BURK'S BLAST w/editor Jeff Burk

Pro Stock and So Many Other Things to Wonder About…

When the NHRA recently announced they would reduce the number of Pro Stock qualifying slots from 16 to eight at nine selected NHRA events next season you might have thought from the Pro Stock community’s knee-jerk reaction that the NHRA had announced a “death sentence” for the class. [ED NOTE: The disastrous legal/PR experience NHRA suffered after dropping the Pro Stock Truck class causes many people to believe the NHRA will never officially “kill” another class with the word “professional” attached to its title.]


In 2018 the P/S class be raced at all 24 national events just as they have for decades, but at nine of the events, there will only be eight Pro Stocks in eliminations. That is probably welcome news to the field-fillers in the class who can now plan a 15-race season instead of 24. I submit that the Pro Stock class racers and owners have a much better program extant with an NHRA-paid guaranteed purse, prime coverage on the FS1 broadcasts and that plan is much better than any other of the other NHRA professional doorslammer classes currently have or are offered.


Not having a fully qualified field in a professional class is what they refer to in politics as “bad optics”. It just looks bad to potential investors, advertisers, and fans on TV and in the stands.


Short fields in any professional class makes the class appear weak. I suspect many fans would prefer to see a full eight-car qualified field rather than any short field where racers advance to the next round unopposed.


If the NHRA wanted to they could easily marginalize any pro class just by lessening TV coverage of the class, reducing the number of qualifying sessions, making teams pay an entry fee in advance for the entire season. In other words, NHRA could tell the Pro Stock class they will have the same deal the Pro Mod class has, as the Pro Mod racers themselves financially support the class by paying their own purses and only the winner and runner-up at a National Event get paid.


There could be benefits for fans of and teams in the Pro Stock class from the NHRA’s decision especially considering that in recent years a real qualifying battle between Pro Stock teams has been as rare as a $6.00 beer at a national event.


Quite a few of the NHRA events where the Pro Stock field has been reduced to eight cars are part of the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship that could prove very interesting. Consider that 10 cars qualify for the Championship and at those nine races there will be only eight qualifying spots and one less round win to gain those valuable countdown points.


Qualifying for the eight-car field races prior to the U.S. Nationals should be both dramatic and entertaining -- something long missing in the class for the average non-Pro Stock geek drag racing fan.


There is another benefit for the “budget” racers in Pro Stock. They could plan for a 15-race season knowing that they would still be able to race and most likely qualify at Gainesville, Indy, and the two Pomona races for their sponsors.


I started covering NHRA national events in 1975. I was eat-up with Pro Stock and the very real battle to break the six-second or 200mph barrier in Pro Stock. The rivalries between the Johnsons and Gliddens were hugely entertaining. The Big Three automakers in Detroit all had sponsored teams or had a backdoor program in Pro Stock for selected teams. But despite all of that real race fan friendly drama, Pro Stock couldn’t hold the fans attention.


In those days the NHRA often ran the nitro classes first and ended the session with Pro Stock. What I noticed was that as soon as the last nitro cars went down the track the stands started emptying like a flushed toilet. Fans just didn’t hang around to watch the doorslammers. There is no way the Pro Stock racers or crew could have witnessed this because they were all either at the top end or towing back to the pits, blissfully ignorant of the fan exodus.


Whenever I or my peers like Jon Asher, Bret Kepner or Dave Wallace brought this up to Pro Stock teams they just chose to totally disbelieve what we all were witnessing. Sadly, they still are it appears.


Right now NHRA Pro Stock is a hobby for some very wealthy team owners who instead of golf or tennis chose drag racing as their recreation outlet. Those team owners are having a lot of fun and spending a lot of money on their hobby to try and beat one of the other wealthy owners on Sunday at an NHRA national event.


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Just Wondering … In 2017 through the St. Louis race the average number of entries in Top Fuel is 16.2! The fewest entries were at E-town where there were just 14, the most entries were at St. Louis with 20, and six events had short fields. Why doesn’t the NHRA save the smaller teams some money and reduce the number of qualifying sessions for the pro classes? How about one on Friday and two Saturday? Right now qualifying sessions are usually just practice for the well-funded mega teams and a financial drain for the smaller teams.


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Just Wondering … Arguably two of the most important races for outlaw doorslammers each year are held at South Georgia Motorsports Park and promoted by the flamboyant Donald Long. So why are there absolutely no pre- or post-race news releases from those races aside from Facebook? As long as that is the case the Donald Long races, racers and sponsors aren’t going to get the attention they deserve.


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Just Wondering … Who would have ever thought that in a span of around four decades the AHRA and IHRA drag racing sanctioning bodies would be history and the NHRA would be the last sanctioning body with nitro-burning Top Fuel and Funny Cars in North America?


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Just Wondering … NHRA Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock teams of any quality know that if they just show up at a national event they are 95% and often 100% certain of making the field and getting a check. Doesn’t that scenario suspiciously resemble a government entitlement program?


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Just Wondering … With the IHRA becoming a bracket racing-only program for 2018 I wonder if some of the former IHRA Super Stock/Stock racers will move over to the NHRA to race?


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Just Wondering … Will current IHRA president Mike Dunn be around to administrate a bracket racing program for IRGSE? I think Dunn and IRGSE management will find a way to part company amicably and Dunn will build a Nostalgia Funny Car. 

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