Since the introduction of electronic fuel injection (EFI) in NHRA Pro Stock in 2016, the class has been dominated by the Chevrolet Camaro. In fact, the last time another manufacturer won in Pro Stock was Allen Johnson in 2017 with a Dodge Dart.
This monopoly on body styles has been met with a lot of resistance online from the drag racing community, and I can understand their frustration. Long gone are the days where a spectator could watch Chevys, Fords, Dodges, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles and more compete for bragging rights against one another.
However, it’s 2023. The “They should just call it Pro Camaro” jokes got stale a long time ago, yet fans still use them incessantly as if they’re saying something original and creative. Rather than lament about the “good ol’ days” that aren’t coming back, we need to collectively move on and enjoy the class for what it currently is – and there is certainly a lot to enjoy.
First, the competition right now is as close as it’s ever been, and car counts have trended upward in recent years. In a sport where literally anything can happen on every single run, the consistent parity within the class is truly impressive.
Nowhere is this more evident than with Erica Enders. In 2022, she won a staggering 10 races on her way to earning a fifth Pro Stock championship. Yet through six events this season, she is winless and sits 14th in points.
“The competition is stout,” says Enders. “A 16-car field is separated by just a few hundredths of a second, which means it’s up to the driver on Sunday. Anybody can win at any point. I’ve been doing this for 20 years – I got to race with people like Warren Johnson, Kurt Johnson, Mike Edwards, and Bob Glidden. I’m one of the veterans of the class, and raced against some of the baddest asses this business has ever seen. I’m not going to disrespect that by saying it’s tougher now, but it is very competitive.”
A lot of that competition stems from a large infusion of fresh, young talent. Points leader Dallas Glenn is currently headlining the youth movement, winning three races so far in 2023. And second-generation drivers like Troy Coughlin Jr., Aaron Stanfield, Kyle Koretsky, Mason McGaha, Christian Cuadra, and Fernando Cuadra Jr. have all found success as well.
Another new face, Camrie Caruso, burst onto the scene last season, winning the 2022 NHRA Rookie of the Year Award. She’s continued to build on that accomplishment, winning her first national event earlier this year at the NHRA Arizona Nationals, and followed that up with a victory in the first ever NHRA Pro Stock All-Star Callout this past weekend in Chicago.
“I love being a part of the younger generation coming into Pro Stock,” says Caruso. “I am excited for what’s to come and continue to watch the class grow.”
Combine all those fresh faces with incredibly close racing, and you get something that overall seems to be lacking in the corporate world of NHRA competition – rivalries.
The most high-profile of these the past few years has centered around multi-time champions Enders and Greg Anderson. But that tension has now morphed into a battle between two super powers in the class – Elite Motorsports and KB Titan Racing. And while some bemoan the fact that Pro Stock is now ruled by just two teams, I think it’s fascinating. I compare it to comic book super heroes. Sure, a bunch of random individual heroes fighting is cool and all; but this is like pitting Marvel’s Avengers against DC’s Justice League in a war for Pro Stock Supremacy. It just makes everything feel bigger.
Is Pro Stock perfect? Of course not. Are these mega-teams sustainable long-term? I don’t know. But I do know the positives still far outweigh the negatives, and choosing to focus solely on the latter deprives us of enjoying what is truly an exciting, highly competitive class. So for now, let’s just sit back and enjoy the ride.