The anticipation has finally crested as NHRA Pro Stock began qualifying for the Circle K NHRA Winternationals on February 12th. Day one was a success as a full field of 16 cars showed up to qualify. All but one made successful qualifying runs and the indications point to some close racing in eliminations.
Some teams didn’t have the new Holley EFI system that the NHRA selected to power all the cars in their hands until as late as November of 2015. In that short time, they have made monumental strides to ready their cars for the beginning of the 2016 NHRA season. Transitioning from carburetors to EFI in a Pro Stock car that displaces 500 cubic inches, now has revs limited to 10,500 rpm, and needs to consistently run in the mid-6 second range in the quarter mile is not a small task. This task becomes exponentially more daunting when teams only have a few short months to revamp their race programs around fuel injection, new wheelie bar limitations and new hood/air intake restrictions as well.
In order to successfully complete the transition, all hands had to be on deck around the clock for the entire time. To bolster the hard work of the individual teams, Holley worked with many teams to help them overcome the learning curve as fast as possible. Even with all of that help, Holley’s EFI system made the transition as easy as possible. While several drivers have a background with EFI in one form of racing or another, Jason Line, the current #2 qualifier, has no experience with it outside of his daily driver truck. While many people would look at that as a disadvantage, Jason said “Not having a background with EFI hasn’t given me any preconceived notions about using it. I’m not used to doing things a certain way inside of a different EFI system because I’ve always raced with carburetors. That has allowed me to come in with a fresh perspective and take the EFI at face value instead of trying to do things a certain way that I used to, had I used EFI in the past.” Line also jokingly added “Since it’s the only EFI that I’ve ever use, that makes Holley EFI the BEST fuel injection system I’ve ever used.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Bo Butner, the #1 qualifier from day one has been using EFI systems in various applications since the early 2000s. Butner stated “The Holley EFI system has given us a lot more control over many more parameters than perhaps other racers aren’t as accustomed to. At the end of the day, EFI is a tool. You have to set your parameters, lock them in, and go from there. The Holley system has made that as easy as possible.” Chris McGaha, the current #3 qualifier echoed Butner’s sentiments to a certain extent. McGaha raved about the choice of the Holley as the EFI provider for Pro Stock, going on to say “Your imagination is the limit inside of Holley’s software. You can do and control everything from one spot to an almost infinite degree. Before the NHRA announced that Holley was on board to supply the EFI systems for Pro Stock, I was already planning on using a Holley system because of how easy it is to use. Compared to some of the other aftermarket EFI systems I have used in the past, the Holley software is by far the simplest to use, and it honestly has a lot more capability than even us Pro Stock guys need.”
See below for the complete qualifying ladder after day one:
1. Bo Butner Jim Butner Auto Camaro 6.606 209.75
2. Jason Line Summit Racing Equipment Camaro 6.618 209.95
3. Chris McGaha Harlow Sammons of Odessa Camar 6.641 208.62
4. Jeg Coughlin Magnetimarelli/JEGS Dart 6.645 208.55
5. Greg Anderson Summit Racing Equipment Camaro 6.647 209.43
6. Drew Skillman Ray Skillman Chevy Camaro 6.651 208.68
7. Allen Johnson Marathon Petroleum Dart 6.653 208.33
8. Shane Gray Gray Manufacturing Tech Camaro 6.660 208.68
9. Erica Enders Elite Motorsports Dart 6.669 208.62
10. Joey Grose Skyler Electric/Big Chief Cama 6.684 207.88
11. Alex Laughlin Gas Monkey Garage/360 Wraps Ca 6.684 207.59
12. Deric Kramer American Ethanol/Novozymes Dar 6.686 207.75
13. V. Gaines Kendall Oil Dart 6.689 207.11
14. Matt Hartford Total Seal/CIP1/Nitro Fish Cam 6.702 206.61
15. Aaron Strong Strong Trucking/FigSpeed Camar 6.721 206.29
16. Vincent Nobile Mountain View Tire Camaro 16.748 51.88
During day two, teams were definitely sitting a little closer and getting more comfortable with the system as elapsed times are gradually dropping. Not only are teams adjusting to the change to EFI, but the cars now draw air from an inlet at the front of the car instead of a hood scoop, which causes higher intake temperatures that make it harder to draw as much power out of the cars. Past that, teams are adapting to the new 10,500 rpm rev limit and shorter wheelie bars. All of these changes at once are forcing teams to put their thinking caps on to interpret all of the data from their Holley EFI systems, as well as the changes to the chassis.
After day one, no one had broken into the 6.5 second zone, with Bo Butner sitting in the number one qualifying spot with a 6.606 second pass at 209.75 mph. Butner was unable to improve upon his qualifying effort from day one, but he did display a little more horsepower with a 210.14 mph trap speed to match with another 6.606 pass. A familiar pair of racers were able to improve upon their day one passes and move to the top of the qualifying ladder though. The Summit Racing duo of Greg Anderson and Jason Line both leapt into the 6.5s with a 6.586 second pass from Anderson and a 6.592 pass from Line. Line also managed a 210.14 mph trap speed to match Butner for fastest trap speed of the qualifying sessions.
Greg Anderson, who is the #1 qualifier heading into eliminations, is in a similar situation to his teammate Line, as neither had absolutely zero prior experience with EFI before the NHRA rule changes came down. Anderson said, “We didn’t even know how to spell fuel injection to be honest, but the Holley system has been great to use. The onus has been on us to learn how fuel injection works. The system has responded exactly how we wanted it to with our inputs. We’re the ones who have to adapt to it, and the software has made this as easy of a change as possible.” When asked about his personal interaction with the software and how he felt about it, he jokingly replied, “I just leave all of that stuff up to Jason.” Either way, whoever is behind the keyboard has the Summit Racing cars in contention to earn the first NHRA Pro Stock victory with EFI.