By virtue of a few rule changes, Pro 275 has unearthed a whole new world of possibilities. With Radial vs. the World continuing to lower the boom when it comes to performances, the class has become inundated with Pro Mod-style bodies.
It hasn’t slowed the momentum of the class or its popularity, but promoter Donald “Duck” Long also recognized an opportunity to keep the drivers of stock body cars happy – and still going fast.
The rules in Pro 275 changed to accommodate those cars once used to competing in RvW, while also bringing in an entirely new batch of racers, and it’s worked like gangbusters.
“We were predominantly racing No Time and when this class started to pick up the pace, the guy who owns the car (Paul Curry) said we have to go to Pro 275,” says Russell McManious, who won Pro 275 at Lights Out 11. “It’s just a great class.”
The early returns have been impressive, especially in 2020. The competition level was stout at the U.S. Street Nationals in Bradenton in January, with class newcomer Ron Green going a blistering 3.839 seconds to qualify No. 1. Event winner Nick Agostino went a whopping 210.11 mph – already showing a glimpse of what’s to come – en route to the victory, while McManious’ performance in a single-turbo small-block Ford was remarkable at Lights Out.
It’s given radial racing a fast and competitive home for stock body style cars, and it’s all trending in the right direction. Participation is strong, payouts are increasing and the spotlight is also growing.
In talking with a number of drivers in the Pro 275 class, DRAG ILLUSTRATED discovered a wealth of excitement and potential from radial racing’s next big thing. It’s an opinion shared by everyone from class veterans to racers who made their class debut in 2020, making this much obvious: Pro 275 is thriving and there doesn’t appear any chance of it slowing down.
McManious has been a standout on the No Time scene, but he felt it was important to showcase what the small block was capable of doing. Pro 275 gave him the platform and he’s responded quickly. Despite several team members battling the flu at Lights Out 11, McManious avoided it, making one consistent run after the other to grab the victory.
Mark Micke has been a mainstay in the radial scene, and was one of the original Radial vs. the World heavy-hitters while campaigning the fan-favorite ’68 Malibu. He’s seen the writing on the wall as far as the body styles in RvW, prompting his move to Pro 275 – with zero hard feelings toward the direction of RvW – this year.
Agostino is another drag radial veteran, racing in RvW for a number of years. But he lauded the moves made to Pro 275 and he’s found a comfortable home in his standout Camaro.
Green made his Pro 275 debut this year, driving a car previously owned by David Reese. Justin Smith bought it and promptly put Green, a former Outlaw 10.5 driver, behind the wheel.
Tommy Youmans is a Pro 275 veteran through and through. He’s never had 315 tires on his car, welcoming the challenge that comes with the smaller 275. But he’s also proud of where the class has come and where it’s going, noting increased purses, increased attention and increased competition in the class.
DRAG ILLUSTRATED: Pro 275 seems to be gaining a lot of steam as far as popularity. Why is this class gaining in popularity on the racer side?
RUSSELL MCMANIOUS: It gives a lot of RvW cars that aren’t Pro Mods, it gives them a place to race. You have to put a smaller tire on, but it’s hard to run against a stretched-out Pro Mod. I have a feeling a lot of those guys are going to keep coming over. I have a feeling if they get the rules parity close, it’s going to be the biggest class they’re going to have.
RON GREEN: It’s really taken off. With the RvW cars so fast and looking like Pro Mod cars, in Pro 275 they look like cars and they’re still fast. It’s gotten a lot of guys to step back from RvW and start running Pro 275. I’ve never driven a blower car before, so it’s exciting. It’s not every day you get to drive one of the baddest cars on the planet.
MARK MICKE: The way the rules have been headed in RvW, it’s headed towards lighter weight combos, lighter weight cars. It’s headed into Pro Mod-type-style cars. The car we have is badass, but it was built in ’98 and it’s heavy. It just got to a point where the car couldn’t meet the minimum weights. We were consistently 100 pounds overweight. We can make that up for a while, but now in RvW, you can’t be 100 pounds over the minimum and expect to be competitive.
TOMMY YOUMANS: I really enjoyed the class when Donald first started doing it and that’s why we chose to build our car strictly for that class. The stock-style body, that’s what appealed to me. It’s a non-Pro Mod-type of class. I enjoy racing against fast guys, and the class has just gotten faster and faster. But the 275 tire is a challenge for anybody. The 315 tire, you’re just able to kill them, but the 275 tire, you have to be able to finesse it a little.
NICK AGOSTINO: I really think as long as they keep in control of a couple rules, I think this class is probably going to be the next big class besides RvW. Don’t get me wrong, everybody wants to watch RvW cars go 3.50s, but only select teams can compete at that level, and then you’ve got everybody else. I think the “everybody else” likes the stock-bodied cars and that’s very big for fans.
When we started racing RvW 5-6 years ago, there weren’t many Pro Mods in it and they were very few and far between. Everybody was going between 3.95-4.10 and it was great. Now, it’s a lot different and that’s why we changed. The weights have dropped over the years and the technology has changed, and for me to compete in that class I’ve got to spend $200,000 and build a brand-new car for RvW. That’s my reasoning for moving classes. I think anyone that shows up for Pro 275 can win with the way the rules are. If there’s 30 cars in the class, there’s a lot of cars that can show up and win the race.
Is this just the tip of the iceberg – especially when it comes to interest and participation – with where this class is headed?
YOUMANS: I really think the class will continue to gain in popularity. It’s a really fun class. Do I think we’ll see .50s out of it? No, but who knows. I never thought you would see 3.50s in RvW, so you never know. Radial racing, it’s just unreal and the popularity is just amazing. It really creates good competition. Everyone wants to keep going faster. Even if you hit a personal best, you just want to keep going faster. The competition just breeds that.
GREEN: That little tire is just bad to the bone. I love it. The car works really well and it’s just an amazing deal to fall into. I think it’s only going to get bigger and better. I’ve talked to a lot of friends of mine and they would rather watch this class than anything else, so the fans are loving it. All the cars are really close and it’s just a really good class.
Guys can show up and get in the field and make a nice run in the mid-3.80s, and if everything lined up go in the 3.70s. I see a lot of big things happening and I think people are going to keep coming to see that class.
AGOSTINO: In order for a class to be successful, the spectators need to like the class and the people racing in it need to feel like they can compete. I think you have that here.
MCMANIOUS: I absolutely think it’s going to continue to grow. Once some guys get a handle on it. I think you’re going to see .60s in the best, killer conditions. Once they figure it out, with that power out the back door, I can almost guarantee they’re going to be running with Pro Mods with this tiny little tire. That’s shocking. It’s a lot of no fear and technology, but the mile-per-hour shows the potential for sure. I mean, we’ve got a 400-inch small-block Ford. Who would have thought we could run 3.90s?
There’s always been interest in this class, but it seems to be ascending all of a sudden after opening up the rules. What’s the reception you’ve heard from fans or other competitors of why they’ve taken to this class?
MCMANIOUS: I just think a lot of people can relate to it. A lot of people have Camaros or Mustangs sitting in their driveway, so that’s where the excitement is. That’s what it’s all about. One of the most fun things is the guy who is a diehard Ford guy and comes up to our pits and asks what motor is in there. When I say it’s a small-block Ford, you just see their face light up.
YOUMANS: Everybody that talks to us really loves the class and they love the body style. They love the stock-appearing-style cars, and I think it’s going to continue to grow. Donald has put out more money and that helps, and the Sweet 16 is going to bring even more competition. More tracks are adding it, too, and that’s good to see. I think fans enjoy the cars going fast that look like that. Let’s face it, RvW took off when Stevie [Jackson] and DeWayne [Mills] were running those cars that appeared to be stock-style cars. Now RvW has more of the Pro Mod-style car, and our class is picking up all these stock-bodied-style cars and getting faster, and the fans love it.
MICKE: I think it was a good call for us. I know a lot of guys weren’t racing. Us personally, we weren’t going to race this year. If the 275 didn’t come about, we weren’t going to race in 2020. It gave us a place to go. RvW is just badass, but unfortunately it’s just grown past a lot of the cars. I think this class is going to be a killer part of the show.
If Radial vs. the World is radial racing’s Top Fuel, it’s almost like you needed to find a Funny Car of radial racing to complement that, where the times are close but it’s a little different racing or style of car. Can Pro 275 fill that void and provide that?
MCMANIOUS: They definitely needed something in between Limited Drag Radial and RvW. There was a huge void there and that void of 4.10s to 3.50s was huge. That’s a huge gap, and I think that’s why those stock-bodied cars in RvW – guys like Marty Stinnett and Tim Slavens – I really think those cars belong in Pro 275. Those aren’t stretched-out cars. These days, if you don’t have a Pro Mod in RvW, you’re bringing a knife to a gunfight.
AGOSTINO: You’ve got RvW and then X275. They’re both excellent classes and X275 is just so tight. There’s so many good cars and then you’ve got RvW on the other end, but I do think there’s a bit of a void between those two. Let’s put it this way: If Donald Long didn’t think there was a need for Pro 275, it wouldn’t be at Sweet 16. My personal opinion is I think it’s very exciting to be competing at that level. There is definitely a different degree of difficulty to get these down the track and I think the fans love to see that.
MICKE: This class gives us another place to take that type of car. I think the goal is to keep that class more for the heavier cars. It’s going to be very competitive still. It’s not like it’s going to be a bunch of ducks.
Things tend to move quickly in radial racing. It wasn’t long ago we were waiting to see a 3-second run in RvW, and now we’re knocking on the door of the 3.40s. What’s the future hold for Pro 275? Do you see a lot of potential there?
AGOSTINO: I think the ruleset right now is very, very close. What you’re doing now is going to depict who’s going to come in or go out of the class. I think if you keep some of those things tight, even though short-term it may be a bit of a pain, I think long-term you’re going to see a gain.
With the rules now, it’s not like somebody is going a tenth faster than everyone. Can somebody go faster? I wouldn’t disagree with that. I think a lot of people are testing the waters. When I go out there, I leave it all out there.
I told Donald if you need to make changes – if– I don’t think the smartest way is to take weight off a combo to help them. I think the short-term is you add a little weight if there is an advantage, where you add 50 or 100 pounds to a certain combo and get everything in check until everything is fair, and then go from there.
If there needs to be something done, I think it needs to be done in a little different fashion than how they made things in RvW. In this class, I think that as more cars come in, if you need to make changes, I think you look at it that way instead of taking weight off everybody. That’s just something you need to be careful with. As of right now, if they didn’t change anything I think it would be fine, honestly.
MICKE: There’s a lot of high-quality guys coming over, and I expect it’s going to be very, very competitive. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see you end up with more cars in this than RvW at the end of the day. It gives those guys who maybe couldn’t compete in RvW and they’ll be a lot closer and have a better opportunity to compete. I think there’s going to be a lot of guys running.
MCMANIOUS: The rule-makers need to be careful and they need to keep the parity. I hope they don’t allow it to become a class where you have to run 3.60s all the time. I honestly think it needs to stay in the 3.80s and the occasional shot heard around the world in the 3.70s. I think that will cause people to build cars for it.
GREEN: As far as the direction it’s going, it’s got a chance to big, maybe even bigger than RvW. There’s a lot of cars that can’t run 3.50s, but can still run fast. I think everybody wants to have a car that can be competitive, and they could run 3.80s but they don’t have a chance to possibly run 3.50s or 3.40s. We can’t run with that. Guys like Nick, these are guys with top-notch cars.
Think about it. There’s a lot of cars that couldn’t compete (in RvW), but were fast cars. If the bump was in the 3.70s, there was a bunch of cars that couldn’t qualify. Now a lot of heavy hitters can come race here. You can win with a 3.90. That makes for good racing and it’s with a bunch of good people.
YOUMANS: I think there’s a real bright future and it’s going to be the new up-and-coming class. RvW is going to continue to do what it’s doing and everyone is going to continue to love it, but Pro 275 is going to have more and more guys come into it. I think it’s going to be faster as well. You’re going to see some .70s at Sweet 16.
Photographs by Chris Sears
This story originally appeared in DI #154, the Outlaw Issue, in March of 2020.