Time Capsule – 1970’s Pro Stock Drag Racing
The 1970’s were the golden age of Pro Stock, otherwise known as the “Factory hot rods.” The cars still readily resembled production models albeit with better stance and flared fenders not to mention hood scoops. Unlike today where Chevy has completely taken over the class, there was factory involvement from Ford, Chrysler, General Motors and even American Motors back when these images were taken throughout the western United States.
Western tracks like Pomona, Beeline Dragway, Sacramento Raceway Park, Orange County International Raceway and Ontario Motor Speedway hosted big time drag events (both NHRA and AHRA races with giant independent shows mixed in) where it wasn’t unusual to have more 50 Pro Stock entries at an event, especially when the NHRA came to town.
While the national scene was dominated by the likes Bill Jenkins, Ronnie Sox, Dick Landy, Don Nicholson and Bob Glidden, the west coast had a varied and very competitive Pro Stock contingent with names such as Bill Bagshaw, Butch Leal, Sonny Bryant, Lee Hunter, Kevin Rotty, Mark and Brad Yuill plus scores of other teams. It was a time when it was still relatively affordable to race, if not win, and many racers dipped their toes in the water at one time or another.
The NHRA officially recognized Pro Stock as a professional eliminator in 1970 where it was slotted below Top Fuel and Funny Car, just as it is configured today. Pro Stock was basically an outgrowth of the Super Stock class yet it featured a less stringent set of rules and no handicaps. It was heads up racing, first car to the stripe wins.
The manufacturers ate it up and spent great sums of money making sure their field soldiers flew the colors of their brand in winning fashion. “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” was the battle cry. The first-ever NHRA Pro Stock event win went to the legendary Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins who defeated Ronny Sox with a 9.98 in the final round of the 1970 Winternationals in Pomona.
There are some killer cars featured in this time capsule. Many of these images have rarely been seen if ever. It’s like looking through a window into the glory years of drag racing when creativity, smarts, and driving talent could keep up with check books. We wish all of you could have been trackside with us!