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On The Road: Van Abernethy Reflects on 2023 WSOPM Experience

When it comes to events that are able to pack the grandstands with fans, line the pits with fast cars, and somehow generate a level of electricity that’s still being discussed nearly two months after the fact, the most recent World Series of Pro Mod delivered the goods like no other event I’ve experienced in recent memory.

If you’ve been keeping track of the twists and turns of this event from the beginning, you’re aware that the WSOPM is an event that Drag Illustrated’s own visionary founder, Wes Buck, created six years ago and has poured his heart into ever since the inaugural running in 2017 at Colorado’s Bandimere Speedway. This landmark event was held in Colorado for the first three years before being rebranded as the World Doorslammer Nationals, an event that combined Pro Mod’s best with the NHRA Pro Stock stars, and was held at Orlando Speed World Dragway twice, from 2020-2021, respectively.

[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #182, the WSOPM Issue, in May/June of 2023.]

In 2022, the Drag Illustrated team took the year off to reevaluate what this event was going to look like moving forward, and the result of that concentrated effort transformed the event into the formula of extending a special invitation to over 60 of the baddest Pro Mod teams in the world to gather at Florida’s Bradenton Motorsports Park this past March.

After all the teams gave it their best shot in qualifying, a field of the quickest 32 cars were set to battle it out for the grand prize of $100,000. Throw in separate eliminators for Mountain Motor Pro Stock cars, along with a collection of import racers, and this weekend was action-packed from start to finish.

As far as the headlining Pro Mods are concerned, it turned out to be the tightest field of 32 cars ever assembled, many calling it, hands down, the best Pro Mod race that’s ever been held.

As much as I enjoyed this event, my perspective was rather unique, as I savored it through the eyes and personal accounts of those in attendance. Oh, make no mistake, I too was there, but as it relates to the hundreds of runs these fierce doorslammers made throughout the weekend, I was privileged to see just one side-by-side pass all weekend, and that was when I broke free from my subscription booth long enough to sprint to the starting line to watch the final run of the event between Spencer Hyde and Kurt Steding.

This event has been the talk of the town ever since, and it’s no surprise that it was a rousing success from every angle, and when I say that also includes magazine subscription interest, let me put that into perspective: The most recent running of the WSOPM broke a subscription sales record that had previously stood for 14 years! You’d have go to back to the height of ADRL mania in the mid 2000s to come up with an event that even came close to the level of interest fans had in subscribing to DI than they did in Bradenton, Florida, on the weekend of March 3-5.

In this month’s column photo, I gave a “double thumbs up” to photographer Cole Thomas when he stopped by the subscription booth to see how things were going. Thomas and so many other fantastic photographers were on hand this weekend to capture some unforgettable images of this event, many of which are published in this issue.

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By Saturday at 11:00 a.m., I had a feeling that Bradenton was going to be packed, especially after some friends of mine who live in the area stopped by my booth to excitedly tell me they had never seen the parking lot this full on a Saturday morning at Bradenton. For the next 4-5 hours, the flow of foot traffic pouring into the facility was unlike anything I’d ever seen in my 16-year history of coming to Bradenton for various events, and I couldn’t leave the booth for longer than 60 seconds at a time!

As the event neared its conclusion, fans stopped by to thank anyone and everyone involved with bringing this event to Bradenton. I’ll never forget the fan who asked if we could do it again next week! I replied, “Friend, I can safely say that we’re all gonna sleep for a week!”

But in all seriousness, yes, the next World Series of Pro Mod is already in the works for next year at Bradenton, and if you weren’t able to attend the most recent one, you’ve got almost an entire year to plan for the next one. You will not be disappointed!

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