The media has continually pointed out the improved parity and seemingly leveled playing field which has manifested itself in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class. But let’s face it – a closer look reveals not much has changed and the very select group of individuals who build their own motors have continually come out on top.
Consider this. Over the last ten seasons the primary teams of the category’s two top engine providers, Byron Hines of Vance and Hines and George Bryce of Star Racing and G-Squared Motorsports, have won the championship all but once.
The only instance in the last decade when both of these tycoon’s missed the season title came in 2003 when Joe Koenig’s Trim-Tex Team with rider Geno Scali captured the championship in a rare renaissance-like opportunity of a season tailor-made for a privateer. Scali’s championship came in a year when three-time champ Matt Hines announced his retirement just prior to the season, George Bryce and three-time champion Angelle Sampey parted ways, and the Vance and Hines V-Rods were still being developed. Also note that Scali only won three races that season. Scali, like the majority of competitors in the class, purchased his motors from one of the big two. In his case it was Vance and Hines.
Now there is no question that over the last five years many different event winners have emerged, significantly more than the Schultz and Myers show of the early 90s. But the fact remains, in terms of championships, Pro Stock Motorcycle, like most NHRA Pro Classes, is largely still a one or two horse show. The teams of Hines, Bryce, and the late-Dave Schultz have won 18 of the possible 20 NHRA PSM championships. Besides Scali, since the inception of the class in 1987 only John Mafaro has been able to win a PSM championship without being on one of the engine builders’ dominant squads.
NHRA’s new NASCAR-like, playoff system of determining a season champion may give some of the smaller teams a glimmer of hope, but for the most part won’t dramatically change things. A greater chance for parity comes in the recent efforts of Don Schumacher’s Army team to build their own motors and Rob Muzzy’s quest to make the state-of-the-art Kawasaki ZX-14 powerpalnt competitive.
The bottom line is that in NHRA PSM drag racing the quality of the machinery is far more important than the skill of the rider, and until the class starts filling up with more talented engine builders and not just talented riders, the results will largely remain the same.