NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

After a tough 2022 season, the Harlow Sammons Pro Stock team is pressing forward

The 2022 season did not yield the results they were looking for, but the father-son Pro Stock team of Chris and Mason McGaha are pressing forward as they look for improvement.
02 Dec 2022
Posted by NHRA.com staff
Chris McGaha

When a team has a season like the Harlow Sammons Pro Stock team just had in 2022, looking back for positive highlights can be just as frustrating as the on-track experiences they just faced.

Team leader Chris McGaha, an eight-time national event winner and 12-time finalist, could only shake his head as he reflected on the time and effort the team put into his silver Chevrolet Camaro and the blue Camaro driven by his son, Mason.
“This season was bad. There is no other way to say it,” Chris said. “I have done a lot of rewinding. I have been going back and looking at data, and the more I do that, the more things don’t make sense. You try to go back, and things aren’t the same. That is frustrating. You just keep asking yourself what is causing these things to be this way.”

During the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season that was recently completed in Pomona, McGaha won just two rounds of racing and qualified in the top half of the field just twice. Mason’s blue Camaro fared slightly better early in the season with four semifinals in the first six races. Mason also advanced to three quarterfinals at midseason in a stretch that included races in Norwalk, Denver, and Sonoma.

“We [Chris and Mason] laugh about it now, but we stood at the fence in Denver after we both had lost in the second round and said, ‘Wait until we get to the [Auto Club NHRA] Finals. We will be talking about how well we did in Denver,' ” said McGaha. “You can’t say Denver is odd, but one of the things that has been in question is power, and if you don’t have any power, you can’t run good in Denver. You have to have power to run in Denver. I have run there since I was a kid in Comp. That is what has been crazy about it. I have seen the car act like all of sudden it is going to run, then we are just completely in left field.”

Throughout the season, Chris McGaha went back to his records and logbooks looking for any data to help cure the team’s lack of success. Time after time, he thought he’d found the cause of the team’s troubles only to be brutally rebuffed the next time he stepped on the throttle.

“I have gone all the way back to 2017. I have hung around 2018, 2019, and 2020 because I feel like I ran better in those years,” said McGaha. “I feel like whatever has gone wrong with the silver car more than the blue car has held the blue car back. The blue car, when you look at the sheets and only compare it to the silver car, it has never run as fast as the silver car did in 2018 and 2019. That is what is crazy about it. As fast as some of these guys are going, it looks like they have picked up, but they haven’t, we have slowed down.”

The time together with his son, Mason, is the main highlight Chris looks at from this frustrating season. The second-year prodigy hung tough and tried to keep his focus as the back half of his season took a turn for the worse. Through the first half of the season, the blue car was right in the middle of the Top 10 and looked to be on the verge of breaking through for its first trip to the winner’s circle. An engineering student at The University of Texas at Permian Basin, Mason gave as much support and encouragement to his teammate as possible as the season progressed.

“Chris was trying all sorts of things on both our race cars,” said Mason. “When something didn’t work, he crossed that off the list. I felt like we were slowly getting our way back to where we were. At Sonoma and Denver, we were a hundredth off, and we felt like we were right there with everybody, and since then, we have just been off. The second half of the season was pretty brutal, to be honest.

“I feel like I have always been decent as a driver, and then this second half of the season has been really challenging. I have been up and down on the Tree, but I am working through that. All you can do is try not to make the same mistakes twice. We are going to work really hard this offseason to get better and have a strong 2023. The key is keeping a positive attitude as we are working through these issues.”
For Chris McGaha, the upcoming offseason will not be a time for relaxation. The family has a trip to Florida planned that will include Disney World along with sessions at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School for Mason to earn a crossover dragster license and for daughter Berkley to earn her Super Comp license.    

“I plan on hanging out,” Chris said. “I went to Frank Hawley’s school when I turned 16, and my mom hung out all day and watched. I am looking forward to just hanging out and watching. There will be no vacation. I will keep working. This is a non-stop deal.”