The last couple weeks have already been an exciting whirlwind for John Strickland – and it’s about to get even better.
Strickland clinched the National Tractor Pulling Association Super Stock Open championship last weekend for the GALOT Motorsports team, turning around just a few days later to make quarter-mile passes in his supercharged Camaro during test runs at Virginia.
With a strong test session behind him, Strickland will now prepare to race at the U.S. Nationals for the first time. Strickland and GALOT teammate Kevin Rivenbark, the PDRA Pro Boost points leader, as well as Elite Motorsports’ Clint Hairston will take part in a special exhibition during Indy qualifying. All will be running ProCharger-equipped Camaros at the Big Go, as NHRA will test the waters on allowing the promising combination into Pro Mod in 2020.
For Strickland, it’s the latest string in a series of thrilling opportunities.
“It’s been a busy month, but it’s pretty exciting for this team,” Strickland said. “It’s a great opportunity to run Indy and bring the ProCharger combination into the mix of things. Everyone seems to be pretty excited about it. We’ll go have fun, work hard and try to make some respectable runs to give NHRA something to look and give us a shot to run next year.”
The enthusiasm is high for the supercharger combination, and so is the optimism about its inclusion into the thriving NHRA Pro Mod ranks for 2020.
The exhibition is an exciting jumping in point for Freeman and the Elite Motorsports team. It’s their first introduction into the ProCharger-boosted world and Freeman believes it could be another way for his team to make waves in the Pro Mod ranks, as well as adding an option for potential customers.
“We think it’s a good deal, so we’ll see what happens,” Freeman said. “ProCharger was kind enough to help us and we’re going to do the best we can. We want to get ahead of this because I think it’s coming.”
Freeman noted everyone has already seen the potential of what the superchargers can do, exemplified by the standout seasons for both Rivenbark and Strickland.
Rivenbark is the PDRA points leader on the strength of a win and two finals appearances, while the versatility of his Pro Line Racing-powered, ProCharger-boosted Camaro has been evident. On radial tires, Rivenbark won the $101,000-to-win Sweet 16 event in Valdosta, becoming the first to run in the 3.50s in Radial vs. the World.
The next test is seeing how it handles in the quarter-mile, but the early returns are promising.
“To go there as a guest and to be asked to come by NHRA, that’s pretty special,” Rivenbark said. “In 2016, GALOT as a whole won every event (in the PDRA). I didn’t think it could get any better, but I think this year is. It’s just been an unbelievable year.
“We’re learning how to run the combination at a quarter-mile, but I think we’ll be fine. The goal is to run fast and be durable at the same time.”
That certainly seems feasible considering the progress both Rivenbark and Strickland have made with them this year.
Rivenbark admits the ProCharger experiment has far exceeded expectations already, and racing the U.S. Nationals only adds to it.
“It’s clearly taken off, not just for us, but for a lot of people,” Rivenbark said. “We thought this was the way to go, but it’s gone way beyond everything I thought it would do. The potential has always been there, but kudos to everyone on figuring out how to make it durable.”
Rivenbark and Strickland credited Pro Line for the diligent testing, but it’s not hard to see how the ProCharger combination has benefitted their programs.
The durability has been evident, as has less wear and tear on parts, while the ability to tune in different conditions has also been apparent. During quarter-mile testing, Strickland believed that trend only continued.
“It’s definitely new to the quarter-mile, but it just pulls steady,” Strickland said. “It just takes off and pulls all the way. It was pulling just as hard out the back as when I took off, and there was a steady progression.
“It’s just more even, consistent power all the way through and that doesn’t upset the car as bad. You’re able to get more passes and the car seems to be a little more tunable.”
Hairston and Elite will test the combination for the first time in Darlington early next week before heading to Indy. It’s a big leap for the team, but Freeman said the results of the combination were hard to ignore.
“It’s obviously something people are going to do, and Pro Line has shown what it’s capable of,” Freeman said. “Anytime you can go to Indy and do something cool, that’s exciting because that’s the spot.”
The main focus for Elite Motorsports and Freeman will be Pro Stock and Pro Mod, where the team already has a full plate, but the exhibition adds more intrigue to the biggest weekend of the year.
As for Rivenbark, it’s a thrilling return to Indy after racing to a semifinal finish in Pro Mod at his lone U.S. Nationals appearance in 2013.
“It’s kind of special to go back to Indy and race with something different,” Rivenbark said. “I think that’s what makes Pro Mod so great, just that diversity. We just want to show that it’s competitive and that it needs to be in the class, so we’ll represent the best we can.”
With a little bit of time, Strickland feels like the GALOT team can become a contender in the NHRA Pro Mod ranks if the centrifugal supercharger is approved for next year.
He sees the added power-added option only helping the class, and there’s no denying the adrenaline rush of running 250 mph. Strickland experienced it this week and is eager to do it again on drag racing’s biggest stage next weekend in Indy.
“I never thought running out the back half would make a difference, but it’s fun,” Strickland said. “It’s a thrill.”