SEEKONK, Mass. — What’s a pro stock?
Drag racing fans know. Pro stocks have been going head to head on the drag strip almost as long as there have been drag strips. However, these are not at all the pro stocks to which I refer.
I’m talking about pro stocks in stock car racing.
On the ovals, pro stocks were invented by a local promoter as a response to the high costs of racing a modified at his track. At least, that’s what they’ll tell you in New England. More specifically, they’ll stress that in southern New England, where I saw my first stock car race.
All of this is true, except it’s not.
Pro stocks weren’t invented in New England. They were adopted from other stock car divisions. You, elsewhere in America, know what I mean. They were called (super) late models.
Or were they?
Because, yes, “pro stock” was a drag racing division before it ever was a division in oval track racing, and yet “pro stock” was a stock car division before it ever was a division in stock car racing.
I opened this Pandora’s box of racing when I proposed an upcoming feature story about the birth of pro stocks for Late Model Racer magazine. I can recall when Seekonk Speedway’s legendary out-of-the-box thinker, D. Anthony Venditti, first announced that The ‘Konk would make these “new” cars the headline division at his track.
It was vintage Venditti, or so I thought. The idea of a new headlining division that still might utilize pieces originally manufactured for the street was attractive after mods had abandoned that possibility in favor of what essentially became formula cars that pretended to be “modified.” The specs seemed pretty unique compared to what was going on elsewhere in the region.
Eventually pro stocks evolved. At some point, they “became” super late models – as defined by everyone else in the country, it seems.
Now, my boss at Late Model Racer is the estimable Craig Murto, who works out of the magazine’s headquarters in Virginia. Craig tells me he grew up in Rhode Island. I have a hard time believing him, not only because of his accent, but because he doesn’t exhibit the kind of ingrained caustic cynicism of which we Ocean Staters are so proud. It’s the Napoleonic-complex wrought statewide. You know: little state, big mouth.
Not this time, though. I have no interest in writing this article based upon what might be my own ignorance and willful blindness to reality. It’s time to be a reporter. It’s time to ask the right questions. It’s time to talk to the people who were there, who made the decisions, who watched this evolution.
Continued on the next page…