Comp champ Massel will make Pro Stock debut in Pomona
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
by Phil Burgess, National DRAGSTER Editor

Reigning NHRA Comp national champ Bruno Massel Jr., whoís currently leading the points in pursuit of a third season championship, will tackle a new challenge when he makes his Pro Stock debut at the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona at the wheel of Steve Kentís Protect The Harvest Camaro. The duo also is planning to share the car next season in partial campaigns for both as part of a two-car team effort with partner Rodger Brogdon.

Massel, a nine-time winner in NHRA's Sportsman ranks, first tested in Kentís Camaro in late August, just prior to the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, when he spent a day making runs at Gateway Motorsports Park outside of St. Louis, close to his home in Woodridge, Ill.

The decision for Massel, whose title defense in Comp is facing stiff challengers from a trio of pursuers, to compete in Pro Stock is the result of a bad news-good news situation. The bad news is that he has already earned points at the maximum allotted number of events allowed in his class, and ongoing harmonic issues with the potent turbocharged four-cylinder powerplant in his Comp car wonít allow him to try to block his pursuers at any of the seasonís final three events ó the national events in Las Vegas and Pomona and the yearís final divisional event in Las Vegas that falls between them. The good news is that Kent was able to offer his car to Massel because the Texas-based big-game hunter already had an expedition to Canada planned that weekend.

Massel has had no problem adjusting to the fleet Pro Stock car, and his DD/AT Cobalt has run in the sixes. And although the Comp class runs on a five-tenths Tree as opposed to the four-tenths Tree used in Pro Stock, Massel can fall back on his years in Super Comp, where the Pro Tree is used. Itís been the staging procedure that so far has proved the greatest challenge.

ďI have to admit it was a bit humbling at first because the staging procedure is different than what Iím used to with my turbo cars; the foot and hand motions are the complete opposite,Ē he said. ďThankfully, Rodger, Pete [Smallwood], and all the guys were more than helpful as I got acclimated to driving a clutch car for the first time. It hasnít come naturally, and Iím still having to think as I do it every step of the way, but I think it will get more fluid and less mechanical with more laps."

Massel will get more time behind the wheel beginning Oct. 17-18 with some test runs in the Pro Stock car at Royal Purple Raceway in Houston, near the teamís home base.

Masselís 2014 plans call for approximately 10 events, splitting time in the car with Kent, who only had planned a partial schedule for himself. A lot of what will happen depends on financing, but Massel has a strong and long list of backers who have supported his championship efforts in the last decade., one of the primary backers on his Comp Cobalt and similarly powered dragster, will support Masselís Pro Stock debut, as well as longtime marketing partners Lucas Oil, Mav-TV, and Chevrolet Performance. The white car will look the same as when Kent drove it at 20 of the seasonís 23 races so far this season, with the addition of on its nose.

ďItís a just a good fit all the way around,Ē Massel said. ďNot only am I racing with former Comp eliminator racers, but Iíll be driving a Chevrolet that also happens to be part of the Lucas Oil family. I couldnít have asked for a better situation. Steve and Rodger have put together a first-class organization, and Iím just thrilled to be involved with it.

ďThis is something Iíve wanted to do for a long time,Ē added Massel. ďPro Stock has been my goal for years, but I honestly never thought I would get the chance to make it a reality. Weíre looking at doing 10 events together next year. Obviously, that depends on funding, but right now, Iím just focused on dropping the clutch in Pomona. Iíve never raced there and always have wanted to, and to be able to run there and do it in Pro Stock is just incredible. I canít thank Steve Kent enough for this tremendous opportunity."

Asked about his goals for his debut, Massel was cautiously optimistic. "Rodger and Steve have a great car here, but I'm realistic. I want to make the show, and if I get lucky and win a round Sunday, it would be a dream come true," he said.

The drama surrounding Massel's hopes for a third season title in Comp may be resolved by the time the NHRA Finals begins. A trio of racers, including former event winner Alan Ellis, Brandon Huhtala, and recent Dallas winner Don Thomas, have mathematical chances to catch his total of 571 points, but according to Massel, second-place Ellis would have to reach the final of at least one of the three remaining events to catch him while Huhtala and Thomas would have to win one of the three races and go deep in a second.

Regardless of what happens in Comp this season and with his Pro Stock foray next season, Massel definitely will continue to compete for the Comp championship in 2014 with his father and crew chief, former national event winner Bruno Massel Sr.

ďWe werenít happy with the way our season ended in Comp, with breakage at our last two events, and Dad said he wonít go out that way, that we need to race at least another year,Ē said Massel with a laugh. ďWeíre going to come back and do it right.Ē

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