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What the hell happened to the Professional Racers Organization?
Traditionally most race car drivers and team owners have never had any strong representation between themselves and the racing sanctioning bodies. History shows that NASCAR and the NHRA have never allowed a strong driver/team owner organization to develop.
I’ve always hoped that the PRO was more than a country club for millionaire nitro team owners like Kenny Bernstein, Conrad Kalitta and Don Schumacher. I hoped that it might be a strong labor organization like the ones `professional baseball and football players have to represent and protect their best interests. But I was wrong!
So when PRO recently took a strong position regarding the four-wide racing at Bruton Smith’s Charlotte track where they condemned the four-wide racing as a circus act in a near unanimous vote and then leaked the information to the press (apparently without the knowledge of and to the consternation of PRO head Kenny Bernstein), it appeared that PRO was going to flex its collective muscles.
Then another letter from the PRO was widely circulated, addressed to NHRA President Tom Compton, that re-iterated that the members of the PRO were definitely not going to race four-wide for those precious Full Throttle points. The driver/owners’ issues in that letter were, again, safety, gimmicking up professional drag racing, lack of sponsor visibility and loss of “face time” on TV broadcasts due to one less round of eliminations.
There can be no doubt that the tone of that letter was confrontational regarding the NHRA, Bruton Smith and four-wide racing. PRO had thrown down the gauntlet.
The NHRA responded by having the NHRA VP of Competition publicly scold the PRO for taking a stand without talking to the NHRA management team first. He was miffed it appeared.
Then the NHRA announced that they would meet with the PRO at Las Vegas to straighten this matter out. Hot damn, I thought to myself, the stuff is about to hit the rotary cooling device.
As usual, I gave the PRO too much credit. On Saturday of the Vegas race the NHRA sent out a short press release saying that after a meeting between (I assume) PRO, NHRA and SMI executives it was decided that four-wide racing for Funny Car, Top Fuel, and Pro Stock would return to zMax Dragway next spring, “based on feedback from the fans, the racing community and sponsors,” according to Tom Compton.
There was nothing but deafening silence from the PRO regarding that decision.