With the rising cost of drag racing inspiring creative scheduling, the NHRA has used a rotating system to showcase a variety of popular part-time classes.
That’s how Jessica Hatcher, senior director of public relations and communications, and the NHRA staff like to spin it.
“In order to give fans a unique experience, we do try to keep a balance among these categories throughout the year. We are also working to rotate these categories around a bit from season to season, so fans get exposure to all of these exciting competitors and get to see new things each year,” she said.
But it’s actually not designed or billed as a rotating schedule. That’s simply an opportune function of a handful of developing series under the NHRA umbrella. However, it evolved, the system seems to blend into the economic landscape and appears to have enhanced the appeal of each category.
In reality, the Pro Stock class — a mainstay in the professional Mello Yello Drag Racing Series with its rich history that helped define the sport and its post-war car-craze origins — is the only one that has scaled back this season. And that has proven to be a step in the right direction.
The nitromethane-fueled Top Fuel and Funny Car categories headline the sport. Along with classes in the sportsman-level Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, they compete during all 24 events.
In addition, several popular categories compete exclusively at NHRA national events but not at all 24. Those are the Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle, Pro Modified, Factory Stock Showdown, Top Fuel Harley and Mountain Motor Pro Stock divisions.
Pro Stock bikes traditionally make between 14-17 appearances per season and that limited schedule has never caused a stir with calls for more or fewer events.
Dynamic paint schemes, throwback hood scoops and wheel stands that last for the first 100 feet of a launch add mystique to the massive engine power of the Mountain Motor Pro Stock cars. These powerplants boast between 818- and 840-cubic-inch-displacement, far greater than their NHRA Pro Stock cousins.
This class has run its four exhibitions this season after its NHRA debut during the 2018 U.S. Nationals.
The E3 Spark Plugs/J&A Service Pro Modified category has a 12-race schedule. The quasi-independent series expanded in 2017 from its original 10 races. It has attracted racers from the Middle East, Brazil and the Caribbean, as well as all regions of the U.S.
Rob Fisher, vice-president of motorsports for E3 Spark Plugs, called Pro Mod “the pinnacle of sportsman racing” and said he loves “the aggressive performance-orientated vibe.” He added, “The cars look like actual cars on the street, just stylized and even cooler. Where else are you going to see superchargers, nitrous and turbos going at it in an even platform? The best part about it from our standpoint is you have to get up on the wheel and drive these cars. It is nothing to see a guy working the wheel down the track going sideways and they stay in it.”