Pro Stock Mustangs: Will 2011 Be Their Comeback Year?
Ford Motor Company has a long and glorious history with NHRA drag racing. From the flathead hot rods that we so popular in the sport's infancy through the mid-sixties' Thunderbolts and then the Cobra Jets, Mavericks, Pintos, Probes, Fairmonts and even Thunderbirds, high-performance stock-based cars carrying the famous Blue Oval have always been winners on the quarter-mile.
At least until 1990, the year Bob Glidden won his 10th Pro Stock championship in 16 years.
Fast forward twenty years and the NHRA Pro Stock class remains the property of GM and Mopar. For a variety of reasons Ford has barely been an afterthought in Pro Stock ever since Glidden won his last race in 1995.
But that could all change in 2011. And there's even a possibility that Glidden, who retired in 1997 (as the driver with the most national event wins in history, before John Force broke that record), will be behind the wheel when a driver in a Ford wins a Wally again.
Last year rumors began swirling that FoMoCo was about to re-enter Pro Stock with as much support as the only American automobile manufacturer to avoid needing a bailout could afford. Longtime Ford stalwart Jim Cunningham built a Mustang for Erica Enders to pilot, appearing at 12 races in 2009 but unable to qualify at any. Former IHRA racers John Nobile and Robert Patrick decided to throw their hats into the Big Blue ring for 2010 and then came the news that Larry Morgan was going to abandon his Dodge program and race an all new Ford this season.
And as if that wasn't enough Justin Humphreys announced his RaceRedi Motorsports team would be parking his Pro Stock Pontiac in favor of a new Mustang powered by an engine developed by Roush Yates of NASCAR, Grand-Am, ARCA and short track fame. Unfortunately the promise has been greater than the results.
After 20 races this season Morgan has had the greatest success of all the Mustang racers -- if you can call 16th place in the Pro Stock standings with seven DNQs successful.
Enders has competed in 14 events and qualified for three while Cunningham has made six appearances, some in a companion car to Erica's and made the field once. John Nobile ran 12 times and qualified once before putting his son in the car but that didn't help at all as Vince is 0-3 for racing on Sunday. Robert Patrick has only been to two races and has yet to qualify for the rounds that count.
And after hearing the Humphrey's was going to have his Mustang on track by June, then July, then August and then for the U.S. Nationals we're still waiting.
But hope springs eternal for the Ford racers as evidenced by Larry Morgan qualifying 4th at Dallas last weekend and earning a rare first round victory. And at 66 years young Bob Glidden is now helping Jim Cunningham bring his Mustang up to speed. He even ran at the U.S. Nationals this past Labor Day Weekend and while he didn't qualify he did beat Morgan's best time and got the biggest ovation of anyone at the strip.
With three Nationals yet to be run there's still a chance a Ford Mustang will get its first win of the new millennium. A very, very small chance admittedly, but a chance nonetheless.
And then there's an off-season followed by a whole new ball game for 2011, where Ford fans should be confident that between Morgan, Cunningham Motorsports, Humphreys, Roush Yates and the rest of the Mustang racers, a return to Pro Stock glory for FoMoCo is closer than ever.
Read more of Bill Tybur's thoughts on fantasy racing at FMFL
Photo Credit: J. Michael Raby