shock of my journalism career, as NNRA president Tom Compton stepped to the podium with Roger Burgess during the points banquet for the NHRA Pro Mod exhibition series and made the jaw-dropping announcement that Pro Modified would become a PROFESSIONAL NHRA class with its own ESPN TV show beginning in 2010.
I was working for Jim Oddy nine years ago when he proposed to Tom Compton, Bob DeVore and others at the NHRA that they bring Pro Mods in for a five-race, eight-car show and then watched as some of Tom Compton's management team absolutely refused to even consider the thought of making Pro Mod an NHRA professional class.
Frankly, I had given up hope that it could or would ever happen. Despite the massive amounts of time and money spent on the series by Dave Wood, Tommy Lipar, Mike Ashley, Tim Tindle, and others, the NHRA word was not only NO, but Hell No! The atmosphere was so poisonous regarding the Pro Mods ever becoming a class that Kenny Nowling, Dave Wood, and Tommy Lipar formed their own professional Pro Mod association, the ADRL.
In fact, as late as this year with the withdrawal of their then sponsors, JEGS, it took a last minute intervention with Tom Compton, John Serigusa, and Roger Burgess to secure the series for the 2009 season. To go from almost not having an NHRA Pro Mod exhibition series to suddenly being told that in 2010 the Pro Mods would become a professional series with its own dedicated ESPN half-hour show – well, that’s just mind-blowing.
I do believe the amount of money pouring into Pro Mods from the Middle East, the very good odds that even more could come into Pro Mod next year to give the Al-Anabi team some competition, and the drop in numbers of NHRA Pro Stocker teams coupled, with the virtual disintegration of the IHRA and its Pro Mod class all had something to do with the decision.