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More Short Track Racing. Less Money

by Stephen Cox
Thursday, September 26, 2019

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#21 Stephen Cox
#21 Stephen Cox
This car was mean-looking and low slung. The roofline didn’t rise any higher than a Lamborghini. The tires were huge; the widest I’d seen since the last time I was in a sprint car. Maybe that’s why my neck started to ache halfway through the race. The cornering speed of this car was amazing.

My car owner, Dan Merservey Sr., just kept asking, “Stephen, are you having fun?” Heck, yes. Just standing beside it was fun. Actually driving it was euphoric.

New England’s Pro-4 Modified Series is a leftover gem from an age when short tracks ruled the country. Their four-cylinder, open wheel asphalt racing machines are fast and loud. The unlimited engine packages make almost three hundred horsepower, more than enough to propel their lightweight modified racers at mind-numbing speeds.

Look, the prerequisites for racing are pretty simple. Most racers want to have loads of fun. They want to drive cars that look good… like real racing machines. They want to race on a reasonable budget and get plenty of seat time at historic racing venues. The fundamental force behind all of their decisions is financing, which means they can’t join a series that requires them to buy a new car and engine combination every few years.

Race start
Race start
The car I drove at New Hampshire’s Hudson International Speedway this summer was built in the mid-1980’s and was fast enough to run in the top five. That’s an incredible lifespan for a racing car. Even more important is the fact that the series has been around for decades and the organization’s prime directive is to make sure the oldest cars in the field still have a chance for a good finish. No one gets left behind because they couldn’t afford a new chassis or engine. My 35-year old chassis ran with the best of them.

The motors are simple and within the grasp of anyone with decent mechanical skills. And you don’t have to buy a seventy thousand dollar engine for your six thousand dollar chassis in order to be competitive. The Pro-4 Series offers two divisions - Limited and Unlimited - to accommodate any engine budget.

The cars are real racing machines. The Pro-4 modifieds didn’t “use to be” a 1980’s Monte Carlo or a 1990’s Dodge Neon. They were never street cars. They are purpose built for competition. When you sit inside a Pro-4 modified, there’s no doubt that you’re in a real racing car. They look like it and they sound like it. The rumble of a Pro-4 engine is entirely satisfying for both the driver and the people in the grandstands. And remember, no one knows modified racing like the folks in New England, where this form of motorsport has been wildly popular since the 1970’s.

The Pro-4’s drive like an over-powered go kart, or perhaps a midget. The driver is constantly working to keep the rear end under him, modulating throttle and opposite lock to keep the car straight. A Pro-4 modified will challenge your nerve in the corners. No matter how deep you drive it in, you always come out the other side knowing you could have gone just a bit faster.

This is a series that checks a lot of boxes. Good people. Great tracks. A high fun factor. A rules package that creates excellent competition. But in my opinion, it’s greatest value can be described in one sentence…

The Pro-4 Series returns more racing miles per dollar than any short track series I’ve seen in a long time. And isn’t that what we’re all after?

Check out this book by Stephen Cox
Check out this book by Stephen Cox
Stephen Cox

Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions

Driver, FIA EGT Championship & Super Cup Stock Car Series

Co-host, Mecum Auctions on NBCSN

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