Jacksonville Sports Day

GATORNATIONALS: Smith After Third Straight NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series Championship

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The tougher the competition gets in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, the tougher it seemingly gets for Rickie Smith to retire.

With talent and competitors at an all-time high in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, Smith keeps coming back for more and now the longtime standout is after his third straight NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series world championship.
That quest in his IDG Chevy Camaro starts at this weekend’s 46th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, the first of 10 races during the 2015 season.
“I’ve been doing this for 41 years and it’s kind of been my life,” Smith said. “I love racing and competing and I’ve been fortunate enough to win championship. To pull off two in a row gives you that drive to still know you can do it. Can I pull a third one off? I don’t see any reason why I can’t compete for another championship.”
Smith has shown that repeatedly throughout his marvelous career, performing his best when the competition was the most difficult. He won three races a year ago, including the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, as well as the season finale at Las Vegas, advancing to four final rounds.
But a third straight world championship might be one of Smith’s biggest challenges in his racing career. He will face contenders at all angles, including past champs Von Smith, Troy Coughlin and Khalid alBalooshi, who returns to the class after racing in Top Fuel for the past three seasons.
Other class standouts include Danny Rowe, Mike Castellana, Mike Janis, Steve Matusek and Pete Farber.
“I think this will be the premier season of NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing,” Rowe said. “The teams and cars are outstanding; they’re at an all-time high. Parity-wise, at least based on last year, I think it’s closer than it’s ever been amongst the three combinations – turbo, blower and nitrous – but you’re always waiting to see who picked up over the winter. Gainesville should definitely be interesting.”
That is true in more than one respect, as the entry list for the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, which will be presented by The Real Pro Mod (RPM) Association and Jerry Bickel Race Cars, Inc. (JBRC) at Gainesville, includes a massive 27 drivers. Coughlin is on that list and will debut a new JEGS Mail Order Corvette, and his son, T.J. will also make his class debut.
“We are definitely ready and looking forward to it,” said Coughlin, who made a late-season charge to finish second in 2014. “The new car, it’s looking good. It’s a neat piece, almost like a piece of art. We’ve only made about three or four licks on it, but it shows good progress. We need to get it to the finish line. We’re capable, the car’s capable, and now we just need the cards to fall into the right spot.”
Smith might be the favorite in the class, but he certainly knows that is no reason to get comfortable.
“There’s a lot of good cars out there,” Smith said. “A lot of teams have stepped up their program and it’s going to be tough. We’ll have to work our butts off but we’ll be competitive.”
Rowe struggled at the tail end of his 2014 campaign in his Agave Underground Camaro, but he is ready to compete for a championship of his own in 2015.
“We feel like we laid a solid foundation in 2014, and we’re confident we can build on it this year,” Rowe said. “We’ve worked hard over the offseason and, of course, we feel confident going into this first event. In racing, though, you have to be a little bit lucky and a lot of bit good. So, this year we’re hoping we can get little bit of that race day luck a little more often.”
Featuring the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammer race cars, the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series offers something for every kind of hot-rodding enthusiast. The growing class is highlighted by historic muscle cars, like ’67 Mustangs, ’68 Firebirds and ’69 Camaros, as well as a variety of late model American muscle cars. With more than 3,000 horsepower, the suspended door pro mod cars travel the quarter-mile in less than six seconds at speeds exceeding 250 mph.

NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, March 13 with qualifying sessions at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., continuing with the final qualifying session on Saturday, March 14 at 2:00 p.m. Round one of eliminations is later on Saturday at 5:00 p.m.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, log on to www.NHRA.com/tickets or call the NHRA Ticket Sales Center, (800) 884-NHRA (6472). General admission tickets for children 12 and younger are free with any paid adult ticket. Fans can save by purchasing their tickets in advance. For more information about NHRA, log on to www.NHRA.com.
                                             

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