NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Nitro Shots: How Important Is Speed?

Perhaps the biggest change coming into 2016, as touched upon in last week’s Nitro Shots, took place in the Pro Stock category. Gone are carburetors in favor of Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) systems. Gone also are the big hood scoops that accompanied the carburetion era.

According to some of the drivers in Pomona, gone as well are the all the old ways of doing things. They have to learn all over again how to do burnouts, stage and launch their cars with an entirely different throttle dynamic. The cars are reportedly a handful and more challenging to drive.

Coupled with RPM limiters, it’s not surprising that speeds and ETs were a good bit slower than the current class record of 6.455 set by Jason Line last year at Charlotte 1 and 215.55 Set by Erica Enders in 2014 at Englishtown. Slower? Slower just seems wrong in drag racing. Isn’t the idea to go ever faster?

Is it? Is speed really the end-all, be-all? It seems that if it were, everyone would just toss in the Nitro and go 300 mph, wouldn’t they? There must be more to it than that.

In this case, what fans saw was good solid racing, given that all the drivers are on the same playing field with the new cars for the moment. They saw that racing happen in cars that, even with just the loss of the giant scoop being pretty much the only visible difference on track, were more identifiable with the cars they drove to get to the track.

They saw more of those cars with sponsor decals on them, too. It could be a side effect of the new television deal, but I suspect the new package had some role in it too. Even if Pro Stock is more appealing to some sponsors due to its lower costs than the Nitro divisions, it’s still not a good investment if it’s unappealing to fans. Sponsor interest acknowledges in some part an increased appeal brought about by the new package, in tandem with the new television package.

As for the drivers, they will adapt and given that they’ve already dipped into the high 6.5s, all that loss of speed they are lamenting might be more temporary than you’d think. And does a number really matter anyway, as long as the racing is good?

What’s News?

* Shane Gray has announced that his Gray Motorsports Pro Stock entry will not race this weekend in Phoenix. Gray was not pleased with the team’s performance in Pomona and feels concentrating on testing to get a handle on the new package before they fall too far behind the competition would be a better use of time.

“We’re all faced with the same issues,” Gray said. “I don’t think anybody is running near their potential yet. Obviously, some teams did better than others in Pomona. We just were not happy, and knowing everyone else will likely get better as the season moves along only amplified the thought that we need to catch up right now.”

Missing an event does not take Gray and his team out of the hunt come the end of the season. Drivers have missed events in prior seasons after failing to qualify or due to financial concerns and still found themselves in contention thanks to the Countdown system NHRA uses to determine a champion.

NHRA 2016 Erica Enders in car courtesy Geiger Media
Two time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders will make her 200th start in the class this weekend in Phoenix. (Photo courtesy Geiger Media)

Two-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt Smith has re-signed major associate sponsor Nitro Fish for the season.

“We are really happy to be back with Matt,” Nitro Fish owner Kenny Koretsky, a former Top Fuel and Pro Stock driver, said. “He understands the sport and what it takes to succeed, and he certainly isn’t afraid to work hard to get what he wants. He’s already delivered a championship and eight trophies to me with Nitro Fish on his bike. We’re anxious to get some more.”

This weekend’s CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals will mark two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders’ 200th career Pro Stock race, dating back to her debut at Pomona in February 2005. In addition to the 2014 and 2015 titles, Enders also has 21 wins to her credit.

Driver Profile: Steve Torrence 

NHRA 2016 Steve Torrence head shot courtesy NHRA
NHRA Top Fuel driver Steve Torrence. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

Category: Top Fuel
Hometown: Longview, Texas
Date of birth: April 17, 1983
2016 car: Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster
Crew chief: Bobby Lagana/Richard Hogan
Team Owner: Steve Torrence

Career Highlights:
Career wins/runner-up finishes: 6/6
Best points finish: 6th, 2014
Career best ET: 3.703, Pomona 1, 2016
Career best speed: 329.99, Pomona 2, 2015

2015 – Won at Denver and posted two runner-up finishes; qualified for Countdown for fifth consecutive season and finished the season eighth in points.

2013 – Won at Bristol; runner-up at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

2012 – Scored three victories in five final round appearances; two-time No. 1 qualifier; ranked as high as fourth in points at midway point of the season.

2006 – Made first Top Fuel start.

Some things most people don’t know about Steve: Enjoys hunting and the outdoors. Has finished runner-up in Top Fuel at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals twice, but has also won there, in 2005 in Top Alcohol Dragster. He was also the NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster champion that year.

Hey, Y’all, Watch This!

OK, so technically it’s not NHRA, but it is drag racing. Courtesy of our friends Down Under, one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen in any form of racing. But hey, a race had been started, and someone had to cross the finish line somehow.

[fbvideo link=”https://www.facebook.com/400Thunder/videos/582614795230653/” width=”640″ height=”320″ onlyvideo=”1″]

Word of the Week: Alcohol

It could refer to the beverages consumed by fans in the stands, but in this particular case, it also refers to the Methanol fuel run by Top Alcohol Dragsters and Top Alcohol Funny Cars. These cars bear a strong resemblance to their Nitro-burning Pro class counterparts and run just a little bit slower (roughly 270-285 mph). Drivers aiming to race in Top Fuel or Funny Car generally work their way through one of these classes first. Methanol is pure methyl alcohol.

NHRA on TV

NHRA let NASCAR have center stage last weekend but it’s back to work this week for the straight-liners with the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals from Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Phoenix, Ariz.

ProgramDate/TimeChannel
AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS
QualifyingFriday, November 10, 6:30 PM ETFS1 (Live)
QualifyingSaturday, November 11, 6:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)
EliminationsSunday, November 12, 4:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)
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About Toni Montgomery

Toni Montgomery
A writer for Frontstretch since 2002, and editor since 2006, Toni heads up the NHRA coverage for the site. She’s responsible for post-race coverage in the weekly Pace Laps multi-series round-up along with the weekly Nitro Shots column featuring news and features from the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. An award-winning former writer for the Presbyterian Church, Toni works in web design and freelances with writing in North Carolina.