It might seem like Alan Drinkwater came out of nowhere to win the 2023 PDRA Extreme Pro Stock world championship in his rookie season, but it’s an accomplishment the 27-year-old Florida native has been unknowingly training for since he was a young kid.
[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #185, the 30 Under 30 Issue, in Nov/Dec of 2023.]
Drinkwater was just a baby when he father, Craig, bought an old Pro Stock Oldsmobile. It was the car Alan would later drive, learning how to drive with a clutch and a 5-speed transmission. He raced it in Outlaw 632, a class that developed at his local tracks in Florida. The Drinkwaters then met Kenny Floyd, who enlisted Alan to drive his Kaase-powered Ford Escort for a run at the 2022 PDRA Pro 632 world championship. The car was tuned by 2017 DI 30 Under 30 honoree Johnny Pluchino and set up just like the car he drove to two world championships.
Drinkwater ended up using a string of holeshot wins to win in his PDRA Pro 632 debut at the 2022 season opener. He reached the semifinals at four other races and never lost in the first round, ultimately finishing third in the points standings. He ended the year with a win at the Snowbird Outlaw Nationals at Bradenton Motorsports Park.
With its naturally aspirated engine and clutch, the Pro 632 car was the ultimate proving grounds for Drinkwater’s move to Mountain Motor Pro Stock this season.
“I think the 632 car in some aspects is a little more difficult to drive than [Mountain Motor Pro Stock] cars,” Drinkwater offers. “These cars move around a little bit. You have to manhandle them. With the 632 car, you’ve gotta be on time with everything, every time. It’s just a little bit different driving. I jumped in this with really no problems and we didn’t have to go through that course of trying to get things smooth and a rhythm going. We could just get right to it.”
After making his debut in the inaugural $hameless Racing Mountain Motor Pro Stock Invitational presented by Seminole Paving in March, Drinkwater ran the Pro 632 car one more time at the PDRA season opener. He made his Extreme Pro Stock debut at the second race, where he reached the semifinals in his Kaase-powered IronListing.com ’08 Mustang set up and tuned by Pluchino. He then qualified No. 2 and won the next race at Norwalk, lost in the first round at his third race, lost in the finals to Pluchino at the fourth race, then won again at his fifth race by beating points leader Chris Powers in the final. Semifinal finishes at the last two races, plus a first-round red light by Powers at the World Finals, sealed up the championship.
“When we first started here, we were just hoping to run in the middle of the pack, go a couple rounds, and we might get lucky,” Drinkwater says of his championship season. “We weren’t sure how this motor was going to be. Kaase’s worked on it a couple different times. I definitely think we’re making more power now than we have all year. It’s really unbelievable, just the pieces in place. We didn’t know what we were buying. Everything worked out for the best.”
Along with a family-based team that includes his excitable cousin, Preston Drinkwater, Drinkwater credits John and Johnny Pluchino for working with the team to put them in championship contention. It was the fourth Extreme Pro Stock title the father-son duo has been a part of, as John won it in 2016 and Johnny won it in 2020 and 2022.
After winning the championship in his first try, Drinkwater doesn’t really have any defined goals for 2024 and beyond. You can expect him to come out swinging, though, whether that’s in PDRA Extreme Pro Stock or the newly expanded Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage NHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stock class.
“I think my goal is just to be the absolute best I can be,” says Drinkwater, who ended the year with an appearance in the 250-plus-MPH Titan Motorsports “Vecna” Pro Import at the Haltech World Cup Finals. “I always try to critique myself. I just try to learn as much as I can every single time I go up there to the starting line. When we come back and work on the car, I just want to learn. I like to be the best at what I do. I’m a long way from that. I just like to apply myself 100% at everything that I do.”