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Pro Stock drivers tout competitiveness of class

Jeff Birchfield • Jun 15, 2018 at 8:52 PM

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Pro Stock has a reputation as the most competitive division in NHRA drag racing.

The history at Bristol Dragway proves it with a 2012 final between Mike Edwards and Allen Johnson serving as the closest finish in NHRA history. Two-time world champion Erica Enders said it's a trend that continues today, and results from the first half of the season back her claim.

"We're 11 races in with nine different winners," Enders said Friday during a news conference at the NHRA Fitzgerald USA Thunder Valley Nationals. "The rules changes have done exactly what NHRA set out for them to do, which is to make the class even more competitive than what it was. In my opinion, it was already the most competitive class before."

Enders won earlier this season at Charlotte and she reached the final round last week in Richmond, where she lost to Tanner Gray.

Alex Laughlin, the defending race winner at Bristol Dragway, is still looking for his first victory of the season and sits 11th in the Pro Stock points. He sees the division’s parity as the result of the cars being harder to drive than a few seasons ago.

"I think it would be better if I was faster than everybody," Laughlin said. "It would be easier that way. But, driving these cars, I started with the carburetor days and they were easier to drive. The burnouts were easier, track time was easier. Now when you shift these things, you have such a tiny window of getting it into gear in time. If you hit the rev limiter, it really hurts it and it changed the game for drivers."

Consider that points leader Greg Anderson has yet to win this season, nor has three-time Pro Stock world champion Jason Line. Throw in names like defending world champion Bo Butner and Topeka race winner Deric Kramer, and the class has plenty of talent.

It includes five-time champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., who won two weeks ago at Chicago and reached the semifinals last week in Richmond. His win at Chicago was his first since 2014, and he credited three aspects of performance — the car, horsepower and tuning — as factors in his recent resurgence.

However, as Enders pointed out, it's never easy with the odds stacked against a driver.

"There are 10 or 11 cars every week that are capable of winning and different drivers in the winners circle," she said. "It's definitely interesting and it's going to be a dogfight all year."

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