Charles Carpenter Pro Modified statement

To the IHRA and all Pro Modified racers, fans, and supporters, There is a problem in the IHRA Pro Modified class. If you do not believe this, you only need to take one look at the list of stats and facts that we have compiled comparing the...

To the IHRA and all Pro Modified racers, fans, and supporters,

There is a problem in the IHRA Pro Modified class. If you do not believe this, you only need to take one look at the list of stats and facts that we have compiled comparing the class at this time last year with the current year. There are twice as many blown cars running in Pro Mod this year, and it seems like they are running twice as fast. That is an exaggeration, but the blowers have run away with the class this year, and a rule change to level the field has yet to be made. In fact, I am afraid the door has already closed for a nitrous car to win the championship or even come close. By writing this, I intend to clear up misconceptions, answer questions, provide information, and spur anyone who supports nitrous racing or Pro Modified as we know it, and have known it for all these years, to speak up and take action.

Before I go any further, I just want to state that this is not a personal attack on any blown pro mod racer, their crew, their sponsors, or anyone else involved with them. This matter is completely in the hands of the IHRA and it is their responsibility to address the issue. Blown pro mod racers have done absolutely nothing wrong; they are simply doing what they are able to under the current rules. I do not fault them in any way for this, nor do I hold any personal grudge against them, as some of my best longtime friends and competitors such as Ed Hoover, Quain Stott, Jim Oddy, and Scotty Cannon race blown cars. I do not wish to draw the ire of any blower teams, and I hope they can accept my comments and opinions just as objectively as those not involved with a blown car. Just like them, I want to race too.

The first thing I would like to address is some of the questions, misconceptions, and suggested changes I often hear. One misconception is that since Mike Castellana ran a 6.10 last year, all nitrous cars should be able to do that, and do it consistently. True, Mike did run that number, Shannon Jenkins ran a 6.12, and Jim Halsey has been a few 6.14s and 15s. The thing that is not realized by those making these comments is that those three cars far and away have the most funding available to them, and they have spent a ton of that money trying new things to make the nitrous cars go faster, with extremely limited success. On top of that, all three of those cars routinely hurt their motors to run those kinds of numbers, another thing the rest of the teams cannot afford to do on a regular basis in an effort just to keep up with the blowers, much less win a race. Bottom line: yes, those numbers have been run, but even Castellana, Jenkins, and Halsey do not have the ability to run them consistently.

The next misconception is that nitrous cars have a gradual application of power as compared to blowers, which are more of an instantaneous power burst. This could not be any further from the truth. Nitrous cars do have three, and in some cases four, stages of nitrous that come on as the car moves down the track, but these stages are instantaneous. Think of it as a light switch: the nitrous stage kicks in just like a light switch, instantly 100%. Have you ever heard a nitrous car test fire before it stages? That's exactly what is happening during the run. It's an instant power spike. It's not like a dimmer switch. So at two or three points in a run, you have an instant spike of power to try to control and apply to the track. As a result, nitrous cars are extremely finicky; one or two grams off on the clutch and you are pretty much done for; too much and you are going to shake the tires, too little and you aren't going to go fast enough to do anything. You have to be perfect. Couple this with our lighter weight, among other things, and you have a car that is very temperamental from track to track and run to run. Contrast that with blower cars, which are more of the dimmer switch if you want to use that analogy. Their boost comes in progressively through the RPM range, their heavy weight keeps them more stabilized, and their higher horsepower allows for more error in the clutch and everything else. Miss one of your two shift points a little, or even pedal it; no big deal. In nitrous cars we have three, and in some cases four, shift points that must be right on or the run is pretty much junk.

Work harder. That's what we hear all the time, too. They tell us that blower guys have worked harder to find their power, now do some work to find yours. The truth is that blower guys have worked to find their power, no doubt about it, but have had a great deal of help from all the classes higher than them on the food chain: top fuel, funny car, and all the alcohol classes. I like to call it "trickle-down technology". Alan Johnson or Austin Coil figure something out, and it trickles down to Pro Mod and they are able to expand on it and adapt it to their particular setup. All the millions and millions of dollars being pumped into the NHRA and IHRA fuel classes directly and indirectly helps blown Pro Mods. Us? We are at the top of our food chain. There is no other naturally aspirated class running faster than a nitrous Pro Mod. We have to do all of our research ourselves, with whatever limited funds available. Gene Fulton and Shannon Jenkins are at the pinnacle of our technology, and Shannon has told me that for the first time in his racing career, he has nothing left to try. He is fresh out of ways to try to make a nitrous car go faster. And he has tried everything. Trust me, we all have. The push system, nitrous systems, stages, plumbing, jetting, induction, chassis, gear ratios, hood scoops, aerodynamics, tires, suspension. The list could go on for days. All have been tried, all with extremely limited success and extremely high cost.

As far as engines, there is no way that nitrous will work on an IHRA Pro Stock motor. Those motors are at the breaking point already, before you add nitrous to them. The titanium rods and longer stroke, among a host of other things, simply will not allow this. You would kill the motor before it got out of first gear.

Along those same lines, raising our cubic inch limit would be futile. Want to talk about an expensive rule change? I can't think of a more costly one. The 738 cubic inch motors can't keep their sleeves round as it is, and it would only get worse. We lost a lot of durability going from 706 to 728 cubic inches, and even more going to 738. The power gain is almost not worth the durability loss, as you can see by taking a look at the qualifying sheet from Milan. The 728s and 706s have the ability to run within thousandths of the 738s. There may be more potential in the bigger motor, but it simply is not there at this moment.

Taking weight away from nitrous cars is absolutely not an option either. It is simply impossible to get any more weight off the cars. We already have every carbon fiber and titanium piece you can possibly think of. You just can't build any lighter of a car that is still safe and passes tech. My car weighs around 2460 lbs, which is one of lighter cars out there. There are a few that weigh less, but I can tell you that some of the quickest and fastest nitrous cars weigh more than mine does. Weight is not necessarily always bad, as it aids in getting cars down the racetrack consistently, and it honestly helps the blowers in a lot of cases to weigh as much as they do.

Since we are currently out of ways to speed a nitrous car up, it's on to things to do to a blown car to slow it down.

Though it certainly used to, heat or bad air does not slow the blown cars down anymore. This started to go away when IHRA first allowed the high helix blower, and is completely gone now. The reason for this is the new work they are doing to the superchargers themselves. They have machined and refined the supercharger case to dramatically reduce the friction in the blower, causing much less turbulence and, as a result, cooler air. When they ran the roots style blower, they did slow down in the heat. But this is no longer the case. Just take a look at the Drag Race Central archives for proof.

Speaking of archives, let's go back in time for a little while. When Pro Mod started, it was a nitrous class. Nitrous companies put up the money to get the class off the ground. Blown cars had no class. There were very few of them, and they were outlaw cars. Eventually they were allowed in, but they couldn't keep up. Scotty Cannon and Jim Oddy eventually made them competitive. Ever since that point, when Oddy got his stuff running and Scotty switched over to a blower, they have been the faster cars. Still, they gave them the high helix blower. Instantly there were more blower cars and they were almost all competitive, running near the top of the field. Then, Mopar wants IHRA to allow the Hemi before they will come on as a sponsor. Of course, IHRA lets them have the Hemi.

Jump back to today. They were already faster before they were given the high helix blower and the Hemi, and now they have just run away with it. The Hemi has taken over to the point that Glen Kerunsky is the last driver still running a Chevy wedge motor. I think that is a problem.

But there are more reasons other than the high helix and Hemi why there has been such a change in the class in less than one year's time. In an attempt to lure at least a couple big name nitro funny cars to their new class, IHRA re-arranged their event schedule so that it did not conflict with the NHRA's. Subsequently, all the blown Pro Mods that had to choose between IHRA and NHRA last year now can run both, and don't even have to worry about changing their setup because the NHRA AMS series adopted the IHRA's rules. End result: over twice as many blown cars showing up to IHRA events in 2006. Couple that with the lower initial cost of building a blown car (don't need all the expensive lightweight components, nitrous motors cost more than blower motors, etc.) and the relative ease of obtaining a setup that will run teens right off the trailer, and it's no surprise there are an absolute ton of blower cars out there. And can you blame them? If you were going to put your time, money, and effort into running one of these cars, why would you build a nitrous car right now? It's almost futile. Talk to any chassis builder and they can confirm this for you. They are building nothing but blower cars.

I'm not sure exactly who it is supposed to help or hurt, but the new body rule is one of the worst rule changes I have seen in a while. While we are all hot on this nitrous vs. blower controversy, they change a rule on the bodies? Very disappointing. Besides, as I stated to Competition Plus, if they don't make a rule change to level the field, there will be no confusion at all. There will be no nitrous cars left to confuse with a Pro Stock. No one will have a hard time differentiating between Mike Janis' Cobalt and Rick Jones' Cobalt, for example. This is an issue. The issue is that nitrous cars really are a dying breed.

As a result of all the things stated above, nitrous cars have been all but rooted out of the class they created.

IHRA says they do not see a problem. Stevie Wonder could see this problem.

IHRA says they don't want to make a mid-season rule change, but what sanctioning body doesn't change the rules to even the competition? NASCAR would change the rules on a pit-stop if they thought they could get away with it. They do it because good competition keeps the sponsors happy, and puts fans in the seats. People want to see side-by-side racing. They want the excitement of not knowing who is going to win the race before it has even started. They want the excitement of pulling for the underdog and seeing him or her come out on top. They want variety. These are all things that have been lacking in Pro Mod this year, and that were in such great abundance last year.

A perfect example of excellent rule-changing execution comes from the NHRA. When the Harleys first started running in Pro Stock Motorcycle, they were not competitive. NHRA gave and gave until they became competitive, and they actually started to dominate. The class became stale because you could bet the Harleys were going to qualify 1-2 and win. But what did the NHRA do? They took away and took away until the performance gap was closed. Now, any style of bike can win and the class is exciting. The Harleys still run up front, but it's a wide-open class. This is what Pro Mod needs to mirror. Blowers were allowed in. IHRA gave and gave until they became competitive. They started to dominate. The class has become stale because you can bet a blower is going to win. Now, IHRA, it is your turn to take away and take away until the performance gap is closed.

So what needs to done? I think the ultimate fix would be to split the class. You might lose those fans that watch pro mod to see blower vs. nitrous, but at least you wouldn't lose all the nitrous fans, which there are plenty of. In fact, I would be willing to bet that there is an equal amount if not more nitrous fans than blower fans out there. We hear from them all the time. Early in the year my son was talking to an IHRA official that shall remain anonymous. That official asked if we were going to switch to a blower. This was before the first race of the season! When Michael answered no, the response he got from the official was an emphatic "GOOD!" People want to see nitrous cars, and more of them. They do not want to see them completely vanish. If they did split the class, 15-20 more competitive nitrous cars that are sitting in shops or racing elsewhere during an IHRA national event would come out and race with the IHRA. People love rivalries. Whether it be the Yankees vs. the Red Sox, Chevy vs. Ford, Greg Anderson vs. WJ, or nitrous vs. blowers. If they split the class, the rivalry might not be as strong, but at least you wouldn't lose every single one of your nitrous fans, and you might even gain some.

However, I don't think IHRA would ever split the class. IHRA Pro Mod's namesake has been blower vs. nitrous for a long time, and I don't see them changing that. The only other option they have is to do something to the rules and do it soon. They are already about 3 or 4 races behind in making a rule change. As I said earlier, the season is already trashed for the nitrous cars, but if a change had been made earlier it wouldn't be this way. If they act now, at least they can still have nitrous cars showing up to their races and putting on a good show, and maybe even winning a race or two.

If they were to make a rule change, I'm convinced that it would not send the blowers to the back of the pack. It never has, and it's not what I or anyone else wants. We merely want competitive racing. When was the last time nitrous cars were the top 8, 9, or 10 qualifiers at several races? You'll have to dig way back in the archives to find that one. But that's not what we want. We don't want 1991. We want 2005, when the class was the most competitive it has ever been.

If IHRA doesn't make a change, you very well could see me along with many other nitrous racers such as Shannon Jenkins and Mike Castellana running a different series next season. If Kenny Nowling gets a few more races on his American Drag Racing League schedule and gets the purse for Pro Nitrous on par with Pro Extreme, I can't think of one nitrous team that isn't prepared to go run ADRL instead of IHRA next year if IHRA doesn't do something. This isn't a threat, just the facts. We may have a very viable alternative to IHRA next season, and instead of running both series, you may only find us at the ADRL.

As I stated earlier, this is not intended to stir controversy or anger anyone. This is my way of trying to open some eyes. The simple truth is that you probably wouldn't believe how serious I am about racing. It is not a hobby for me; it is my passion, and I have made many sacrifices and devoted my life to it for 31 years. It is also how I have made most of my living and supported my family since 1986. I, like all the other nitrous teams, have sponsors that support me, and I have to give them something in return. And that something is to see me run on Sunday. I just want to race. So does every other hard working nitrous team out there. We are competitors, in search of nothing but good, fair competition.

I have the support of many members of the racing community in writing and publishing this letter. This is not one man's rant or personal complaints towards the IHRA. This is a collection of thoughts, facts, and opinions shared by many of my peers and I for quite a while. I suppose I have been unofficially designated as the spokesman for this group. From this position, I urge you as a driver, team owner, crew member, sponsor, family member, supporting manufacturer, and most importantly a fan of Pro Modified racing or Pro Modified in general to let your voice be heard. You can do this by contacting the IHRA officials listed below by e-mail or by phone and give them your opinion and show your support.

We want just one thing. We want to race.

Sincerely,
     Charles Carpenter

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Series Drag
Drivers Mike Janis , Quain Stott , Scotty Cannon , Ed Hoover , Shannon Jenkins , Kenny Nowling , Jim Halsey , Glen Kerunsky , Austin Coil