61: The Only Number You Need To Know About NHRA Pro Stock – Domination Is A Class Trademark

61: The Only Number You Need To Know About NHRA Pro Stock – Domination Is A Class Trademark

The last time the NHRA made wholesale changes to the pro stock division on the order of what they did coming into the 2016 season was 1982. Ditching a complex series of weight breaks based on engine designs along with wheelbases and setting a weight of 2,350lbs hooked to a maximum engine size of 500ci drastically changed the performance realm of the class. Instantly the cars went from low 8-second runners straight into the 7s and during that season a combination of four guys won every race. Bob Glidden, Lee Shepherd, Frank Iaconio, and Warren Johnson were the four guys who cleaned house. Fast forward to the 2016 season and the current domination of the class being exhibited by Jason Line and teammate Greg Anderson has drawn the keyboard ninjas from all corners of the internet to proclaim the ruination of the class after the NHRA required Holley fuel injection, the elimination of forward facing hood scoops, a 10,500 rpm rev limiter, and a shorter wheelie bar. It’s broken they say, this is crazy they say. Are they right? History disagrees.

61. That is the number of different winners the pro stock category has witnessed since its inception in 1970. Over 800 NHRA events starting during the 1970 season right up until today and only 61 people have ever hoisted a Wally with the words Pro Stock on it. A rough average of the number of different winners per season falls somewhere between 4-5. There have been high water marks like 1998 with nine different men winning. There have been far more seasons like 1972 when just three people did it or 1978 when it was three, or 2004 when four guys did it and Greg Anderson appeared in 19 final rounds. 2016 is shaping up not to be the exception but a continuation of the norm. Vincent Nobile and Shane Gray have begun to breathe down the necks of both Line and Anderson at this halfway point in the year and there are no guarantees that they will each notch a win but history is on their side.

If we’re to talk domination, how about Bob Glidden going undefeated in competition for a calendar year in 1978-1979 or the fact that Glidden made the finals at THIRTEEN STRAIGHT US Nationals. That is a string that started in 1977 and ran to the 1989 race.

Of the 61 people who have ever won in pro stock, 17 of them did it once. Among them are people like Herb McCandless, Rickie Jones, Justin Humphreys, and Don Campanello. One of the greatest illustrations on how difficult it is to rack up a win count in pro stock is the fact that at this moment Grumpy Jenkins, Ronnie Sox, and Don Nicholson as still in the top 25 of the class win count all time. The top 10 winners in the class account for 529 victories. 25 drivers account for 712 event wins.

It took 22 years of the class’s existence for the 30th different driver to win an event. It took 34 years to get to 50 winners and it took 38 years to get to 51. It should be noted that the four years it took to get one new name on the list were the four years that people often reference as some of the “best times” of the class’s history when dozens of machines would attempt to qualify. It was cool that they were there but they played the role of duffers who walked onto the fairway of Augusta and attempted to play at The Masters. In pro stock it does not work that way.

46 years of racing and just 61 names. 4,000 people have climbed Mount Everest since 1953. More than 3800 of them since 1970. 61 people have ever won in pro stock.

Want something even more drastic? In 46 years of competition there have been only 17 different people who have ever won an NHRA pro stock championship. Seriously.

This is not a sales job. I’m not here writing this to tell you how awesome pro stock is, was, or will be. I am here to tell you that the quaint notion that pro stock has EVER been an “any given Sunday” type of class is wrong, ludicrous, and runs completely counter to the factual history of this class in NHRA drag racing.

Pro stock has always been defined, no matter the era by a handful of racers driven to the point of insanity to perform better than the others. The most dominant forces in the history of pro stock have been people who worked with superhuman drive, focus, and skill. Warren Johnson and Bob Glidden come directly to mind and that is why they currently sit one and two all-time. Greg Anderson is rising quickly and will likely be the winningest driver in the history of the class by the time his career is done. He is 14 away from surpassing the man he once called his boss, Warren Johnson.

2016 has proven an auspicious start to the new look of NHRA pro stock. There have been short fields, there is the domination of Line and Anderson, but the sun may be rising on the horizon. The presence of privateer Ford racer Charlie Westcott has provided a fun story line. Racers like Alan Prusiensky are finishing up new cars and are getting ready to hit the trail. Stalwarts like Kenny Delco and John Gaydosh have performed to the best levels of their careers. Delco incidentally is among the singular pro stock winner club.

Short fields are not good and no one wants to see them, not the fans or the sanctioning body. The tale of the tape may come in 2017 when the true picture of participation will be revealed. It was a tough switch to make for many but the word is that the trickle effect will carry on.

The moral of the story here is fairly simple. If Line and Anderson win every race this year it will be a historical first in the NHRA realm. If one other driver sneaks a win during the 2016 campaign, it’ll just be another season of NHRA pro stock.


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20 thoughts on “61: The Only Number You Need To Know About NHRA Pro Stock – Domination Is A Class Trademark

  1. Grippo

    Can’t argue those facts, especially when they are presented perfectly. Go Westcott….

  2. Chris Mohring

    Probably one of the most interesting articles I’ve read about Pro Stock since 1982

  3. Patrick

    Think The new rules are a step in the right direction, cars still look like lumps. When you read the article in your mind you can picture each drivers car( WJ Olds. Golden- Ford,etc) where now we have zero challenge between the makes. Ford and Chevy are running their hot rods in lower classes.

  4. it's 80 degreees in Hawaii . . . again

    Great article!!!
    One thing I appreciate about Pro Stock is the racing is tight, even with such a few different winners. The margin of victory in nearly every race is in the hundredths, some thousandths! All of this, while cutting lights, shifting gears and a couple of “burndowns” once in a while.

    NHRA should have included factory stock body with the new rule changes. Remember “body-in-white”? None of these river-smooth pebble lumps blobs. Well, at least stock dimension windshield and rear glass, stock front bumper/lights and doors.


  5. Luther Hopp

    Drag racing is my favorite form of 2 or four wheel racing spectating with short course trophy trucks/buggies a close 2nd. The short fields in all NHRA Pro classes happened because the sanctioning body hasn’t made prize money appropriate to cost to race and of course the ECONOMY. I started weekday racing out at Sacramento Raceway in the 70’s with my Chevelle but when wrecked it haven’t raced since. Back then the 32 car nitro fields were the norm and of course the famous 64 car events happened also. Now days there are only 10 full time T/F cars and about 12 in Fuel Funny Car but the part time racers fill the field at some races. Pro Stock is another story. It just doesn’t have the spectating appeal it did back in the day. Now it’s what Camaro will win this weekend? Pro Mod is another story altogether with the numerous body styles, engine combinations and wild runs. Oh well, as they say the only constant is change so I will continue to enjoy drag racing as long as it exits in some form.

  6. Jim

    Pro stock has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. The blue oval company needs to be enticed back and the only possible way is to have the body exactly replicate the showroom auto and use the engine they build and use in them. The cost must be brought down so that more than just millionaires with the itch to participate can do so. If the over paid heads at NHRA don’t get serious now, it will be gone in short order.

      1. Jim

        News flash: Once upon a time that is the way it was. They looked just like the show room car and all three manufacturers were in it full bore. The small blk chevy couldn’t even use a bowtie block because it was not used in the production line. This of course is before it was allowed to get out of hand.

        1. Gump

          I\’m saying it still exists. Old muscle mixed with modern stuff plus some miscellaneous garbage mixed in doing big wheel stands and tight finish lines. It\’s ten times better than pro stock.

  7. Brash

    Thanks for this well written and balanced piece.

    I have to level here and say that I love the idea of the ‘new’ pro stock, just not the execution of it. If they had introduced the option of going EFI in the late 90s when WJ suggested they did maybe the class would be in better shape today. Even if the story was similar, there’d be a huge amount more EFI tech in the super stock and comp pits..

  8. Scott Liggett

    Dang you, Brian. I learned something today because of you!! That was not nice.

    This is a very interesting story. I would have never guessed there were this little of winners over 46 years.

  9. Tom P

    Well done Brian! I never thought about that way.

    Pro Stock did start off as an outgrowth of Super Stock so the Factory Stock stuff makes sense but I think they learned from Pro Stock Truck that abolishing a class upsets people.

  10. Dignlif

    Bitchin/ strong article Brian. Thanks for the lesson and reality check. Time for all those “internet ninjas” to quit with their unsubstantiated keyboard technicolor yawns.

  11. Blackboldt

    The article was an awaking for sure as are many of the comments that followed. my question is where is NHRA. They are allowing the number of entrants to decline resulting in an unbelieveable number of “bye” races at the pro level with many uninteresting races as the slower cars make the field and are pitted against the few killer cars. I’d rather mow the lawn. In the past there was a genuine interest who won. I don’t even bother watching it on TV anymore. I just go to NHRA Live and get the days results. no need to watch the same teams win. my wife said “the drags are on tonight” with my response being I do not need to watch them, I already know the results.
    Back to NHRA, I don’t see anything they are doing to promote, grow or add interest to the sport. they just see their failure growing as the grandstands continue their slide. Wait until the battery cars start blowing off the top fuelers, that’s when the decline in this sports interest will really show up. The only noise will be the battery chargers in the pits. Kinda like what happened when the jet engines took over the unlimited hydro class. NHRA NEEDS TO STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES while there still are some.

  12. dARsHhH

    7297 284963Hello my family member! I wish to say that this post is incredible, fantastic written and come with approximately all vital infos. I would like to see extra posts like this . 742698

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