Just a little more than a month after his surprise Extreme Pro Stock debut at the PDRA North-South Shootout in Maryland, Johnny Pluchino has his sights set on the NHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stock field. The second-generation driver will make his quarter-mile debut in the Mountain Motor Pro Stock exhibition rounds at the Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, June 14-16.
Pluchino, the son of 2016 PDRA Extreme Pro Stock world champion John Pluchino, will drive his father’s Strutmasters.com ‘13 Ford Mustang at Bristol Speedway.
“This is a really big race for us,” said Pluchino. “There’s so many things going into this race. I’m preparing for it like it’s one of the biggest races of my life because it might be.”
Johnny Pluchino earns his spot
Pluchino got the opportunity to enter the Extreme Pro Stock competition after several test runs in the Strutmasters.com Mustang at the PDRA Virginia race. He was notified of the decision just hours before qualifying races began. Once he accepted the opportunity, he qualified at No. 4.
“I was actually a little torn,” said Pluchino. “I’ve been waiting to get in that car for, realistically, the last three years. I was also torn because my dad was the points leader going into that race and he pulled himself out of the championship hunt to allow me to race. From the team standpoint and as my father’s son, I was upset, but as the driver about to get in this awesome Pro Stock car, I was happy. My emotions were going in both directions, but at that point I understood why my dad made the decision he made. It was a long-term decision and I’m really grateful for it. It was a very unselfish decision and it got me a little more prepared to go to the quarter mile come Bristol.”
Not Johnny Pluchino's first time around at Bristol
However, this won’t be Pluchino’s first race at Bristol. He actually competed nearly 15 years ago. At that time, he was racing in a Junior Dragster at the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League’s Eastern Conference Finals. He’ll now have the chance to compete in a championship-level vehicle.
“Bristol is a very exciting track with a lot of history, especially in Mountain Motor Pro Stock,” Pluchino said. “It’s a beautiful facility, but it also presents its challenges. We’re excited to go there and to face these challenges. I’m excited for this race because of the history of the track and being able to say I raced Pro Stock at an NHRA race after racing Jr. Dragsters there years ago, but I’m more focused on what we have to do to make sure we’re successful.”
Getting support from Strutmasters.com
It wasn’t until signing a partnership with Chip Lofton and his Strutmasters.com brand that the Pluchino Racing Team decided to dive into the NHRA Mountain Pro Stock field. Lofton, who started the suspension manufacturing company in 1999, has been adding pieces to his racing portfolio. He signed a partnership with Pluchino earlier this year, providing the team with financial support and brand support. Lofton and others from Strutmasters will be at the Thunder Valley Nationals. There, they will support The Pluchino Racing team as well as several other teams which they sponsor.
“Honestly, we wouldn’t be at this Bristol race if it wasn’t for Chip’s support,” Pluchino said. “It will be nice to have Chip there and it gives us a little more motivation to come out on top and get a trophy. It would be awesome to be in the final round and be able to hold the trophy in the winner’s circle with my dad, my crew and my sponsor.”
Johnny Pluchino and the Strutmasters.com Mountain Motor Pro Stock team will make qualifying runs on Friday and Saturday. The eliminations are set for Sunday.