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What's wrong with Super Stock?


he other day while sitting in my palatial office digs (Ha! -- You oughta see it), I stumbled across a 1968 vintage NHRA Rule Book. Two things happened: I realized how ancient I was, and how much one of my favorite NHRA categories has changed, and likely for the worse.

There's more too: In my book, Super Stock, and to a certain degree, Stock are being degraded by the NHRA - degraded to the point where competitive (read: "quick") cars won't count. Only bracket racing within the respective Eliminators will matter. No matter what the spin doctors from Glendora tell you, my guess is they don't really want these categories in the Rule Book, but there are just too many paying racers to placate. Evidence of this is the fact an easily policed category named "Top Sportsman" is being invited to the so-called Sportsnationals. Where have we heard this tune before?

But I digress. It certainly looks like SS is slated for obsolescence, particularly when you look at the rash of recent rules revisions. To me, it looks like all of these changes are designed to make technical inspection easier. Not all of this can be shouldered by the NHRA. Much of the eliminator came by way of evolution. And a good chunk of this expansion came by way of racer input. When I look at the 1968 Rule Book in my hands, there were a whopping six (6!) SS classes for sticks and another six classes for automatics: SS/A and SS/AA through SS/F and SS/FA. Super Stock was actually a part of Stock, which in turn, had twenty stick shift classes (A/S through U/S) and 14 automatic classes (A/SA through N/SA).

Now comes the crucial part: Super Stock was reserved for cars constructed in 1963 and newer (sports cars and sedan deliveries were excluded from competition). That meant there was a six-year inclusive window (1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1968) for cars in competition. The most critical is the fact that technical inspection only covered a six-year span. Equally important is the fact that the Detroit manufacturers weren't nearly as prolific as they are today. Only a few different types of vehicles took up space with the pages of the Classification Guide. Sure there were different models and, of course, different trim pieces, but typically, popular engine combinations tended to be brand wide.

Given this rather small cross section of potential cars, technical inspection wasn't that harrowing. But look at it today: You have everything from Modified Production to trucks to four cylinder "compacts" in the Eliminator. You have SS/GT with so-called modern cars (some of which are actually 24 years old) coupled with a bewildering array of potential engine combinations. Super Stock has literally morphed from a simple, easily understood and exciting eliminator into what most uninformed bystanders would consider as bureaucratic chaos. Where, in 1968, it was relatively easy for a tech inspector to look at a head and proclaim it was "stock", it isn't so easy today. After all, how many of today's tech officials really (and I mean really) know what a virgin 1963 Max Wedge head looks like, let alone a 1955 Chevy 265 head? More to the point, some of today's SS combinations are years older than (potential) up and coming tech department recruits. You really can't expect them to be on top of what amounts to almost a half-century worth of combinations.

Then you have to look at this mess from the racer's perspective. It's no secret that more than a few folks have quit racing in disgust. More will continue to do so. Rather than bang one's head into the wall week in and week out, it's a bunch more fun (and a whole bunch easier) to buy a jet ski to bomb around the lake on a warm Sunday afternoon or to swing a leg over a dirt bike and explore an unbeaten path on a Saturday morning. And you can't blame them. How, on a limited budget, is a little guy going to keep up with the constant rules revisions? How can he (or she) continuously keep up with bogus components and combinations that slide more or less unnoticed through tech? And why should a racer spend tens of thousands of dollars on a car that has the potential to win back nickels in comparison.

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