Has true outlaw pro mod died?
If there was any question about that, it may have finally been answered this weekend in Martin, MI during the PDRA event, when yet again only three cars showed up to contest the Pro Extreme. So, does this mean that it’s time to move on? I think the answer is yes.
This certainly isn’t the first time that we have seen a class die a very slow death within drag racing, but this is a class that used to fill the stands and was the class that everyone came to see. Whether it was in the early days of pro mod, or the ADRL days, which then lead into the PDRA days, Outlaw Pro Mod was the spectacle that you would pay your hard-earned dollar to see. It has become a shell of itself in recent times though, as apparent by the turn out for it this season.
You can’t really blame them for not coming out though, can you? We have so many other places for pro mods to run now that it’s just not as feasible for these 3.50’s machines to go out of there way to race each other. When you look at the other organizations and things that drivers and owners are attempting to accomplish, along with the money that it takes, one would say it’s natural progression for them to move onto something else.
There are no less than six or seven pro mod organizations in the United States alone. You have NHRA, NMCA, PDRA, ADRL, NEOPMA, MWPMS, and Southern Outlaw Tour. This doesn’t include other races that tracks put on or promoters add to their events that have become “must attend” pro mod races. Races like World Street Nationals, YellowBullet Nationals, U.S. Street Nationals, just to name a few. It’s certainly not an issue with having a place to race, it’s all about where you want to race, what your goals are, who your sponsors are, and what you are willing to spend.
This season we saw NMCA front runner Adam Flamholc make the move over to PDRA to compete in Pro Extreme, but at the same time we saw the Stanley family take the Cadillac and join NMCA. So, there was absolutely no net gain there. If you look by the numbers, PDRA is having no problem with getting Pro Boost or Pro Nitrous cars to show up. NMCA certainly has absolutely no issue with getting pro mod participation, and Keith Haney’s Mid-West Pro Mod Series has absolutely exploded in popularity over the last 18 months.
We all love seeing jaw dropping numbers in drag racing. Whether you are a fan or a racer, those homerun ET’s are fun to see, but at what cost? Yes, I love seeing a mid to low 3.50 pass and love photographing and reporting about it, but what do I love more? I love side by side full fields, sixteen car or more ladders. I love seeing the rivalries that are built when you have teams wanting to compete in a full class where the racing is tight. Look at the other classes and series that I mentioned, they are all getting full fields of side by side competitive racing.
Pro Extreme or true Outlaw Pro Mod is the most expensive form of drag racing outside of Radial vs. The World in most classes. To run the numbers that these teams run is just not cost prohibitive anymore. It has turned into more of a “match race” type of thing. Take two to four of the quickest pro mods on the planet and pit them up against each other. Fans don’t want to see the finals of a class in the first round. They want the drivers to fight for it. If you are a Pro Extreme driver and you see that there are only three or four of you on the property, do you really want to take your car out there for more than one qualifier? I can’t imagine that you would ever want to risk that since you are already in the field by just breaking the beams essentially.
I saw something similar to this happen about 7-8 years ago with the NMRA. There was a “street style” class called Real Street, that in my opinion was one of the best heads up racing classes ever. By the end of it’s run it was just a shell of it’s former glory. Tim Matherly and Bruce Hemminger being the only ones that would show up, and the first round of eliminations became the finals. It was time to pull the plug on that just like we have reach for the plug on Pro Extreme.
This has nothing to do with the promoters, this has to do with the evolution of the sport. More and more want to race a specific series, with a specific rule set, a specific geography, and a class that you must fight to get in. At some point Outlaw Pro Mod/Pro Extreme will become nothing more than a participation award class and NONE of the drivers want that. They want to compete for championships. For most of these drivers, yes there is some change that goes into backing a car down or changing to fit a different rule set, but that is certainly better than watching your current class die a very slow and painful death.
For once the answer isn’t to toss more money at it, the answer is to absorb it. If you want these jaw dropping numbers, make it an exhibition class, or match race deal. Don’t expect three or four drivers to show up and race each other for good money, but money that won’t cover the cost of being the quickest in the world. If the class doesn’t get the plug pulled, I have a feeling the drivers will take care of it themselves. To quote my good friend Adam Flamholc after his outing in Michigan this weekend…
“I honestly dont know what to do now... And what to do for the rest of the season. I committed to do all events in PDRA this year, but it’s not that exciting to run a match race against the same car every weekend.”