Here's a comprehensive look at the new Pro Stock EFI rules...
A bit more than two weeks after announcing a new set of 2016 rules for their factory hot rod class, Pro Stock, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) delineated many of the strictures that will change the look and feel of their most competitive and technically innovative category in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
During the Denver round of the three-race Western Swing, NHRA told competitors that, beginning with the first race of next season, they’ll get rid of the carburetors that have been fuel delivery for their 500 cubic inch engines since the class began, and Pro Stock will now use throttle body electronic fuel injection (EFI).
Holley to supply ECU
Today the supplier for Pro Stock’s EFI was revealed and, as most expected it’s a longtime partner for NHRA. Holley will supply the ECU and most other ancillary parts for the fuel injection - Bosch will supply injectors and Earls will produce the dry break coupler.
Holley, of course, has been exceptionally active in throttle body EFI, working with NASCAR and with ARCA on similar programs. They expect to have parts available for purchase immediately, engine builders within the series said. In addition to their EFI contributions, Holley will also supply the crank and camshaft sensors to racers. The throttle body itself must be a specific Holley part number that is a maximum of 25 square inches.
In making the announcement, NHRA included a good deal of information for the racers regarding Holley’s mandatory EFI HP ECU, including its features, specifications, manuals and diagrams that can help racers make certain changes to accept the new induction system.
NHRA also announced pricing of these parts - and most engine builders will buy at least two of each component for every engine; spares are always necessary. The EFI parts themselves, from Holley, both mandatory and recommended components come to under $4000 per engine. Some of the racers we’ve spoken to expect total costs of this changeover to be in the $20,000 range, which may or may not include the changes to bodies for the coming season.
Starting at the beginning of next year, all hoods must be OEM design and air intake will be located below the top of the front grille, with the current bulbous nose cones rendered obsolete. The balance of the changes, including the changes to wheelie bar length are still being contemplated. The latter change is intended to create more wheel stands at the hit for fan intrigue and interest.
Rules changes for the factory hot rods began with the second race of the three-race Western Swing at Sonoma Raceway (although most teams complied with some changes at Denver). The Pro Stock cars now face the paddock so that fans can see the engines, rather than having the engines facing the rear of each team’s garage area. The engines were supposed to be unconcealed but some teams still have their nose cones atop the carburetors and some still use towels, although that was specifically outlawed.
Another new rule that started with the Sonoma contest requires an automobile manufacturer identification header visible on the windshield, so that fans can tell a Chevrolet Camaro from a Dodge Dart (the only two manufacturers currently running), the latter identified with Mopar. A few competitors have older cars that resemble the Pontiac G6, and now the Pontiac name has reappeared on these windshield headers.
The biggest bone of contention for competitors in Pro Stock is the new-for-2016 hard limiter of 10,500 rpm. Although Graham Light, NHRA’s senior vice president of racing operations said the onus for change came after “input from race teams,” and that he’s been canvassing them for more than a year, “Obviously everybody’s opinions are different, based on what works for their combination, which is understandable.”
During the Sonoma race meeting, Pro Stock competitors went to Light and told him the 10,500 hard limiter will be extremely costly for them. Most teams are operating their engines in the 11,000 to 11,500 rpm range; a few race have engines that are running closer to 12,000 rpm.
Light said the 10,500 rpm rule “came from a number of lesser-financed Pro Stock teams, both currently here and also some that aren’t here but still have their equipment. They seem to think if there were a limit to the RPM, that might entice them out again and they would be competitive.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the faster you turn a motor, the more power it’s going to create, but you also go through parts faster. Hopefully that saves some attrition, allows some people to come back and play the game.”
The competitors feel otherwise, almost to the point of being a cohesive group in their discussions with the sanctioning body - something that rarely happens in any form of motorsport. The change will cost them money in top end parts and, even more important, for their rear end gears. They’ll have to make huge investments in rear ends when the rev limit is dropped by as much as 1,000 rpm or more and that could cause some teams on the fence to depart. Some, citing these pending changes, have already left the sport - whether they’ll return is anyone’s guess.
“The one consensus everybody we talked to was this: change is necessary,” Light said. “The category’s not really healthy right now… you’ve got 16 guys (and gals) and everybody wanted something different. We took that and we made what we think were rules that are in the best interest of the category as a whole.”
Time will tell.