PRO STOCK: The small cars!

1972: Jenkins' Vega upsets Mopar-filled Pomona field

NHRA Winternationals, 1972, Pro Stock semi-finals: Pictured above is the first look at Bill Jenkins’ second Pro Stock innovation, a 1972 Chevrolet Vega, which took on a field of factory MOPARs, including the famous Motown Missle and prevailed! This is the small car’s story, from a west coast perspective.

When Bill Jenkins captured the first three Pro Stock races held in 1970, he cemented the ill-fated belief across the land that the new category was a competition open to the ‘big 3’ auto makers and that anyone could win. The brass at Chrysler had other ideas,. From the Gatornationals of ’70 to the Winternationals of ’72, the MOPAR line-up of factory sponsored cars totally dominated the fledgling new category.

Somehow Jenkins reasoned with a concened NHRA, and got the approval to race a smaller car, with a replacement engine, at 6.5 #s per cubic inch. (The long wheel base cars still had to weigh in at 7#s per inch.) The approval came just prior to the Pomona opener, so ‘Grumpy’ was thrust into action with his untried Vega. The quick little car lept off the line, and could run 9.60 times to the Mopar’s 9.80s.

Bill went on a winning spree during 1972 which left the Factory Sponsored Chrysler camp in total disarray. And when Jenkins did not win, there were three Ford Pintos which now could ‘run the numbers’: Don Nicholson, Wayne Gapp (Gapp and Rousch), and a new guy named Bob Glidden.

NHRA Winternationals, 1973: Bob Plumer caught the Nation’s acclaimed two quickest ‘small cars’ going side by side at Pomona. It is Bill Jenkins in his original Pro 100 Vega vs. the brand new ride of Paul Blevins.

This writer has no actual figures, but would estimate that by the time Jenkins finished with Don Grotheer and Don Carlton at Pomona, there were several hundred Vegas being planned across the land.  This is my observation of a few of the many, who added balance to a previously one-sided Pro Stock category.

So dominant became the small car, small motor combination, that by the Grand National Moulson in Montreal, 1973 (won by Butch Leal in a Duster), the Chrysler factory backed cars were no longer allowed to race national events in Pro Stock.