Drag Illustrated Issue 111, July 2016 | Page 32

Dirt Where Does Pro Mod Go from Here? NHRA’s Real Pro Mod group faces familiar challenges By Ainsley Jacobs P 32 | D r a g I l l u s t r a t e d | DragIllustrated.com MOVING FAST John Waldie (right) has been at the forefront of Real Pro Mod’s growth, working with his fellow board members to bring new teams and sponsors to the class, as well as maintaining the relationship between the group and NHRA, which is unique in all of drag racing. With three different power adders allowed in competition, Waldie is also often tasked with keeping the peace amongst highlycompetitive teams constantly working toward obtaining any measurable performance advantage. there’s enough interest and enough people who want to get involved, that it’s just a matter of time before the right deal gets inked. Rowe’s teammate, Steve Matusek, founder and president of fuel system manufacturer Aeromotive Inc., also points out a recent shake-up in NHRA top management has been a challenge, but he believes the California-based sanctioning body is now better focused than ever before, offering open discussion and no false promises. “Plain and simple, NHRA is a business. We want a chance to not kill the class. The others have major sponsors, and that’s the challenge that Pro Mod has—no major sponsor,” Matusek says. “We’re figuring out how to get multiple involvements so we can diversify how many people are contributing. That will give us strength as opposed to just one guy mandating policies, programs, etc.” Out on the track, the NHRA Pro Mod series has come a long way in a relatively short time. It wasn’t all that long ago that crashes were common and cars rarely made it down the track as intended. Now, Pro Mod features some of the closest competition in drag racing and the cars are relentlessly pushing the limits of what’s possible. “I believe Pro Mod is some of the most exciting racing out there,” says Rowe, who’s a huge fan of the varying power adders, body styles and outrageous performance associated with modern-day Pro Mod—attractions that most other eliminators just can’t match. For fans, Pro Mod also features readily accessible and approachable cars and drivers. There are no roped off areas; it’s common to see drivers signing autographs and taking photos of kids sitting in their cars. John Waldie, who has been instrumental in managing the ins and outs of the RPM organization, believes fan involvement is crucial to the class’ success. Issue 111 PHOTOS: NHRA / NATIONAL DRAGSTER, DRAG ILLUSTRATED ARCHIVES ro Mod racing has enjoyed a strong cult following since its inception more than 25-years ago. First it was the IHRA that embraced the wild doorslammers, debuting Pro Modified as an official class early in 1990 at Darlington, South Carolina. It flourished on the IHRA quarter mile, but also was contested over the eighth at countless outlaw strips throughout the Southeast. Then the ADRL stepped up in 2005 to split the power adders—supercharged and nitrous-boosted entries—for the first time in a national eighth-mile series and that effort morphed over the years to the current PDRA program. The IHRA abandoned quarter-mile Pro Mod competition after the 2009 season (since reestablished); however it was quickly picked up by NHRA and added to its 2010 schedule. For the first few years the NHRA Pro Mod series struggled somewhat to establish an identity within the “big show,” but late in 2013 at the SEMA trade show in Las Vegas the groundwork was laid for what would become the current Real Pro Mod (RPM) organization. In addition to several passionate advocates of Pro Mod racing, in attendance at the initial meeting were officials from NHRA, including then-president Tom Compton, Senior Vice President-Sales & Marketing Gary Darcy, and Senior Vice President-Racing Operations Graham Light. The group discussed the future of the Pro Mod class within NHRA, and developed RPM to spearhead the movement to ensure its continued success and longevity. It’s no secret the Pro Mod class has struggled to gain acceptance from NHRA, says Danny Rowe, owner and driver of the Agave Underground Tequila Pro Mod entry, but the reasons for that are complex and multi-faceted, he insists. Rowe has spearheaded much of the progress made by RPM and feels the class has gotten a bad rap despite best intentions. “A lot of people have come in to try and help, but many had their own agendas and it wasn’t necessarily with respect to what was good for the class and NHRA,” Rowe explains. “Our goal is to grow and build Pro Mod drag racing and make decisions that are the best for the class and its longevity.” Fortunately, sponsors have been taking note of what RPM has achieved with the class. The growth and popularity of Pro Mod in recent years, especially with fans, has been huge. Rowe believes