Lodi, California-based Joey Grose is making his third appearance of the 2016 season at this weekend’s Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and it is also the 15th NHRA Pro Stock race of his career. Grose is no stranger to the go-fast rush, though. He came from the world of drag boats.
“I ran a Pro Stock car in the mid-90s, and that’s what I learned to drive when I was 15 or 16 years old,” said Grose, who has never raced in another NHRA category. “When it got too expensive, we focused on our engine shop and did a lot of drag boat racing at that time. We kept working on 500 cubic inch Pro Stock motors in the drag boats, though, and then Dave Ferguson helped us get involved with the Pro Stock cars again.”
Grose made his Pro Stock debut in 1991 at the national event in Sonoma. He raced there again in 1992, and after a long break, returned in 2014 for a two-race season. He made the Sonoma field to become the 430th driver to qualify for an NHRA Pro Stock event that year, finished the season at the NHRA Finals in Pomona, and then entered eight races in 2015. He qualified for all but three.
The large rule changes for 2016 did little to scare Grose away. Although the team had no previous experience with electronic fuel injection, they have crew chief Tommy Utt on staff and engines under the hood of the Ferguson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro built by Chris McGaha’s Southwest Performance and Machine.
“Yes, this is our first time with fuel injection, but because we didn’t have 20 years of experience with the carburetors in these cars, it wasn’t a really big deal to us to make the change,” said Grose. “Switching it over wasn’t that bad for us, compared to what it was like for most.”
However, there is certainly a learning curve when it comes to driving a fuel-injected hot rod, Grose admits.
“It is very hard to drive,” he said with a chuckle. “We’re still so new to it and trying to get the fuel curve worked out. For staging and doing the burnout, the cars tend to either be at zero or wide-open. When you go to stage, the car wants to surge, and that makes it a little difficult. But each race, it’s getting better and better. We’re learning, but we’re just having a great time. I love Pro Stock. This is my favorite class.”