By David G. Firestone
With all the changes that the NHRA has made to Pro Stock in the last few years, I have one question: Does the NHRA want Pro Stock to die? Based on everything I’ve been seeing, it would appear so. Let’s take a look at the changes
In 2015, it was announced that the naturally aspirated engines would be replaced by an electronic fuel injection engine. This was to be implemented in the 2016 season. The result was making them look more like their showroom counterparts. The hood scoops were popular among fans, so this didn’t sit well.
In the few months between 2015 and 2016, the teams were scrambling to assemble the new engines, which left very little time for off-season testing. Only one team, Ken Black Racing realized that dyno testing would be an effective replacement. For 2016, and 2017, the category was dominated by KB Racing.
2018 saw a desperate flailing of the NHRA to fix their own mistake. This came in the form of changing the long standing rule that the body and engine had to be made in the same shop. With the new rule, any eligible body/engine combo was acceptable. A new television package was announced, as was a shorter Pro Stock season, but nothing was made of it during the 2018 season.
The 2018 season saw a much better season, with numerous winners, and a good championship battle. While that was a great season, there were some issues. 2017 Champion Bo Butner, and 2018 Champion Tanner Gray announced they were leaving the sport at the end of the season. Butner would later change his mind, and would rejoin the category due to the shortened season.
2019 saw a decent start to the season. The on-track racing was good, and competitive. But the NHRA had to find a way to screw it up. Fox Sports decided, for reasons that escape me, that it would be a good thing to only show Top Fuel and Funny Car on some Sunday telecasts, and Pro Stock on Tuesday nights.
This has pissed off fans to no end, myself included. In addition to the pointless tape delay, Tuesday night is a major night for major television programs. So, if you like to watch different things, as most people do, you have to chose between normal programming or Pro Stock. Above and beyond that, I can’t imagine that the TV rating were great. The Sunday telecasts are good for ratings, so the new format isn’t going to work.
My take here is the basic logic that “if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.” The NHRA has expended so much effort fixing a non-broken Pro Stock, that the damage is such that the category will only continue to suffer. The reduced season, and the new television deal are steps in the wrong direction, and I can’t imagine that the NHRA wants to walk back to what works…which is sad.