For GALOT Motorsports and Pro-Line Racing, the U.S. Nationals is going to be akin to being one of the teams playing on “Monday Night Football” in that all eyes in Pro Modified will be on their two cars.
Kevin Rivenbark and John Strickland will pilot the ProCharger-equipped Camaros during exhibition runs immediately following the four rounds of Pro Mod qualifying at Indianapolis. The GALOT teammates finished 1-2 in PDRA’s Pro Boost ranks in 2016 after sweeping all nine national events; Rivenbark won the title on the strength of six victories.
Rivenbark is the current PDRA Pro Boost points leader, and he and Strickland — a pair of racers from the southeastern North Carolina towns of Wallace and Harrells — have each won a PDRA event this season. Rivenbark was a semifinalist in a $50,000-to-win race at South Georgia Motorsports Park in ProCharger trim early in 2019, then returned to the track several weeks later to score a $101,000 victory for GALOT.
“Imagine getting stopped and trying to explain to a highway patrolman having a hundred K in the back seat,” Rivenbark said.
The Indianapolis exhibitions “will help us determine if this is a viable combination for the future,” said Ned Walliser, NHRA’s vice president of competition.
It seems unlikely that cars boosted by the centrifugal supercharger won’t be part of the Pro Mod program in 2020, according to the man who tunes those type cars for GALOT.
Steve Petty said he’s “hoping” that the ProCharger-boosted cars would be added to the class next season, adding that NHRA is “the ones that presented the idea to us to bring it for an exhibition.” NHRA Pro Mod already encompasses cars that get power boosts from Roots-type superchargers, turbochargers and nitrous oxide.
Petty added, “I’m sure they’d like to see the extra cars and a little more diversity. It was quite an expensive changeover for us to do it, and if there was no chance of us running it next year, there’s no way we would’ve put the money into the effort. So I feel pretty good about it.”
The GALOT team will get its first real quarter-mile test of their Camaros on Wednesday and Thursday at Virginia Motorsports Park.
Pro-Line co-owner Eric Dillard drove Strickland’s car in quarter-mile trim during the PDRA race held May 31-June 1 at Maryland International Raceway. (Strickland didn’t attend that race because he was competing with a GALOT entry in National Tractor Pullers Association event in Wisconsin. This past weekend in Bowling Green, Ohio, Strickland captured a fourth consecutive NTPA championship in the Super Stock Open division.)
Petty said that with Dillard behind the wheel in Strickland’s absence, the GALOT entry covered the quarter-mile distance in just under 5.80 seconds. Rivenbark said the speed topped 245 mph.
“I expect it to fully run competitive with the NHRA blower cars” in terms of performance at Indy, Petty said. “I ain’t gonna say first time out it’s going to be right there with a “Stevie Fast” (Jackson) or Todd Tutterow, but it’ll be a good middle-of-the-pack car. It’s like anything else, we’ll have to work to figure that combination out.”
So what’s got to be done to fit the car for NHRA trim at the test and at Indy?
“With the ProCharger car,” Rivenbark said, “we’re changing rear gears, transmission ratios, taking out the lock-up converter and having to add weight. It’s 2,525 pounds in PDRA and 2,600 in NHRA trim.”
The U.S. Nationals will be the culmination of an idea that began more than three months ago, Rivenbark said.
“At first, (NHRA) wanted data from us,” he said, “then decided the best thing to do is set some rules up and let us run in the same conditions as the (current Pro Mod) cars and see where we stack up.”
Indy will be Rivenbark’s second time in action at the U.S. Nationals. In his first trip to the event, in 2013, Rivenbark qualified 11th, won his first two rounds of eliminations, then got a starting-line jump of nearly .09 over Mike Janis in the semifinals but broke a connecting rod. Janis went on to beat Rickie Smith for drag racing’s most prestigious Wally.
“It’s a whole different feeling over there,” Rivenbark said of NHRA competition. “More structure, more people, and a lot more cars. It’s not the warm, cozy family feeling, but it is prestigious and that’s what it’s all about. Once I get the helmet on, it doesn’t make any difference whose race it is, it’s important to me.”
After Indy, the GALOT cars will be converted back to eighth-mile trim for the PDRA race the following weekend at GALOT Motorsports Park in Benson, N.C. Races at Darlington, S.C., and Dinwiddie will wrap up the PDRA slate, and Strickland and Rivenbark will take the cars back to Virginia in late September to race in separate classes for prizes of $25,000 and $20,000 to win.
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019