NHRA’s aggressive Pro Mod drag racing circuit got off to a very fast start during the Amalie Oil Gatornationals event….
A terrific field of cars (28 entries) produced a super quick 16-car bump spot (5.982 secs) and two of the categories best met in the final round for the title.
In that all Chevrolet championship round it was 2X NHRA world champion Rickie Smith outrunning Danny Rowe. The weekend’s Pro Mod racing was the first of 10 scheduled NHRA Pro Mod events on the season.
Smith’s late model IDG Chevrolet Camaro powered to a 5.829 seconds at 249.86 mph to hold off Rowe’s Agave Underground Tequila C-7 Corvette, which ran 5.869 at 233.76. It was Smith’s ninth victory and second at Gainesville Raceway. He was runner-up here in 2014.
Smith took out Steven Whiteley, last year’s Gatornationals champ, Mike Castellana, and Chip King to meet Rowe in the finals.
Rowe, who qualified 15th, was looking for his fifth career victory and first at Gainesville. He defeated Robert Patrick Jr., Steve Matusek and former Pro Stock driver, Jonathan Gray in the earlier rounds. Rowe was runner-up behind Khalid alBalooshi here in 2011.
The event’s performance star was transplanted Pro Stock racer Jonathan Gray who was behind the wheel of Harry Hrudka’s Prescision Turbo-sponsored ’15 Camaro. In round one of competition, while racing alongside the Summit Racing Camaro driven by Canada’s Kenny Lang, Gray clocked an amazing record quick 5.751 secs.
Brazil’s Sidnei Frigo was the event’s #1 qualifier at 5.839 secs driving his turbocharged C7 Corvette.
Pro Mod qualifying did include a very scary incident involving class racer Dan Stevenson, from Illinois.
Dan’s spectacular looking nitrous-injected Chevy Camaro was effectively destroyed when it suffered an explosion and fire during Friday’s qualifying. Stevenson, who is 59, was transported by ground to University of Florida Health Shands Hospital for evaluation but was thankfully later released.
You can check out some video from that incident: HERE
Next up for the J&A Pro Mod Drag Racing Series is at the NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston (April 29-May 1).
The J&A Services Pro Mod event at Gainesville was co-presented by industry leaders Pro Line Racing & Jerry Bickel Race Cars.
Pro Line Racing, located in Ball Ground, Ga., specializes in turbocharged drag racing engines and electronic fuel injection (EFI) combinations. PLR’s custom engines have set the standard for turbocharged drag racing for over a decade. PLR-powered race cars have broken records and held championships from Pro Mod to small tire racing and they continue to push the limits of turbocharged doorslammer racing. The Georgia based company offers custom built engines, turn-key EFI combinations, Race Team Management, and they are the No. 1 source for same-day shipping on Billet Atomizer Injectors. For more information on PLR, visit www.prolineracing.net or call 770-481-8000.
“We at Pro Line Racing are thrilled to return as the sponsor for the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series at the 47th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals,” said Eric Dillard, co-owner of Pro Line Racing. “NHRA Pro Mod continues to be one of the fastest growing classes and we are proud that PLR-powered race cars have been a part of its success. We look forward to watching our turbocharged customers matchup against some of the biggest names in doorslammer racing.”
Jerry Bickel Race Cars, “The One Stop Chassis Shop,” offers a variety of services to racers looking to improve their race cars. The Jerry Bickel Race Cars facility in Moscow Mills, Mo., houses just about every race part and component a driver could dream of, along with a temperature controlled manufacturing area and a temperature controlled paint booth. Jerry Bickel Race Cars, Inc. prides itself on its commitment to customer satisfaction and is committed to NHRA as a major sponsor. For more information on Jerry Bickel Race Cars, please visit www.jerrybickel.com.
“Jerry Bickel Race Cars is proud to sponsor the NHRA Pro Mod race in Gainesville,” said Jerry Bickel, owner of Jerry Bickel Race Cars. “We think it is one of the most exciting classes in the NHRA. We build several of the cars that compete in the class and supporting our customers is great. At Jerry Bickel Race Cars we believe, ‘There is no finish line in the race for quality.’”
Bounce Back for Bell
Popular Canadian Pro Mod class racer Jim Bell – from Edmonton – was back in action following a recent pre-season incident.
JBR driver Jim Bell made a good recovery after a pre-season test session brush with the wall and put on a strong show in the Pro Mod class at the 47th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida on March 18-20, 2016.
After a successful 2015 season which included partnering with fellow Pro Mod racer Kevin Fiscus, Bell started off his 2016 year in late February with pre-season testing at Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Florida. Bell fought some issues with his twin turbo ’13 Mustang, but the team eventually got the car to make a decent run. At the end of the quarter-mile stretch when it came time for Bell to stop, he hit the ‘chutes and they didn’t deploy properly. He went for the brakes, which were set up with more sensitivity than his Camaro’s, and the Mustang made a hard left into the wall at 228 MPH. While the car was damaged, Bell, fortunately, was not.
Both Bell’s Camaro and his damaged Mustang were taken to RK Racecraft in Cartersville, Georgia. There, Ryan Rakestraw and his team pulled the Pro Line Racing 481X motor out of the Camaro and replaced it with the more competitive and powerful PLR Hemi which had previously been in Bell’s Mustang.
The repairs were finished in time for the first NHRA Pro Mod race in Florida, and Bell officially began his 2016 season. During the first round of qualifying on Friday, the team was busy working out the bugs in the Camaro’s new setup. Bell’s first hit resulted in a lot of tire shake, and he clicked it off to run a 7.043 at 147.23 MPH pass which ranked him seventeenth. In round two, Bell encountered even more tire shake and had to abort the run once again. This time, the scoreboards lit to show he had gone 8.002 at 124.96 MPH, and Bell slipped into twenty-fifth. Finally, for round three of qualifying on Saturday, Bell had a strong .99-second 60-foot time and the car was on a solid pass, but it again encountered more shake. Bell pedaled it, but the resulting 6.670 at 191.97 MPH run told crew chief and head tuner Brad Personett that the car was way down on power. Back in the pits, the team discovered a damaged bypass valve which resulted in low boost and the reduced horsepower. After it all, Bell remained twenty-fifth. The incredibly tough Pro Mod qualifying field had a bump spot of 5.982-seconds.
“I’m disappointed not to have qualified or made a decent run, but we’re still working on getting the Camaro back to where it should be with the new engine combination. I have every confidence that we will get the JBR Camaro flying and competitive again in NHRA Pro Mod trim, especially with the help of a legendary Pro Mod racer, tuner, and crew chief like Brad Personett!” said Bell, with his trademark positivity and calm demeanor.
Posted with files by: Bruce Biegler, NHRA Communications & Ainsley Jacobs
Photos by: Phil Hutchison