I don't know why Bobby Bennett and Bret Kepner want to change history or even where they got the ego to think they can, but I printed the history of Pro Mod in Quick Times Racing News AS it happened and there isn't much in the beginning of their story you can compare to what REALLY happened. If you don't know the real 'history,' please don't be fooled into believing lies. I want you to KNOW how Pro Modified came about, the players and the people who made it what it is. In Bobby's Part I of his 'so-called' history of Pro Mod, THE VERY FIRST LINE IN WAS A LIE! Anyone who was there or who remembers how it REALLY happened knows the very first OFFICIAL Pro Mod race was at Atco Raceway in Atco, NJ on October 27 and 28, 1989. So fans, if you think your independence day is March 10, guess what? You already missed it! It was October 27 and 28! How could ANYONE NOT remember when Walter Henry was killed? That is a slap on his memory I would NOT want attributed to something I wrote as 'history.' I'm not dead guys, how could you think you could get away with this travesty?
Jim Ruth was the owner of IHRA in 1989 and he is the man who 'created' the class! He told the racers they would go Pro in 1990 but they could run their FIRST OFFICIAL Pro Mod race at the last points race of 1989 and CLAIM their first PRO MOD points and those points would carry over to the 1990 season! It was one of the largest fields in Pro Mod history in IHRA because everyone wanted to be at that first race. It is a shame something happened to dampen the spirit of that race, but knowing Walter, if he'd had a choice???????? Jim who, by the way, owned the 'World's Fastest Pontiac Mountain Motor Pro Stocker' was pretty sick by then and already in dealings with the people who would eventually become the new owners of IHRA, but he is STILL the man who made that decision and made it all possible. Since Jim died the next year, Ted Jones has always taken credit for the class. But since Ted never had an idea of his own, we know that isn't true…he couldn't even come up with a name for it and had to have a contest to name it!
However, the TRUE HISTORY of Pro Mod started a long time before that first race at Atco. It took many years for this to come about. Many of the racers who have been slighted by Bobby's 'un-history' have called me and asked me to straighten this out. I cannot believe Charles Carpenter has been slighted by this crap the way he has. What in the heck does a blown Corvette driven by a funny car driver years earlier have to do with the history of Pro Mod? Bret…where are your brains? Where they've always been? If you want to start with a Corvette, start with the right one (keep reading!). This all started with nitrous assisted gas engines, there WEREN'T any blowers in the original Quick 8s. Blowers WERE allowed in Top Sportsman, but ONLY after a near-holy war in the class because most of the nitrous doorslammer drivers didn't want blowers allowed. Alcohol and blowers gave those drivers an edge because of the added power. They also eventually changed the class to ALL doorslammers…splitting it and having a Top Sportsman open body class and taking dragsters and roadsters out of the doorslammer class.
As far as the movement to Pro Mod, yes, you can say Charles Carpenter was the first…in a way. Charles had a car that drew attention no matter where he raced and when Jim Bryant of ThunderCraft boats heard about the 'World's Fastest '55 Chevy,' he just decided to build a car to compete with Charles…the 'World's Fastest '57 Chevy' came out in 1987. But wait…I'm getting ahead of myself. What REALLY started Pro Mod was the desire to GO FAST!!! Every person who has ever gone down a drag strip (or down the highway, for that matter) has wanted to GO FAST(ER)! Pro Mod was literally built on the same principles as funny car…go fast! Until bracket racing came along, regular guys couldn't just GO FAST! They were bound by pounds per cubic inch and stock parts…there was only just so much they could do. The only guys who could GO FAST were racers who were NOT bound by rules…Garlits, Prudhomme, Karamesines, Snow, Kalitta, Muldowney, Schumacher, Grove, Broome, McEwen, Ivo, Arfons, Breedlove, etc., too many to mention here, including the racers who ran those crazy, unpredictable Midwestern altereds.
When bracket racing came along, there was finally another group unbound by 'can't go fast' rules. They could go as fast as they could afford or shade tree engineer. I will give you one example…a man I knew in person and still idolize to this day even though he has been gone over 20 years. His name was Jack McClamrock and you could find him any weekend at Farmington and Mooresville Dragways beating the pants off ALL his opponents. If there ever WAS a Corvette that was the pre-curser to Pro Mod, it was his…ceegar ash tray on the dash, gas engine and all. Remember, Jack class raced for MANY years, but when bracket racing came about, he was in his glory. He was banned from Mooresville Dragway for winning something like 52 races in a row or some such nonsense! But he made that Corvette fly. He made a lot of other race cars fly, too. And that was in the late '60s and '70s! Thanks to racers like Jack, Farmington Dragway started the first ever 5-Second Club (1980 with only three members) and if you've never heard of that one, you've been living underground. They just completed their VERY successful 26th Annual Big 5-Second Shootout with Tim West of Asheville, NC pulling off his first win of that most prestigious race.
Racers just worked their buns off to be the FASTEST at their track and all other local tracks! Jack ran the first 6.15 ever at Farmington in 1979…and, man, that was flying! Sure it was eighth mile but he was on pure gas and the only other guys who'd done that were those Pros mentioned above. The battle was on. Fast didn't always win, but it was ALWAYS fun and the fans loved the fast cars even though they were breakout racing. Pro Stockers who had been rooted out of their game because of the expense of running pounds per cubic inch were right along in there with them only they were match racing all across the country. I attended many but the one that sticks in my mind was the last match race between Lee Edwards and Don Carlton, May 2, 1975 at Farmington (Don won two out of three by the way and bought our breakfast!) It sticks because just a short time later, Don was gone forever. I also have a picture that says, "To Becky, Don Carlton." Those go-fast guys were also instigators in the history of Pro Mod.
Altereds were dying all across the country because they had gotten so out of hand, no one could pay them enough to race. In the south, we didn't have many altereds, so they got hired in for match races and exhibitions from time to time, but by the '80s, most of them were just setting somewhere. IHRA created Mountain Motor Pro Stock and it was one of the most popular classes IHRA ever had…until a few misguided people wanted to change it back to the 500 cubic inch rule and ruined it, too.
Since everyone wanted to go fast, manufacturers were trying various ways to make sure the trend continued and eventually, along came nitrous oxide. Track operators started paying Low ET money, most paid first, some even paid second and third Low ETs. That just made everyone want to go even faster. I went to work at Farmington in 1979 and was working there in '80 when they started the 5-Second Club. Farmington's 5-Second Club was the only one for several years, then when nitrous came along, EVERYONE had a 5-Second Club. Cars kept getting faster, but that's not all. They got these beautiful paint jobs on them. Custom paint became the rage in the '70s...of course some had fancy paint earlier than that, but in the '70s, that aspect just exploded. Cars LOOKED good, cars ran FAST, they weren't bound by rules, the only rules were 'don't break out and don't red light.' Run wha cha brung and hope you brung enough!
In 1981, I started Quick Times Racing News because these racers had NO place to get their names printed, no place to get the glory they deserved…IHRA, NHRA and any others RAs were still stuck in RULES racing and in their publications, little guys were practically non-existent. Bracket racing was just what those racers did at their home tracks. But there were SO MANY of them, the sanctioning bodies decided they wanted some of that money so they allowed classes like Pro Street and Super Street. When they decided to make '.90' brackets like Quick Rod and Hot Rod and Super Rod, that limited SPEED again. So other brackets were formed where racers could again go fast in IHRA, NHRA, etc. like they were doing at home at their local track. From 1981 on, I highlighted those racers and wrote about them and their trials and troubles and wins and ETs and MPHs and accomplishments…births, deaths, marriages, divorces, warts and all! By the way, Jack McClamrock, along with Charles Carpenter and Michael Martin were on the cover of the FIRST EVER QTRN! That wasn't the only time Charles and Michael were on the cover, I did stories on them later. Charles ALWAYS said the attention and the coverage I gave the racers gave many of them the boost and encouragement they needed to do bigger and better things.
In September, 1986, I started featuring 12 cars in the center fold of QTRN…they were some of the fastest cars in the southeast. Many of those racers are no longer in the sport and some are no longer with us, but they all had a direct bearing on Pro Mod. I saw Charles Carpenter in 2002 or 2003 when he was making a 'comeback' (as he is now!) and he just shook his head when he said, "I can't believe there are so many of these guys running Quick 8s and Pro Mod and they don't even know where the class came from. Some of them look at me like they're wondering who I am and what I'm doing here!" It didn't take him long to show them something. But I know how Charles felt because when there got to be so many Pro Mod racers who got 'too big for their britches,' I just kind of faded away myself and many of them didn't know me either even though I was one of the originators of Pro Mod racing as Charles was. And if you ask him, he will tell you the same thing!
In each of those five issues, I featured ten doorslammers, one roadster and one dragster. My aim was to really highlight the quick and fast doorslammers but didn't want to make the doorless drivers mad!!! That was FIFTY fast doorslammers, I could have done that many more! There was also a story in each issue to go along with the centerfold of fast cars. The stories were written by David McGee, Dave Bishop, Woody Hatten, Phil Elliott and me. I do think you should know this…I asked Bret Kepner to write one of those stories and he said he would be glad to. I told him for which issue I needed his story and I told him the deadline date and he said he would get it to me in plenty of time. As the time got closer and closer, I called Bret several times and each time he promised he would get the story to me ASAP. I told him I needed to know if he wasn't going to do it so I could go ahead and do it myself, but he kept saying, "I'm working on it. I'll get it to you in time." He never did, he lied to me for over two months. I don't believe he ever intended to write it and lied to me intentionally! Sometime in the next year, he tried to apologize, but I just turned and walked off and never had any dealings with him ever again.
Also, in 1986, Dave Bishop had written about Charles Carpenter in Drag Review and called Charles' car the 'World's Fastest Shoebox' coining that term for all of time. Jim Bryant heard about Charles and his car and built his '57 Chevy to match race Charles, hiring Rob Vandergriff to drive…those two match raced everywhere. Among all these goings on in the southeast, AHRA Pro Stock, then UDRA Outlaw Pro Stock was the thing to do in the Midwest and Dixie Pro Stock was going strong in the deep south. All these guys basically did not want rules constricting their performance and most of them couldn't afford to build the big engines it took to run Pro Stock so they were just out doing their own thing. This movement was happening in many areas of the country all at the same time even though there was seldom any mixing outside their general areas. That soon changed. Quick Times Racing News was being read by racers all over the eastern U.S. by this time and when I started putting these 12 cars in each of my issues, it got a LOT of attention everywhere.
Don Garrick was running Orangeburg Dragstrip in Orangeburg, SC when the October, 1986 issue came out and he called me and said, "If I have a race just for these fast cars, do you think they will come and race for me here?" We talked about having a heads up, pro tree, no breakout race and I told him they had been trying to get someone to have this kind of race for a while but he needed to come up with a good purse because that was a LONG drive for most. I also told him there was only one way to find out…call them and see. He asked if I had their phones numbers, I told him I did, he asked if I would help him call, I said I would and the first EVER Quick 8 Doorslammer Race was held at Orangeburg Dragstrip in October, 1986. Since that issue was already in people's hands, we didn't even have time to advertise it, but after all the phone calls, there were lots of racers there. They WANTED to do this! I think Blake Wiggins won that first race. Orangeburg Dragstrip was now the 'Home of the ORIGINAL Doorslammer Race.' This was the single biggest catalyst to the formation of Pro Mod of anything that happened in this sport.
Don continued having these Quick 8 races into 1987, about once a month with more and more continued success. Sometimes, it would take an hour just to get into the track even though he had several people working the gate. The place was ALWAYS packed! And Don was smiling all the way to the bank…so much so he ended up selling the track in October, 1988. But the Quick 8s continued with new owners Johnny and Charles Dowey. Finally, other track operators started taking notice of the success of those early races, but NO other tracks held this type of race until a full year and a half later….at Shuffletown Dragway in Charlotte, NC in April, 1988! This was the single biggest spectator draw any of these track had ever had because spectators understand the winner being the guy who crossed the finish line first! And who doesn't love all that other excitement…the action and suspense of these racers and their ultra fast cars they can identify with…full body cars, old cars, new cars, cars that do eighth mile burnouts and weird stuff on the track like cross the finish line tail first or bounce back and forth from guardrail to guardrail!
I do have to mention one other track here and that is Hudson Drag Strip in Hudson, NC. They had been having what they called '5.85' races on Thursday nights and it was one of the most popular things they ever did…, not just for the fans, but for the racers, too. It was not a heads up, no breakout race, but it was a lot different than anyone had ever done. The four cars who qualified the closest to a 5.85 ET above and the four who qualified below a 5.85 made up first round and they were paired according to their ETs. Everyone loved it…it was just different and the racers had a chance at a purse separate from regular race dates and they all got a lot of notoriety from this. Hudson Drag Strip was the ONLY track who EVER did this type of race!
In the meantime, the IHRA Top Sportsman racers of '86 were beefing up their old cars and engines or getting new ones for '87 and I don't think there was any one single person anywhere who had any idea what was going to happen that year. But at Darlington, everyone found out, starting off the with the first EVER 200 mph pass in a sportsman doorslammer. Bill Kuhlmann, whom no one in the south had ever heard of (he was one of those Midwestern outlaw Pro Stockers) ran a 202.24 on that horrible, cold, slick Darlington Dragway at nearly midnight at the Winter Nationals.
There were other things going on in the background as well. Seems a lot of folks wanted a 'shoebox' race car because they got more attention than ANY of the others. Before the end of 1987, Norm Wizner had debuted his '57 Mega Ford, Gordy Foust was working on a new '66 Chevelle and Richard Earle was cutting up a '58 Plymouth to make a 'Christine' shoebox! Ed Hoover had totaled his crazy Camaro with nothing more than bruises and building a new car and the craze was on! In 1988, Lamar Walden debuted his '62 Chevy, Tommy Howe's Datsun became the first sportsman doorslammer to run in the 6's. Then Gordy Hmiel ran a 6.99 and Rob ran over 200 in his shoebox Chevy and the first ever all 7-second Field in Top Sportsman happened.
IHRA Top Sportsman was still JUST a bracket and the racers were tired of running a bracket race at national events when they could run outlaw heads up everywhere else. They had a meeting and decided to ask IHRA to help them get something extra. What that extra was was the Top Sportsman Quick 8 Saturday Night Shootouts, one of the most popular shows IHRA ever had. The fans went wild! I have actually seen fans rush to their seats to watch this shootout and Mountain Motor Pro Stock and go get hot dogs when the alcohol and fuel cars were running! Sometimes the spectators were cheering and screaming and yelling so loud, it was hard to hear the cars…I was on the starting line and it was still sometimes hard to hear them. No one could have predicted how popular this was going to be! When Animal Jim defeated Rob Vandergriff at the Winter Nationals in 1988 in the new Quick 8 Shootout, it sealed the popularity of this new addition to IHRA.
I will have to say this…the smartest person in ALL this craziness was Duane Nichols. In 1989, Duane put together the United States Super Circuit and without a doubt, the seven years he ran this circuit, it was the most popular racing circuit that has ever been in the history of drag racing. People were really disappointed when, in 1995, Duane pulled the plug on the whole deal. When asked why, he simply told people, he could see the beginning of the end and he wanted to be remembered as quitting while he was ahead. He certainly was ahead!
When Steve Earwood was working for Gary Brown at Atlanta Dragway, I begged him for two years to have a Quick 8 Doorslammer race and he wouldn't even discuss it. I did everything I could think of to do, I told him how crazy people were over it, not just the racers, but spectators as well. I even tried to get him to come to one of our Carolina tracks on a Sunday when Atlanta wasn't running, but he never made the effort. He just laughed at me and kept on doing the same old thing. After Steve left Atlanta Dragway, he had a chance to come to an IHRA race at Bristol and after witnessing the astonishing success of Top Sportsman, especially the Saturday Night Quick 8 Shootout, he told me he wished he had listened to me…that this was, by far, the best show he had seen in years! He even sent me a letter after that…I will print it for you some time!!! One of the things he wrote was, "I must admit I haven't been so impressed since I saw my first funny cars back in the late '60s. The Top Sportsman cars really do have that kind of impact."
NHRA was just like Steve…they would not run Pro Mod for many years, mainly because of Pro Stock. They knew the Pro Mod would be faster and quicker than their limited 500 cubic inch Pro Stockers and didn't want to upset the apple cart. One of the reasons IHRA would not switch their Mountain Motor Pro Stock over to the standard NHRA 500 cubic inch limit was because they wanted their Pro Stock to be as fan-attended as Pro Mod. No factory sponsorships for Pro Mod…never would be. However, Pro Stock would always have some type of factory sponsorships…all this going on at a time when NHRA knew they were getting ready to lose Winston Drag Racing and they were hoping the auto makers would take up the slack when the Winston money was lost.
After Steve Earwood left Atlanta and Gary Brown took over the operations, Gary's wife Patti called me and asked if I would help them get the Pro Mod racers to come to Atlanta Dragway for the first time ever. They called this race the Mountain Motor Nitrous Nationals and it was held July 4 weekend in 1990. They had NO idea how to get in touch with any of these racers (and of course IHRA would never help an NHRA track!) and that's why they called me. I helped them call all these racers and for the FIRST time, Pro Mod got introduced to fans of Atlanta Dragway and I helped introduce Pro Mod to them and to NHRA. They went as nuts over Pro Mod as anyone ever had been. Patti and Gary held this race every year until NHRA 'bought' their track. And of course, NHRA wasn't about to run Pro Mod at one of their facilities.
MANY years later, NHRA finally recognized Pro Mod and allowed them to run at their races, at first it was only at certain races in the most out-of-the-way places. And the Pro Stockers hated them. And I don't blame them. They had no rules. They had no limits. But…progress is progress and the old saying, "You can't stop progress," was very true in the case of Pro Mod. When the powers at NHRA realized how much the Pro Mod racers were bringing to their little out-of-the-way facilities, they also realized how much this class could add to the whole line-up and NHRA finally does allow Pro Mod national events. But you don't see them on TV! Oh, no! Never, never, never. They are TOO popular. They are TOO fast. They are TOO quick! Fans love them TOO much. But this is one of the things IHRA still has going for it, no matter what anyone thinks.
Now folks, you have the TRUE, REAL history of Pro Modified. It doesn't have anything to do with the people who have used it as their claim to fame. It has to do with all the 'little guys' involved in the real history you've read here. Charles Carpenter, Becky White, Don Garrick and Orangeburg Dragstrip and more than just the names you've read here ARE the 'history' of Pro Mod. There has never been and, I predict, never will be a more exciting time in the sport of drag racing, the time for this kind of growth is well past. Pro Mod spread from the southeast…mainly the Carolinas…all across the country…not necessarily like a wildfire, but it was complete. No one escaped the thrill and excitement of Quick 8 Doorslammer racing, thank God!
This one bunch of racers has brought more spectators to the sport of drag racing than any other class ever and brought it more good notoriety as well (along with some bad). It is a shame so many Quick 8 or Pro Mod racers don't know their history and have gotten so far away from their roots that evidently they don't even care. But I guess that happens after time, I just want EVERYONE to know the TRUE history of Pro Mod before it's lost in a sea of 'story-telling.' And remember…I printed the true history of Pro Mod AS IT HAPPENED and have never felt the need to change a thing! Imagine what would have happened if there had not been instigators and believers and people like Charles Carpenter, Becky White and Don Garrick at Orangeburg?
Becky White, Editor and Publisher, Quick Times Racing News for 25 years!
(I will, later, print a list of names here…if you know of someone who helped to make Pro Mod possible, send them to me and I will add them to the list I already have. In the meantime, I think you SHOULD read Bobby's history…it will at least give you some insight into the racers themselves…I know he has been contacting them, which I did not.)