The prospect of racing a Mountain Motor Pro Stock at an NHRA Mello Yello Championship Drag Racing event is a daunting task. Having to do it four-wide just takes the process to another level altogether.
At least this is how John Montecalvo, the large displacement Pro Stock racer with the most seniority of his counterparts participating in the second of four scheduled exhibition events in 2019 during this weekend’s NGK Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway outside of Charlotte, NC.
“It’s going to be pretty interesting,” admitted Montecalvo, who has raced this style of Pro stock since the early 1990s. “I know when the event first started the fuel guys adjusted quickly, but it took some time for the Pro Stock cars to get the hang of it. It’s going to be crazy for us. Hopefully we can study it a bit, or hopefully, I can study a bit before I go up there and embarrass myself.”
There are expected to be 16 entries this weekend participating in the event, generating at least four quartets of drivers seeking a place in the eight-car field for Sunday’s eliminations.
Montecalvo believes the NHRA is going to allow these drivers a chance to “practice” staging the cars on Thursday without the cars being under fire.
‘Hopefully, we can just line up and get a feel for it anyway,” Montecalvo said.
Montecalvo admits as much as there is a level of intimidation about running four-wide, there’s also an equal measure of excitement.
“I think it’s anybody’s game,” Montecalvo predicts. “It could be embarrassing, but hey, that’s racing. I know the first time the 500-inch guys did it, it was complete chaos. I’m kind of expecting more of the same out of our group.”
John DeFlorian, the winner of both NHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stock events, admits he’s got his reservations.
“I’ve been telling everyone, I wonder how bad I will screw this one up,” DeFlorian said. “You’re racing NHRA, which is a big deal in itself, and then you get to Charlotte and there you are trying to stage. You watch it on television and see the veterans still have issues with it from time to time. Then you’ve got four of us who have never done it before. This ought to be an interesting affair.”
DeFlorian is one of the more decorated competitors in action this weekend with victories in both PDRA and the old IHRA. This weekend, he more concerned with making a mistake in staging than in maintaining his unblemished record.
“It’s funny I used to watch this when it first came out, and I used to jokingly say, ‘I sure am glad I don’t have to do that,” DeFlorian said with a chuckle. “And here I am. I’ve always been of the mindset; I don’t really need any more challenges in driving than I have now.
“I’m just going to try and not screw up, and do my very best. No matter what happens this weekend, I cannot help but feel humbled by the good fortunes we’ve had up to this point.”
Mountain Motor Pro Stock was the brainchild of former IHRA VP Ted Jones, who bucked the tradition of pounds per cubic inch Pro Stock first established by both the NHRA and AHRA. In 1977, Jones presented the new format to his Pro Stock teams urging them to run as large of displacement engine as they could fit between the fenders. The only stipulation is the engine manufacturer must match the car, the cars weigh 2350 pounds, and no nitrous oxide was allowed.
The format became an instant success, attracting as many 35 entries per event and providing the Bristol, Tenn., with its unique brand of factory hot rods.
In 1981, the leading competitors included Warren Johnson, Ronnie Sox, Rickie Smith, and Roy Hill.
Montecalvo said he could imagine a four-wide race with this legendary quartet. Known for their antics back in the day, Montecalvo believes such a historic match would be predictable.
“It probably ends in a fight,” Montecalvo declared. “Roy ain’t gonna stage, Rickie double-bulbs them, Ronnie leaves on all of them and WJ will out-horsepower them. It would have been a hell of a match – pure entertainment.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019