Rivalries are a natural part of sports—New York Yankees vs. the Boston Red Sox, Rivalry Weekend for NCAA Football, and the mighty Ford vs. Chevy vs. Mopar. The battle between the Big Three automakers has always been a hotly debated topic among enthusiasts across all forms our of hobby, from weekly car shows to the Nitro Funny Car ranks. Anyone remember a few years ago when John Force Racing switched its Funny Cars from Ford to Chevy and Blue Oval loyalists got fired up about it? Yeah, it didn’t matter that a sticker pack with the Ford emblem, Mustang moniker, and some headlights/taillights were the closest thing to a Mustang, but the diehard fans cared. In the street legal drag racing segment it is called cross-breeding and the angst it causes enthusiasts of a particular brand can be amusing.
NHRA is taking the rivalry to another level in 2018 with its Pro Stock category by allowing any approved engine to be installed in any NHRA-legal body. We’ve all heard the rumblings and the joke that it isn’t Pro Stock but rather Pro Camaro due to the overwhelming number of those cars in competition. But our speculation is that it is more than just creating a visual variety in Pro Stock. In our opinion, the rule change is about allowing teams the option to employ a Chevrolet Performance DRCE engine, which seems to be the dominant combination, and not have to purchase a new rolling chassis. Does it matter? To many fans, yes it matters that the Dodge racecar features the all-mighty and popular Hemi engine and the potential for a Mustang to return to competition is great but it would be in name only. Pro Stock has had its fair share of negative press over the past few years, so hopefully this rule change will enable more teams to be competitive while adding a visual variety to the fans in the stands.
Below is the official NHRA press release regarding the rule changes, which includes some insight from chassis builder Jerry Haas about the aerodynamics and exciting possibilities this change enables.
In a history-making decision made at the request of the teams, NHRA will allow Pro Stock racers to run any currently approved engine combination in any currently approved body, regardless of the manufacturer, during the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
“The NHRA Technical Department worked very closely with the Pro Stock teams and the vehicle manufacturers in finalizing this rule change,” said NHRA Vice President-Technical Operations Glen Gray. “The cooperation from all of those involved in the process was very encouraging and we look forward to the 2018 Pro Stock season.”
The decision, which was announced today in a letter to Pro Stock teams, should provide fans with a wider variety of entries in the class, including more Dodge Darts and Ford Mustangs. Chevrolet Camaros have been the body style of choice the last several years; Dodge pilot Allen Johnson was the last non-Chevy driver to win the world championship, in 2012.
“Even before this announcement I’ve had some interest from people wanting to run Mustangs, and I’m sure that as soon as the announcement gets out there, I’ll get more calls and interest in the Dodges, too” said Jerry Haas, who has been building Pro Stock chassis for four decades. “All three of the body styles – Ford, Chevy, and Dodge – are so close aerodynamically that there’s no advantage or penalty for choosing your favorite. They’re all so close its unreal.”
While the current version of the Dodge Dart had several users the last couple of seasons, including Johnson, Deric Kramer, Alan Prusiensky, and V. Gaines, the newest version of the Mustang has yet to make its NHRA Pro Stock debut.
“The new Mustang is a very pretty car,” opined Haas. “It’s been ready for over a year and I think a lot of people, including Ford, are eager to see it out on the track.”
The other basic rules of the class remain. Body choice must be from a 2009 or later NHRA-accepted 2-door or 4-door coupe or sedan (domestic or foreign) production vehicle. Body, drivetrain, chassis, etc. may not be altered, modified, or relocated, except as outlined in Requirements & Specifications in the Rulebook. Minimum weight at conclusion of run: 2,350 pounds, including driver. Minimum weight on the rear axle at conclusion of run: 1,100 pounds, including driver.
The engine still must be an internal-combustion, reciprocating, naturally aspirated, single camshaft, 90-degree V-8 (i.e., cylinder bank must be at a 45-degree angle from the camshaft/crankshaft centerline, creating a combined 90-degree angle) automotive-type engine with a maximum 500 cid. Aftermarket blocks permitted if designed and cast with OEM approval, and currently accepted by NHRA.
Once an engine is used in a vehicle at an event, that engine cannot be used in another vehicle for the duration of the event. Engine shall consist short block and heads, and will be serialized or otherwise identified at each event.
NHRA also clarified a rule regarding the mandatory fuel-injection units, citing that no part of an injector may protrude above the runner flange into the plenum area.