Johnny Pluchino, a second-generation Mountain Motor Pro Stock driver, competing in his rookie season, could have been overwhelmed by the whole situation. The two-time PDRA Pro Outlaw 632 doorslammer division champion could have been satisfied just being able to participate.
The Strutmasters.com-sponsored Pluchino wants to win early and often in his budding career.
Sunday, at the Dodge NHRA Indy Nationals in Indianapolis, Pluchino scored his first NHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stock victory, beating Elijah Morton to score his second major win in two weeks. He drove away with the PDRA Mid-Atlantic Showdown title at Virginia Motorsports Park.
“I’m going to ride it as long as I can,” Pluchino admitted. “Someone said to me a couple of races ago, ‘Hey, you can’t win them all. And I said, “Why not? erSomeone’s got to win. Right? Why can’t it be us?”
“We work really hard and you’re only good as the next race. So let’s just keep pushing on. I understand it’s very difficult to do. Every round is difficult, but I don’t look forward past the next round and just got to t do your job, and everyone on this team has been doing their job. So it’s been working out so far and we’re going to ride this wave as long as we can.”
A tidal wave is more like it when you consider Pluchino has won two of three races on the eighth-mile PDRA series. Sunday’s event at Lucas Oil Raceway took some getting used to as Pluchino for the first time in big displacement Pro Stock racing was running a second eighth-mile.
“That last 660 feet feels like an eternity,” Pluchino explained. “Waiting for that quarter miles stripe to come up, and 225 miles per hour feels like a blast, especially when you have pulled two parachutes, and you go from positive one G to negative two-and-a-half. So that’s a little bit of a difference there. But again, these things are fun rides, whether you’re running them 100 feet, 660 feet or 1,320 feet.”
While Pluchino was an immediate natural in the Pro Outlaw 632 division, he tens confident he’d get the hang of Mountain Motor Pro Stock racing sooner than later.
“I just didn’t know when that would be,” Pluchino admitted in confidence. “I didn’t know that success would come this soon and this frequent. There’s a lot of tough guys who put a lot of effort and money and time into it, and a lot of smart guys as well.
“I know we just have a lot of the right companies on board with us that we have everything we need. So it’s kind in our hands at this point, and it’s all coming together. And I’m a confident guy, so I always feel like we can do it. I guess if you told me ten years ago, or maybe 15 years ago when we started racing Mountain Motor Pro Stock [with father John Pluchino] that we’d have this type of success, I might not have believed you then. But after we just worked year in, year out, and kept putting the pieces together and kept improving, we see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Pluchino admits 2020 was the season which almost didn’t happen for his team. A parts failure on the dyno nearly cost the team a chance at the season, and as Pluchino sees it, if not for the help of Chip Lofton at Strutmasters, Jon Kaase Racing Engines, Ram Clutches and NGK Spark Plugs, he couldn’t be out here holding up the family name.
For years the Pluchinos have raced in the shadows of their famous cousins, John and Vincent Nobile, but lately, their success is allowing them to cast a shadow of their own.
“We’re all family,” Pluchino said. “We root for each other. They raced for a while, and they’re sitting on the sidelines right now. But I think that we’re all great racers and you’re going to shine at different times. And if they were out here still, they’d still be shining because they are great racers. And I feel like we do a nice job as well. Sometimes your opportunities come at different times.
“I’d love to race against them and with them. And that would be awesome. They’re guys who are talented in this sport and have done well, and I’m proud of them. And I think they’re proud of us as well.”
Pluchino understands he’s got a long way to go to build the front-runner reputation that stalwarts John DeFlorian, John Montecalvo and JR Carr have built over the last decade. However, he believes one day, his work ethic will put him there regularly. It’s clear no one is taking him lightly these days.
“I know that we work as hard as anybody else,” Pluchino said. “We’re a little bit in a different category because we do this on a small budget as anyone possibly can, so it’s a little bit more gratifying. And just to be mentioned with guys like that is just an honor, but I haven’t been driving that long, so I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Hey, I’m the top guy in this class,’ or anything like that.”
“You can’t be top guy overnight. I don’t expect to be. But I’m going to give it my all every time I get in the car, and my team does the same. I just hope, one day, I’m going to do this as long as we financially can and have the partners that back us and believe in us. And one day when I’m hanging up my helmet, I hope I have a trophy room that shows a lot of success. And people knew that we did it the right way and that we made all the people that partnered with us proud.”