Notable by his absence last year within the ranks of the NHRA Pro Stock class was racer/engine builder/awesome interviewee Larry Morgan. While some may say he didn’t miss much, given the disarray the field was in, the Ohio native sat out due to health issues and a lack of sponsorship.
This year, Morgan returns to drag racing, but not in Pro Stock. The 30-year doorslammer veteran is making his debut in Pro Mod driving for Brad Anderson with financial help from Lucas Oil and Forza Coffee. Morgan was scheduled to kick off his season this weekend in Gainesville, but a broken U-bolt during testing Thursday put the kibosh on that, pushing back his 2017 season opener to the NHRA Springnationals at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston.
Pro Mod racing has become more attractive to drivers, especially given the current Pro Stock environment. More action, more drivers, more drama, and now, more television time.
“I have been lucky every year to have help,” Morgan said during a recent Facebook Live chat with Drag Illustrated Publisher Wes Buck. “Not a lot of help, but it was help. There’s just not that much out there because of the TV coverage. Now this Pro Mod deal, it’ll be way better because we have our own show. I think you’re going to see a lot of cars come out there that have a little bit of sponsorship on them so they can get a little bang for their buck out of the Pro Mod deal.
“I looked at the TV package last year going to FOX and the Lucas Oil (programming) went up 31 percent,” Morgan continued. “The NHRA show went up 67 percent. The Pro Mod show went up 319 percent. Now those numbers are huge and we’ve got to have that because that’s what drives our sponsorship deal.”
With the cost of everything rising, families can’t afford to spend the kind of money it takes for a family of four to attend a three-day weekend of racing at an NHRA event. Between tickets, food, and souvenirs, going to the races takes a huge chunk out of the budget. That’s not even counting if the family has to include hotels and eating out as part of their expense.
Morgan attended Kenny Nowling’s ADRL Pro Mod return to Gateway Motorsports Park last November and said the controversial promoter is definitely on to something with his free ticket promotions.
“With Kenny Nowling’s deal, you bring them in for free, well, not necessarily free, you charge them to park, but I think it’s a great deal. You won’t feel as bad for buying a hotdog than when you do when you’re paying $100 for a ticket and then pay $10 for a hotdog.”
And for the teams, it’s never not been about the cash.
“You know what? Money is going to rule our whole world,” Morgan said. “Whatever you want to do in life, it takes money. If you want to be the baddest guy out there, it takes money. I’ve raced guys like that with all the money in the world and they can’t hit their rear end, but if you’ve got the money to do what we do with the people you put in place are going to be the baddest guys.
“I’ll give you an example. Jeg Coughlin is a guy that’s always going to do real good because he’s a good driver and he’s got a great program in place. It’s not that he’s got all the money in the world, but he knows how to do it. Now last year when he had that Dodge, I knew it wasn’t going to work good because he didn’t have the program put together. But if you put him in a fast car, he’s going to win. That’s just how it is. It takes a group to win.”
And Morgan feels he has a group to win right now. Racing Pro Mod for the first time in his career has revitalized him, as he described to Wes Buck his first passes in the notoriously-fickle machine. His career-best in Pro Stock was a very respectable 6.46 seconds at 215 mph. After a first pass in his new ride of 6.95, he freed up his suspension and laid down a “sluggish” 5.95 at 241 mph.
“I went 5.95 at 241 mph and it felt real sluggish and didn’t really feel good down low,” he said. “Doug Foley had a school there and we were just out there fooling around is all we were doing, just trying to make sure the car would go straight.
“Brad got down there and he jumped out of the car, he said, ‘How fast do you think you went?’ and I said ‘I don’t know, probably 6.20.’ He said ‘How about 5.95 at 241 mph?’ and I said ‘I’ll tell you what, it felt real rich.’ He said, ‘This is good; I got a genius who makes one run and he’s going to tell me how the engine feels.’ I just laughed and said ‘It did feel rich.’”
Can fans anticipate seeing some of their favorite Pro Stock racers jumping ship to Pro Mod? Morgan said it’s not out of the realm of possibility especially due to—surprise, surprise—the lower expense of racing the Pro Mod class.
“We have thirty-some cars trying to qualify for 16 spots,” he said of racing Pro Mod. “It could happen to me as well as anyone else, not qualifying, because you’ve got way more power than what you need, but Pro Stock I worry about. I mean, I worry about the people that can’t continue to be competitive where you can in Pro Mod. You can buy a good car inexpensively; you can’t do that in Pro Stock. I think that’s the problem.”
At the end of the day, however, it’s about fun. It’s about the thrill of a long, smoky burnout, dancing on the edge of control for a quarter mile, and shaking the hand of the driver in the next lane, win or lose. It’s a good time to be a Pro Mod driver.
“It sure is,” Morgan said. “I’m excited to be a part of it and that’s what I’ve been telling everyone. It’s not that I dislike Pro Stock; I love Pro Stock. I love the people in it, but the way I look at it is, it’s kinda boring, so I sat out a year. Thank God I sat out because I saw a different view of it. They all run the same. The same people do the same thing.
“But you can’t say that in Pro Mod.“