Testing before next week’s finale at Pomona could have provided drag racing’s big news items of the week, but instead they came courtesy of Bob Tasca, Ford, Larry Dixon, Austin Prock and the NHRA itself. Anne Proffit reports.
There’s no rest for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competitors between their penultimate and final races of the year. With 24 contests spreading from mid-February to mid-November, the Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle racers (the latter have 16 races, beginning at Gainesville each year) don’t always have time to stop and smell the roses. Even the off-season is short, necessitating preparation for the upcoming year as the current season is still in process.
Following the 17th annual Toyota NHRA Nationals on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, there was plenty to talk about in NHRA paddocks. There was quite a bit of joy in Pro Stock, whose relegation to an eight-car field in nine mid-year races was rescinded. The door-slammers will continue to run 16-car eliminations at all 24 2018 events.
During last Saturday’s final two qualifying sessions, where many in Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock dress up in Halloween costumes, the entire Elite Motorsports team, currently fielding Chevrolet Camaro racecars for two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders-Stevens, five-time champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., together with combined Vincent Nobile/Brian “Lump” Self entry, dressed in black t-shirts that read, “Pro Stock racers matter.” Did that do the trick? Likely not but it definitely made the point.
On Sunday, Eddie Krawiec won his seventh race of the Pro Stock Motorcycle campaign, using a Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Street Rod that looks different than the team’s previous V-Rod but had the same chassis and engine.
On Monday, Andrew Hines, the team’s five-time champion rolled out a new chassis for testing. The goal was to gain a 60-foot time in the 1.06-second range before putting the bike to bed for the winter. When this writer left the track, Hines was clocking 1.09-sec and wasn’t too pleased with it.
One guy who worked to earn his competition license in Funny Car on Monday was Austin Prock, son of Jimmy Prock, who was using the same chassis used by the late Eric Medlen, Robert Hight and Mike Neff to earn their licenses. He gained a fine appreciation for wrestling an 11,000-horsepower flopper: “It was not too bad. I struggled at first but got the hang of it. This is such more to handle than the A Fuel Dragster.”
On Tuesday, during the SEMA show in Las Vegas, it became apparent why both Bob Tasca III and his father, Bob II were both at the track throughout the weekend, into Monday and on the show grounds by Tuesday. Following a final Monday evening meeting, Tasca and Dave Pericak, (global director, Ford Performance) announced the revival of Tasca’s full-time NHRA career in a Ford Mustang. In his 10 years competing in NHRA’s Funny Car class, Tasca has earned four Wally winner’s trophies in 11 final rounds and has qualified for the Countdown to the Championship on three occasions.
Ford left the series after 2014, leaving Tasca’s team, 18-time champions John Force Racing and Team Wilkerson Racing without a cooperating manufacturer. Force moved his three Funny Car entries (John and Courtney Force, Robert Hight) and single Top Fuel entry for Brittany Force to Chevrolet. Tim Wilkerson continues to run a Ford Shelby Mustang and Tasca has made a few appearances each year in hopes of a return.
Speaking at the show Tasca confirmed, “This is something we have been working on for months now. We’re preparing for a full-season effort at the track but also ready to start working with our Ford partners to help reach their business goals, to help recruit technicians and mechanics for Ford dealerships by leveraging the NHRA platform.”
With his support from Ford Performance, Tasca’s team will focus on winning the title “for all the Ford fans that have supported our family and Ford since the 1960s.” Pericak, who as recently as last winter said an NHRA pro-class return was not on the table for Ford Performance, recognized the value of having the Tasca family move an NHRA program forward. “They’ve always been pioneers in racing and a leader in Ford vehicle and parts sales for many decades,” he said. “This partnership will only serve to strengthen that legacy.”
Top Fuel’s three-time NHRA champion, Larry Dixon has a new program that should appeal to race fans. Although lately more famous for his flying expertise in Gainesville two years ago, for conquering his throat cancer and, last weekend, for surviving a huge crash in the final round of Top Alcohol Funny Car, Dixon is debuting a new NitroX2 two-seater Top Fuel dragster that will give fans the ride of a lifetime.
The 62-race-winner will give fans a ride that promises an eighth-mile excursion in a 10,000-horsepower elongated dragster, with acceleration up to 4Gs and 250mph, he promises. Dixon has been working on this program, in conjunction with Traxxas, whose radio-control cars are a feature during downtime at all NHRA races, for more than two years. Check out the website www.larrydixonracing.com for info on Larry Dixon’s Traxxas Top Fuel Experience.
Dixon has already made many test runs with his all-new NitroX2 in preparation for the new program. For video footage click here.
In addition to the on-track activities, during the SEMA show NHRA announced Glen Cromwell will become the sanctioning body’s newest president effective the start of the year. Cromwell, whose approachability and love of the sport are keynotes of his career, takes over from Peter Clifford, who becomes NHRA’s first chief executive officer. Cromwell, who has been a member of the NHRA staff since 1997 and has been prominent in recent, successful marketing endeavors, has lately been leading the television and new media activities, along with NHRA’s owned racetracks.
The news of Cromwell’s promotion has been met with cheers from racers, suppliers and friends of the sport. A hands-on guy, Glen Cromwell will likely be seen working together with his crew members – as he has in the past – and doing all he can to advance the popularity and progressiveness of NHRA drag racing.