KEEPING THE PEACE
Competition director John Sears breaks down what went into the WSOPM Rules Package
By Nate Van Wagnen
Establishing and maintaining parity in a Pro Mod class made up of 61 cars with numerous different power adders and engine combinations might seem like a daunting task , but the World Series of Pro Mod technical and competition team made it look natural . At the forefront of that effort was competition director John Sears , an industry veteran with experience creating and enforcing rule sets for numerous organizations in both Pro Mod and small-tire racing .
Working with longtime DI event tech official Lonnie Grim , Drag IllustrateD ’ s Wes Buck and Mike Carpenter , and track owner Victor Alvarez , Sears developed the rules package for WSOPM by taking into consideration the rules of all the different series and classes that include Pro Mod . He also leaned on his notes from past Bradenton Pro Mod events .
“ I reached out to a couple of different tuners with a couple questions about some things , then I just reviewed the Northeast Outlaw Pro Mod rules , the NMCA , the Mid-West , PDRA , and NHRA rules , and basically made a bunch of spreadsheets between all those ,” Sears explained . “ I looked at my scale sheets that I had from the Snowbirds and U . S . Street Nationals because oftentimes what they ’ re supposed to weigh isn ’ t what they cross the scale at . The scale is a better indicator than what the minimum weight is on some of the programs because some people run a little bit heavier and it shows that they ’ re capable of competing at the heavier weight .”
Over the course of the first three qualifying sessions , all of the different combinations showed that they were in the mix . The No . 1 qualifier was Johnny Camp and his ProCharged ’ 69 Camaro with a 3.626 , and the No . 32 qualifier was Steven Whiteley in his screw-blown ’ 69 Camaro with a 3.700 . After numerous drivers threw down last-ditch efforts to bump into the field or improve , the bump spot was held by Spencer Hyde ’ s 3.682 for a spread of just . 056 seconds between 32 cars .
“ Going into that fourth round , I looked at the numbers and I pretty much thought at that point that we had met our goal ,” Sears said . “ I know we were looking for between . 63 and . 73 ; that
tenth was our goal for our 32-car field . Then as the numbers started falling and people started getting quicker and they ’ re stacking on top of one another , it kind of became apparent that we actually exceeded expectations at that point .
“ When it all shook out at . 056 as the final spread , I just sat back at that point and was like , ‘ Wow , we were able to accomplish this and we did what I don ’ t think anyone else has been able to do .’ I don ’ t care if it ’ s Pro Mod or Top Fuel or any of the other classes out there , we have to go back into the annals of drag racing , the archives , to see if there ’ s ever been a heads-up program where 32 cars were qualified that closely . I don ’ t think we ’ ll be able to find anything to match that .”
The parity continued in eliminations . While racers battled hot , tricky conditions in the first round , they quickly settled into a high-3.60s to low-3.70s range in the second round before locking into the mid-3.60s for the last three rounds .
“ I know there were several instances where we offered up some different opportunities for people with blower percentages and things like that ,” Sears said . “ When we did narrow it down to the two – 75 and 92 [ percent max overdrive ] – you guys saw that was in the finals . I think we nailed that delta pretty cleanly between the two . The E . T . s were right there .”
The goal of the group wasn ’ t for the WSOPM to be a record-fest or a home run derby . Instead , the objective was to create an environment where all combinations could compete on a level playing field . With the event completed , Sears proudly looked back on what the tech team accomplished .
“ With everybody ’ s discussion back and forth , I think that really built up a lot of trust in the group with one another ’ s decision-making abilities ,” Sears said . “ I know we had a couple bumps in the road getting there where there were some racers that weren ’ t happy , but I ’ m really glad we did stay the course and stick to what we put out .”
Along with the rules committee , Sears worked with tech teammates Vinny Laudicina , Rick Dodge , and Rock Carzoli to perform prerace tech inspections , as well as regular checks throughout the weekend . The WSOPM was one of dozens of events that Sears and his team of RTRA techs will oversee during the 2023 season .
“ It was an absolute honor to be on the team and to be the competition director for the World Series of Pro Mod ,” Sears said . “ I ’ ve been blessed with a lot of opportunities here in the last couple years , and hopefully they ’ ll keep coming my way .” DI
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