The National Hot Rod Association, or NHRA, recently made the most sweeping rule changes to the Pro Stock class since 1982, when they abandoned the pounds-per-cubic-inch format.
The NHRA’s rule changes are a two-phase process. The first phase of the rule changes will be implemented at next weekend’s race at Sonoma Raceway, where the NHRA Sonoma Nationals are to be held.
The changes effective from Sonoma onward are designed to increase spectator appeal, and to enhance the overall pit experience for fans.
NHRA mandated that teams must back the cars into their respective pit spots with the engines uncovered for better visibility for the fans. Crew members can no longer touch the cars during burnouts. The final change is that it is now mandatory for teams to create automobile manufacturer identification headers on the windshield of the car (not to be confused with exhaust headers) that can be sized between 4.25-4.5 inches high.
Starting January 1, 2016, all Pro Stock teams will be required to equip their cars with electronically-controlled throttle body fuel injection. This will make the engines more relevant – some engines still use carburetors. To reduce and control the costs for the race teams, the NHRA is mandating a 10,500 rpm rev limiter be attached to the fuel injection systems.
In addition to this, the NHRA has required all Pro Stock teams to remove the hood scoops, and to shorten the length of their wheelie bars to a length that is specified by the NHRA Tech Department. These changes are designed to make the cars look more like their factory counterparts, and to boost spectator appeal with the unpredictability of the class, due to more “wheels-up” launches.
The NHRA has promised to work with their new TV partner FOX Sports to improve coverage of Pro Stock races, as well as team, driver, and technical features.
“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.”
My mom recently asked me what the differences were between circuit racing, drag racing, and oval racing. For those of us who aren’t race freaks, this may prove helpful. I know that it will prove helpful for my mom.
Drag racing is for all essential purposes, putting a big, powerful motor into a lightweight car, and adding other go-fast goodies to it, and then going to the drag strip and winning. Ok, I wish it was that simple. Many of the fast drag racing cars that you see going hundreds of mph down a straight 1/4 “drag strip” are purpose built. The fast, cool cars that everybody loves are the Top Fuel dragsters. Those are the long, huge-engined cars that blast down the drag strip in just 5 seconds. But, there are also street-legal drag racers that are almost as quick. Hot Rod Magazine puts on an event every year called Hot Rod Drag Week. The fastest cars there in the Unlimited class consistently run low 7-second passes. It’s truly mind-boggling to watch a steel-bodied 1965 Chevrolet Nova II blast down the drag strip at 6.94 seconds. I have attached a video explaining the history of street legal drag racing, and I found it informative and fun. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TccUZOHuJuI
Circuit racing can mean two things. One is oval racing like NASCAR or IndyCar, which is not how I view it. The other is what they call “road-racing.” Road racing is essentially a twisty track paved with concrete, not sticky asphalt. It’s usually very fast, and it requires a lot of effort and concentration to wrangle a car around said track. Formula 1 runs many road courses every season, and NASCAR runs two road courses (Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen). But, the most well-recognized road race is the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as other endurance races. Road racing is taxing on the engine, transmission, suspension, and the driver. Darrell Waltrip (yeah, he’s the guy with the world-famous “Boogity, boogity, boogity) once said of Sonoma Raceway, “Floor the gas, upshift, mat the brakes, downshift, repeat.” That can be said for many road courses around the world. It’s not easy.
Oval racing is sometimes called circuit racing. I don’t know or care why. I just know that oval racing is NOT circuit racing. If you find out or know why, tell me. Anyhow, oval racing is NASCAR and IndyCar. It’s extremely fast, and it’s taxing on the driver. With NASCAR, pit stops are often between 8-20 seconds! Famous oval tracks are Daytona International Speedway, Talladega International Superspeedway, Bristol Raceway, and Darlington Raceway. Not only are all of those oval circuits fast, but they can have deadly consequences if you can’t get out of the way. Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s 2001 death at the Daytona 500 was a shock to the racing community, but it only highlighted just how deadly NASCAR is. Speeds reaching 200+ mph are common on these oval tracks. Bill Elliott once hit 210 mph at Talladega, which is a record that stands to this day.
Since I’m onto the different kinds of racing, I might as well do other kinds of racing.
Top-speed racing is kind of the thing nowadays. Standing mile events are common in several states, but the big top-speed races are at the Bonneville Salt Flats and El Mirage (El Mirage is a large dry lakebed in Southern California). The fastest run at Bonneville was 763 mph back in 1997, with Andy Green driving Thrust SSC. Not only did that break the sound barrier for the first time in a car, but Green is planning to hit 1,000 mph with Team Bloodhound SSC next year. Back to top-speed racing. It’s fast, and can be deadly. I have attached a Roadkill episode showing Freiburger and Finnegan chasing a top-speed record at Bonneville in a 1981 Chevrolet Camaro. It’s fast, funny, and surprisingly informative. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEcbwvNaxE8
Drifting is where you take a RWD car, pull the handbrake, and break the rear end loose. Professional drifters include Vaughan Gittin, Jr., Ken Gushi, Tanner Foust, and Ken Block, just to name a few. Drifting originated in Japan in the mid-1970s, and it’s become a popular sport ever since. Typical drifting machines are RWD vehicles with either a GM LS-Series engine, or a turbocharged Toyota engine. Drifters are people who like to make lots of tire smoke and dial in a lot of opposite lock into the steering. Drifting a RWD car should be simple: If it’s a new car, defeat the traction and stability controls. Then, find a big, open space (without curbs or trees!), floor it, pull up on the handbrake, and the rear end will hopefully break out. If and when it does, steer INTO the drift! Steering away from the drift will spin the car and make you look like an idiot. Steer into the drift, and apply more steering and throttle as needed. If you feel uncomfortable, tap the brakes enough to get the rear end of the car to step back into line a bit. Also, make sure that you don’t have expensive tires on. Drifting eats up the treads surprisingly quickly, and you probably know that Pirelli P Zero Corsas aren’t exactly cheap. I have attached yet another video done by the Motor Trend Channel talking about turbos vs. V8s and drifting. It gives a unique perspective into drifting, and it’s got a TON of tire smoke! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3H8ItG5SK9o
Rallying can mean a couple of things. One is where you are given directions and you drive your car on public roads to a destination. The kind of rallying that most of us are familiar with is WRC and GRC (World Rally Cross and Global Rally Cross). Those rally machines look stock, but don’t be fooled! Ken Block and Tanner Foust are both professional drifters and rally drivers. They both happen to be very good. Ken Block’s Ford Fiesta looks like a stock Fiesta with aggressive tires, and a wild paint job, and a loud exhaust note. It’s got a lowered, heavy-duty suspension, a 650-horsepower twin-turbocharged four-cylinder, and a six-speed manual. It is FAST! Ken also is a cool, nice guy who loves dogs. Especially Alaskan Huskies. His two Huskies’ names are Yuki and Bentley.
Autocrossing is often sanctioned by the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America), and it involves weaving a car in between traffic cones. It’s fast, and it’s demanding on the suspension and tires. Yet, people flock to it year after year. It also is hard on the driver. Some cars happen to be extremely good at autocrossing, and the Meyers Manx dune buggy in the late 1960s-1970s was very good. It was light, fast, and it stuck to pavement like nothing else. Nowadays, the Mazda Miata is the go-to choice for autocrossers. I’ve attached the most recent Roadkill episode, where Freiburger and Finnegan attempt to beat a Kia Rio5 with all of their cars that still run. I won’t spoil which cars win for you. I’ll let you watch and laugh as they spin and throttle the Crusher Camaro, I’ll even let you watch and grimace as Finnegan blows up the parking assist pin in his wife’s 1969 Chevrolet El Camino, and watch as God-knows-what comes flying out of their 1968 Dodge Charger. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=II3z353OZWA
I think that I’ve covered just about everything here. If you find anything else that you can think of, let me know in the comments section. I will do another blog post on the different types of racing. I would love to, as it would help me immensely.
I’m pretty sure that I’ll be getting some comments from you wonderful readers telling me that I am one lucky guy. I know that I am, thank you very much! You’re probably wondering why I’m so lucky. Allow me to explain.
In the beginning of March, my uncle set me up with one of his friends who was going to be lapping his 1970 Datsun 240Z at Sonoma Raceway. Emails were exchanged, and then we got to the track early. We saw the Z (pictures will be near the bottom of this post!), and went into that garage. The team mechanics were going through the checklist. I’ll be monkey’s uncle if I tell you that car didn’t sound amazing! It sounded wonderful! At idle, it had a burble that popped, hummed, whistled, and belched at the same time. Since it has such a high idle speed (2000 RPM, average), it’s kind of loud. At full throttle, it sounds like a Lamborghini Aventador, a Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, a motorcycle, and a Corvette ZR1. Life couldn’t be much better.
The owner and driver of the Z, David Martin, showed up, and we said hello. After a few minutes of talking, we went down to pit row and watched as David’s instructor, Ken, told him to do 10 warm up laps. We sat on the concrete barrier wall, and watched classic race cars go flying around the track. One team had a large trailer with about five classic Porsche 911’s and a couple of new ones. Next to us was a portable shade tent that was keeping a Can-Am Ferrari and a 375 America from 1956 from the harsh effects of the sun. The 375 was beautiful, and extremely fast. The Can-Am Ferrari was scarily fast.
In one of the garage stalls near us was a team with a 2005 Ford GT super car. They had a guy sitting there with a laptop computer analyzing everything about the car. When I say everything, I MEAN everything! The Can-Am Ferrari (don’t ask what it was – I don’t know!) was faster than the Ford GT, which knocked out 1 minute, 30 second laps.
At lunch, we talked with David’s instructor, Ken. Ken used to race everything from F1 to stock cars. His story is sad, but I can tell you something good about him: He’s one of the best drivers I’ve ever seen! After lunch, we had to wait for a bit because a car blew its engine on the final turn, and all the oil spilled out. We waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, cars were allowed back on the track. David waited until other cars had gone through where the oil slick was. Then, he headed out, but he went much slower those laps.
At about 2:00 PM, it was time for us to go. Sadly, track day was over. We said our goodbyes, and headed home. I think that you will enjoy the history of David’s Z. I’ll also share with you some pictures of him and his Z.
Here’s the history:
In 1974, Brad Fisselle made the decision to step up from the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) Professional Division to IMSA (International Motor Sports Association). he formed a full team and company, which was named Transcendental Racing. Transcendental Racing built, developed, tested, and raced their new creation. Their creation? A 1970 Datsun 240Z prototype for the IMSA Camel GT Series. In 1975, Brad had his first three professional victories and was awarded IMSA’s Most Improved Driver award, becoming the only man to win these coveted awards in both IMSA and the SCCA. He then went on to win eight out of the eleven races that his team entered in for the IMSA GTU series. During this time, Brad Fisselle beat the Datsun factory team many times.
This Datsun 240Z is the 1976 IMSA GT/U Championship car. The chassis of this car was the first 240Z imported to the United States in 1970. My dad had one of the original 240Z’s as his father did all the legal work for Datsun! Mac Tilton designed the suspension and built some of the specialized parts. The chassis, roll cage and body were all constructed by Dave Kent with assistance from Yoshi Suzuka. Yoshi was also responsible for the design of the aerodynamics on the car. John Knepp of Electramotive built the engine. Many of these businesses are long dead. In it’s day, this Datsun 240Z was the fastest and most technologically advanced car in IMSA and SCCA.
Sometime in the early 1990’s it was decided that a full restoration was needed. The car was starting to fall apart, and didn’t look as good. The team’s original captain, Joe Cavaglieri was hired for this task. The car was stripped down to the chassis, and rebuilt from the tires up to 1976 IMSA GTU specifications. Using development parts from the NISSAN GTP program, modern electronics, and new piston and cam designs the engine produces 400hp. Considering that this comes from a 2.0-liter inline six-cylinder, that’s quite impressive. No turbochargers or superchargers have ever been near this car.
In the day the team was the one of the very best in IMSA, the preparation of the car was always at the highest level, more like that of a top Indy Car team than a GTU team. The restoration was done with that same mindset. The car is absolutely perfect both cosmetically and in performance. The fit and finish, attention to detail and superb craftsmanship exhibited in this restoration is spectacular. Right now, the car is capable of winning a podium position at any classic car race, or winning a Best-in-Show at Pebble Beach. Since the completion of the restoration, the car has competed in the Mitty at Road Atlanta and the Monterey Historic Automobile Races plus two club events and one test day.
Here is a list of the championships that the car has competed in:
IMSA GT/U (Grand Touring Under 2.5L) 1975 Season Mid Ohio 2nd GTU (Pole Position) Laguna Seca 2nd GTU Mosport 1st GTU Mid America 1st GTU Talladega 1st GTU
1976 Season (IMSA GT/U Champion): Road Atlanta 1st, GTU 15 OA, Laguna Seca 2nd, GTU 10, OA Ontario 4th, GTU 12, OA Lime Rock, 1st GTU, OA Mid Ohio 1st, GTU 5, OA Daytona 250 1st, GTU 9, OA Sears Point 2nd, GTU 9, OA Talladega 1st, GTU 5, OA Pocono 1st, GTU 5, OA Road Atlanta 500 1st, GTU 8, OA with John Morton Daytona Final 1st GTU.
I’ll stop keeping the pictures from you, and share them with you.
I’d like to give many, many thanks to David Martin of Red Car Winery and the Martin Group for letting me hang around and watch him. I’d also like to say thanks to his awesome mechanics and instructor, who were kind enough to talk to me about racing throughout the day! Thanks to my amazing uncle who originally set me up with David! Thanks to David, his team, and my uncle, for letting me come with my dad so we could have an awesome day watching an awesome person drive an awesome car! Clearly, I had a great day. Told you I was lucky.