These changes are all in an effort to improve the racing and fan experience.
Perhaps all the talk about the imminent death of NHRA Pro Stock racing has been premature?
The National Hot Rod Association, which is eminently the largest single motorsports sanctioning body on the planet has long been accused of treating the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock category as a second cousin, neglecting the factory hot rods in favor of the powerful nitromethane-burning Top Fuel and Funny Car racers.
Through these changes we hope to provide a platform so the Pro Stock class can evolve from a technological standpoint, yet reconnect with its roots by generating more interest and appeal among spectators.
NHRA President Peter Clifford
Today, NHRA showed some love for the door slammers by making changes that will make the class far more relevant to all race fans and introduce the category to younger fans that might have been put off by the looks of the class, with its bulbous noses and minimal manufacturer identification.
For the fans
Starting with the next event on the 24-race docket at Sonoma Raceway, Pro Stock competitors must back their cars into pit stalls and leave engines uncovered so that spectators - who are all welcomed in the pit area regardless of event ticket - can fully see the large-capacity, normally aspirated engines these cars run. This will make it easier for fans to interact with the drivers and the crew members that work on the cars. This will also change the culture of Pro Stock, which has been the most secretive of all Mello Yello classes.
In addition, starting with race No. 15 at Sonoma, crew members will no longer stand alongside the cars to hold them in place as they begin their burnouts. NHRA has made it mandatory, starting at Sonoma, for teams to create automobile manufacturer identification headers for windshields - to a maximum of 4.5 inches tall but no smaller than 4.25 inches - so that fans can tell whether they’re watching a Chevrolet, Dodge or Ford from the start-line. No longer will fans have to guess what type of car a competitor is running.
Electronic Fuel Injection
Finally, yes, finally NHRA is requiring teams to run electronically-controlled throttle body fuel injection systems starting with the 2016 racing season opener at Pomona. This is a change that’s been a long time coming and one that will make the Pro Stock cars far more relevant to fans and to racers. The use of EFI will also reduce and control costs for race teams that have had to keep stock of countless carburetors and jets. Another important cost-reducing program produces an NHRA-controlled rev limiter of 10,500 rpm that will be added to the fuel injection systems.
As a result of this change to electronically-controlled throttle body fuel injection systems, NHRA teams will no longer run hood scoops - and that, too will increase manufacturer identity for these cars, making them look like the Camaros, Dodge Darts and Ford Mustangs we see on American roads. NHRA will also reduce the length of wheelie bars (but the exact length hasn’t been determined at this point and could be made on a race-by-race basis). That, too will increase spectator appeal by increasing the unpredictability of the class through more “wheels up” launches at the starting line, always a spectator favorite.
As NHRA has a new television partner coming for the 2016 season in Fox Sports, the sanctioning organization intends to improve coverage, maximizing exposure of the Pro Stock category through increased driver and team profiles, together with technical features for what is the most innovative of all professional categories in professional drag racing. NHRA intends, through its in-house television production, to expand on-track racing coverage of Pro Stock.
“Pro Stock racing has a tremendous history with NHRA and proves each weekend by the close side-by-side finishes that it is one of the most competitive forms of racing in all of motorsports,” said Peter Clifford, NHRA president. “Through these changes we hope to provide a platform so the Pro Stock class can evolve from a technological standpoint, yet reconnect with its roots by generating more interest and appeal among spectators.”
These changes have certainly taken a long time but NHRA has been careful in its adoption of new technology for all of its categories. It’s about time and this sea change benefits everyone that loves drag racing and, in particular the incredible sport of Pro Stock.