NHRA: Pro Stock Trucks Start Season at Houston Raceway Park
11 March 1998BAYTOWN, Texas -- Another chapter in NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series history will be written March 19-22 at the Pennzoil Nationals presented by HiLo/O'Reilly at Houston Raceway Park. NHRA's newest professional category, Pro Stock Truck, will make its debut as an official national event eliminator at the race, the fourth of 22 events on the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
The Pro Stock Trucks are scheduled to compete at 12 NHRA national events this season, following the category's nine race exhibition tour last year. NHRA will crown the category's first Winston champion at the conclusion of the Winston Finals, Nov. 15.
Pre-season candidates for that title include John Lingenfelter, longtime NHRA sportsman competitor, who was one of the first drivers to pilot a truck down the quarter-mile. Lingenfelter, who drives a Chevrolet S-10 with sponsorship from Summit Racing Equipment and Chevrolet Trucks, won three of the exhibition events last year, against some pretty stiff competition, which included Darrell Alderman and Scott Geoffrion driving Dodge Dakotas, and veteran Pro Stock racer Roy Hill at the wheel of a Ford Ranger. While many expect him to dominate this season, Lingenfelter says the competition will be fierce.
"Last year we were one of the first trucks on the track," he said. "We had about 30-40 runs on everyone else. I was able to keep about half that gain during the year, but over the winter a lot of teams have been testing and they've made a lot of progress. The learning curve is getting a lot steeper now. There's going to be many competitive teams out there this season."
Lingenfelter expects the Pro Stock Trucks to attract a different kind of fan to NHRA national events.
"I think there's a closer brand connection with fans who have their own pickups," he said. "Without the large hood scoop, the trucks are more stock appearing than any other NHRA pro category vehicle, and there'll definitely be much more brand competition, with representation from Chevy, Dodge and Ford. I think the fans are really going to get into it."
Quick elapsed-times and ultra fast speeds are a signature of Houston Raceway Park, and Lingenfelter expects the Pro Stock Trucks to be part of the record-setting action. In particular, he's looking at improving his own performance at the facility.
"Last year I struggled a little bit at Houston," he said. "I know the strong reputation of that track, but for some reason I ran faster at other places. I expect to see some low 7.70s at this event. But after everyone gets their combination worked out, you'll probably be seeing some low 7.60s by the end of the season. We've done a few things with our setup, so I expect we'll be a little better at Houston this time around."
* Level playing field: For NHRA sportsman drivers who have aspired to reach pro status, but couldn't afford the financial demands of a 22-race schedule in Pro Stock, the 12-race Pro Stock Truck slate is the perfect alternative.
"It's a pro category that's affordable," John Lingenfelter said. "One of the toughest things that a driver faces when he wants to enter a professional category like Pro Stock is the technology. Many of those guys have 20 years worth of gathering information, and that can make it tough on a newcomer."
GENERAL INFORMATION * Schedule: Pro qualifying is at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. March 20. Qualifying continues at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. March 21. Pro Stock Truck qualifying sessions will be held on March 19 at noon and 3 p.m. Pro Stock Truck final eliminations will start at 11 a.m. March 21. Final professional eliminations start at 11 a.m. March 22. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 8 a.m. March 19.
* Tickets: Tickets are available for the Pennzoil Nationals presented by HiLo/O'Reilly. Call Houston Raceway Park, (281) 383-2666, or Ticketmaster, (713) 629-3700, for ticket information.
* On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of highlights and live final round coverage from the Pennzoil Nationals presented by HiLo/O'Reilly on March 22 at 4 p.m. (CST). ESPN2 will show two hours of same-day qualifying highlights on March 20 at 7:30 p.m. (CST).