The NHRA Pro Modified series is losing another nitrous entry.
Team owner Rickie Smith, who manages the program for longtime nitrous racer Khalid alBalooshi, confirmed the successful driver plans to make the transition to a turbocharged entry following this weekend’s NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway.
“The new car will be here this weekend,” Smith said of the new Jerry Bickel-built Camaro. “We’ll test Monday and Tuesday, and come on to Atlanta with it.”
Smith announced last fall he was abandoning the nitrous combination to run a Steve Petty-tuned turbocharged combination.
Smith believes it’s just a matter of time before the nitrous combination becomes extinct in NHRA competition.
“I’ve begged them for a year almost, but really hard for six or seven months to do something,” Smith said. “They didn’t see no problem, so they going to see a problem. We’ll just see what happens. I’m just a dumb ass country boy that don’t know nothing. So we’ll see what happens.”
As far as nitrous engine builder Pat Musi is concerned, unless something changes with the rules, the nitrous-injected Pro Modified will soon be a thing of the past.
One could easily draw the conclusion that Smith and Musi are crying wolf, based on this season’s qualifying performances. In the first three races, only three nitrous cars have entered the event with the top entry qualifying a best fourth, second and seventh in those events.
“It ain’t no crying wolf,” Musi said. “I can tell you right now, they ain’t going to have no nitrous cars. If they don’t do something, we’re done. That’s as fast as we can go. If anybody thinks they can go faster, come out with it. Of course, we do have one guy who says he’s going to go 5.50 but I ain’t seen it yet. All I seen is smoke and aluminum.
“I’m telling you, if they don’t do something one way or another, you know, give us something, or slow them down … which I get it, you can’t slow the class down it looks like the way they think, then they got to give us something.”
NHRA made a rule change following the NHRA Gatornationals, granting the nitrous cars a 25-pound weight break, a move Musi says didn’t help the combination.
“We can’t get no more weight out of the cars,” Musi exclaimed.
In fact, some of the newer chassis being built, CompetitionPlus.com has learned, are carrying as much as 15 pounds more in tubing to fortify the chassis.
Musi, who is crew chief on Chad Green’s nitrous-injected entry, said he invites the NHRA’s tech department to his team’s car to show him where they can reduce weight.
“Every run I pulled up on the scales, I want NHRA tech here,” Musi said. “Where am I getting this 25 pounds out of the car that you gave us? We’re 30 over, and you want us to take another 25 out?”
Musi said the NHRA has teched their cars all season and he believes the NHRA’s parity adjustment is a slap in the face.
“Why do you give us a 25 pound weight break when you inspected our cars in tech a whole year last year and know damn well we can’t get no weight out of these cars, but you give us a 25 pound weight break?” Musi asked.
NHRA’s Ned Walliser has stated adamantly that the series wants the nitrous cars to be an integral part of the Pro Modified class. Any significant adjustments to the class such as increasing the displacement from 910 cubic inches to 959, would come at the soonest in 2020.
Musi believes the cubic inch bump up is the only option if NHRA hopes to keep the nitrous combination relevant.
“If we’re going to hang in there, we’ve got to have something,” Musi said. “Just let us have it and get it over with and lets run it. And I don’t know that that’s enough. But at least we’ll have something to work on, you know, and see what we can do. We need something.”
Walliser said the NHRA has discussed the idea of increasing displacement but the idea is not unanimous in the pits. NHRA is exploring all of the options.
“The 959 has been on the table from the Real Pro Mod Association. They’ve talked about it,” Walliser explained. “Some individuals there have, some don’t like that concept. The 910 guys that have always supported the NHRA and supported the Pro Mod deal on the NHRA tour, we’re not going to kick them in the teeth and never would.
“That said, if there is a way of incorporating the 959 as well as the 910, we’d look at that as well.”
How important is the nitrous combination in the NHRA Pro Modifed competition, Walliser was asked.
“We feel it is very important,” Walliser said without hesitation.
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019