Mountain Motor Pro Stock made a triumphant impression on the big stage in Bristol, laying down solid numbers and putting on a great show for those in attendance at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, giving the class plenty of momentum heading into this weekend’s New England NHRA Nationals in Epping.
Thirteen MMPS teams made the trek to Thunder Valley, but it was Todd Hoerner and his TT Motorsports ZL1 Camaro that laid down the quickest runs of the second, third and fourth qualifying sessions to go into race day from the No. 2 spot. From there, Hoerner raced to the win and hoisted the coveted Wally trophy.
Hoerner, a veteran wheelman with 37 years of experience in the sport, was quick to defer credit to those around him when asked about putting the Sonny’s Racing Engines-sponsored Camaro in the winner’s circle at the historic facility.
“I couldn’t do any of this without TT Motorsports,” Hoerner said. “Tommy, Paula and Tiana Zarella have given me this amazing opportunity to drive their car, my crew chief, Brian “Lump” Self and Dewayne Neville, who does my clutch, all those guys and of course, TT Motorsports relies on Sonny’s to provide the power to get it done.”
Having competed at almost every level short of Top Alcohol and nitro, Hoerner knows what it takes to win races. While he downplays his driving as little more than an afterthought, wheeling a quick-revving naturally aspirated car that clocks in at 825 cubic inches and requires the driver to release the clutch with his left foot and manually shift gears four times over the course of a run, all while having minimal downforce to eliminate ET-robbing drag, requires a level of skill that is unmatched in the drag racing universe.
Hoerner admits that of all the cars he has driven, which include such classes as Super Comp, Top Sportsman and even NHRA-legal Pro Stockers, the Mountain Motor Pro Stock cars are the hardest to drive.
“It’s really similar to the 500 inch [NHRA-legal Pro Stock] cars, but this thing never stops pulling,” Hoerner said. “You definitely have to have your act together, because they’re animals, but Jerry Bickel builds a badass Pro Stock chassis. Once we got the shocks dialed in, we were low ET of each round of qualifying and in eliminations.”
Hoerner, who is a full-time Sales Manager for Sonny’s Racing Engines and also does tech support and is the company’s EFI specialist, says as a company, Sonny’s is just as proud as he is personally. Showing his true character, Todd shared the love for the other companies who have a presence in the class.
“It’s great for Sonny’s, it’s really good for all the engine builders, the chassis builders, and everybody that’s been a part of building the class,” Hoerner said. “We’re really excited at Sonny’s to have this opportunity, for sure.”
In taking the win in Bristol, Hoerner becomes just the third Mountain Motor Pro Stock driver to claim a coveted Wally, joining fellow class veterans John DeFlorian, who won four-race exhibition at the debut event at last year’s U.S. Nationals in Indy and NHRA SpringNationals in Houston, and Chris Powers, who won the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte. Picking up his first win in the class at the national level was a “bucket list” moment for Hoerner, and one he ranks at the top of his accomplishments thus far in his career.
Now, he’s looking forward to the remaining 2019 NHRA tour stop this weekend at New England Dragway, and beyond in 2020.
“We love the PDRA. Tommy and Judy Franklin have given us a place to race for years and we definitely owe them a big thank you,” Hoerner said. “NHRA said they wouldn’t step on their toes, so that hopefully gives us a chance to race both series. Obviously the NHRA is the pinnacle in quarter-mile drag racing, so it’s exciting to race on that stage and be a part of their show going forward, and to be able to still compete in the PDRA, which is the pinnacle of eighth-mile racing. This arrangement is great for everybody.”
Hoerner thanked those around him who have helped him, including the Zarella family, and the previously mentioned pair of ace tuners, Self and Neville. Hoerner also wanted to thank sponsors Jerry Bickel Race Cars, Big Stuff 3, PSI Springs, JEGS, Wiseco Pistons, Dean’s Casing Service, Maxima Oil, Buxton Engineering, Total Seal Rings, and GRP, as well as a thank you “to my amazing wife Nicole and my daughter Kassidy for their help and support,” Hoerner added.