Pro Mod racer and sponsorship icon Roger Burgess seeks his happy place once again.
Burgess, whose ProCareRX brand provided the influx of sponsorship to make the Pro Modified category a recognized professional series on the NHRA tour, has planned for this season’s objective to get back to having fun and lately, he’s experienced anything but enjoyment.
“It has not been (fun),” admitted Burgess, who last month announced the discontinuation of his fuel Funny Car team. “A lot of the fun has gone out of it and I am trying to get it back this year. Quite frankly, it might be more difficult now than ever. The rule changes which basically got imposed on my cars and nobody else’s.
Burgess and his R2B2 Racing operation, along with the turbocharged competitors competing in the ProCareRX NHRA Pro Modified series was subjected to a rule change which included running additional weight as well as a spec turbocharger. The rule amendment came just months after Burgess announced he would no longer fund the series television show as well as the series beyond 2013.
To say Burgess is disappointed with the direction the class has taken is an understatement.
“The objective that I set out to achieve, in getting involved with NHRA Pro Modified, will not happen. I’m certain of that,” Burgess said. “And, I think, the future of quarter-mile Pro Mod, will be determined by the NHRA and not by me or any of the other drivers who for years have tried to develop this as a professional class.”
In the meantime, Burgess intends to make the most of the situation and return to driving as part of a two-car team with Leah Pruett, who will drive the team’s Mustang. Burgess will return to the repaired Firebird he crashed in Bristol.
Burgess plans to run the full series in 2012 after vowing in 2011 to not return until he had a full accounting of each track’s nuances of bumps and shortcomings. The past NHRA national event winner stated a month after the crash that he would not run another GSA Pro Modified race unless he had complete data on any track he raced.
The onus was on Burgess and his team to compile the data, and as a result, he didn’t return to competition until the final event of the season in Las Vegas. This season, Burgess has assigned members of his team to compile data before each race.
“We have procedures in place where my key team members have to walk the track and diagram any issues before I decide to drive the car,” said Burgess. “We did try several automated ways to go out and actually measure the track’s incline and decline – identify any danger issues at the tracks but the ones we looked at are not technically feasible or economically feasible to use.”
And as he sees it, Burgess believes the NHRA, in the best interests of safety, has an obligation to its racers to chart the discrepancies on the track.
“I do think the NHRA should be required to give this to every driver that participates,” Burgess said. “I also think their reluctance to do that, because they do have this information, and I’m not talking performance information, this is safety – and I think failure to do this puts them at a much greater legal than if they were to disclose it.
“The position of my track only extends in the groove is bull****. It’s outdated and it’s not true. Funny Cars drive all over the place. Dragsters drive all over the place and chassis cars drive all over the place. If we can only run in the groove then put a fence up. If they can’t go outside of that … then put a rail in. Otherwise tell us what’s out there.”
Burgess recently completed a test session where he and Pruett made a number of laps aimed at bringing their doorslammers to a reasonable level of competitiveness. He considers the test as a success in reacquainting himself with driving as well as gaining on rule changes he feels were excessive.
“In terms of my driving … I’m certainly rusty and have a good ways to go,” Burgess admitted. “In terms of performance, we got dinged for a tenth [of a second] with these rule changes with the spec turbo and adding another 50 pounds.
“That’s 125 pounds added to our cars since we set the record which was matched by a nitrous car and were a couple of hundredths off of what the blower cars were doing. There have been no changes to the other power combinations. We’ve got a lot of work to do and right now we are scrambling to find some power.”
“I don’t think we will get back to where we were. I think we can get back to maybe being competitive by Gainesville by incorporating all of the changes we made since we started testing. The competitiveness won’t come from being necessarily the quickest and fastest out there. It will come from our consistency which has been our number one goal all the time, to not beat ourselves.”
Not beating yourself goes a long way towards having fun, at least this is how Burgess sees it.