Straight Talk with Bruce Biegler

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JEG'S Saves the Day

The fate of NHRA’s Pro Modified racing division was thrown into a state of flux late last season when incumbent presenting sponsor AMS Staff Leasing announced they could not continue as presenting sponsor. NHRA itself, citing ongoing obligations to its existing four Pro ST-Jegs-05_optcategories and to its primary sponsor POWERade, reiterated they were not in a position to salvage the program. So things did not look good as the season began and the first traditional NHRA Pro Modified stop at Gainesville, FL approached without sponsorship.

But much like the sudden appearance of a white stallion on the horizon, salvation arrived when giant Jeg’s Mail Order announced a few weeks before Gainesville that it would step in as the new primary sponsor. For Jeg’s — whose vast reputation in supporting NHRA racing at various levels includes its own Pro Stock team, two Jeg’s Sports Nationals events and also the highly prestigious annual Jeg’s Sportsman All-Stars race — the 10-event Jeg’s Pro Mod Challenge was just the latest high impact move for the innovative Ohio-based group.

NHRA’s ongoing position has been reiterating that Pro Modified is and will always remain an exhibition class only. That opinion, which continues to bewilder most knowledgeable fans, is not necessarily held by the new series organizers at Jeg’s. On the fan appeal meter, few can realistically deny the popularity of Pro Modified is greater than or at least equal to Pro Stock and certainly far ahead of Pro Stock Motorcycle. That sense of reality and the new involvement of Jeg’s may well be the catalyst that pushes the Pro Mod class to a higher plane.

“Our goal is to take the class to the next level,” confirmed Scott Woodruff, Jeg’s Media Relations Director and Pro Mod Challenge organizer. “Right now, we are still considered an exhibition class and we do have NHRA guidelines as far as scheduling and the number of participants. We intend to remain a good partner with NHRA on this but we have some bigger plans moving forward. Our position is to do a good job withST-Jegs-04_opt the class and put on a good show. We have a lot of good partners with us in this series and we are all unified in wanting to see it grow. We feel that using the Jeg’s brand to help elevate the class as a whole is a good step. The evolution of Pro Mod racing to a recognized NHRA Pro category — that would be cool.”

Woodruff was also quick to point out that the destiny of the Pro Mod class also rests heavily within the participants themselves.

“This is still NHRA’s sandbox and it’s the racers who are bringing their own shovels to play in the sand,” he explained. “However they (the racers) want it to be, is really under their control. To impress NHRA would be to take the path of least resistance.”

While a decision by NHRA to make Pro Mod a formal part of its annual Pro Championship campaign may still be a ways off, NHRA Pro Modified fans can still expect some evolution. There is potential for some more immediate format changes and different circuit events.

“We want to do anything that will help to bring in more fans,” added Woodruff. “We have various discussions going forward. We feel strongly about class diversity and the importance for nitrous and turbocharged cars being able to compete. It’s not just engines, it’s body styles too. Pro Modified racing is clearly one of the most exciting and entertaining forms of drag racing and our objective it to further tap that potential.”

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