NHRA drag racing’s Pro Stock class contingent now includes a high profile Canadian racer….

It’s been a while since Canada has been represented within NHRA’s 500 CID Pro Stock class category – but all that has changed this summer.

During the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals held at Norwalk Ohio in June – reputed Pro Mod driver Eric Latino (from Whitby ON) made his class debut within the immensely expensive and demanding category. Eric became the first Canadian driver to compete in the class since the mid 2010’s when Mark (and father Tony) Martino (from Stoney Creek ON) ran a number of NHRA nationals events within a leased Pro Stock car operation.

Eric Latino

There is however a magnitude of difference between the two efforts – with Latino himself being a major gear within what is now the largest and most dynamic Pro Stock car operation currently in existence and possibly in NHRA history.

For many years Eric Latino had worked diligently to build up his budding business GESi to a world class entity. With that success came a financial tipping point which allowed him to now enter into the Pro Stock fray in a very big way.

During a period just prior to and post COVID restrictions his migration to the Pro Stock’s main stage was charted including a couple of major phases.

In the summer of 2020, he flew into North Carolina to do a deal with the Gray Family — who had won NHRA’s Pro Stock championship in 2018 (driver Tanner Gray).

“We negotiated and closed between June and September that year,” Eric explained. “I purchased the Gray Motorsports assets including the building and facility where they were developing a Pro Stock engine program. I brought Jim Whiteley in as a partner as well as Chris Clark and Dave Rochau.  From that came the name Titan Racing Engines.”

Then as fate and fortune would have it – things escalated even further. He next became a primary co-owner for what originally was Ken Black’s reputed KB Racing team, acquiring cars, more facilities and people — and thus KB/Titan Racing was reborn.

“At the start the acquisition of KB Racing wasn’t in our plans at all,” he elaborated. “I was sitting at the hotel bar in Sonoma talking with Dave Connolly and Greg Anderson.  A few days later, Dave Connolly called me up and asked if I would be interested in purchasing KB Racing.  Ken Black had a stroke a few years ago and his family was ready to let the race operation go.  Titan Racing Engines built a great engine and we didn’t have the crew chief to make our program complete – so to purchase KB Racing would be the perfect fit.  The issue then became to convince the Titan Boys to share all of their knowledge with the KB Racing boys and vice versa with the KB Racing boys. Turns out that was actually easier that I expected.”

The KB/Titan Racing team includes a formidable line-up to say the least. Prior to Eric actually making his debut as a driver it already included Greg Anderson, Dallas Glenn, Kyle Koretsky and Camrie Caruso.

“KB/Titan owns 4 cars and has 4 house drivers,” Eric affirmed. “But Matt Hartford and Deric Kramer also lease engines from us. So I’m now the 7th car — I own 100% my car, truck and trailer.”

“Today there are a total of 19 full time employees at KB Titan Racing,” Eric revealed. “We have (based in Mooresville NC) a facility that has 8 CNC machines in-house.  All of the cylinder heads, intake manifolds, oil pans, clutches and 3rd members are all made in-house.”

“In fact the same partners that previously owned Titan Racing Engines came together to co-purchase KB Titan Racing with the addition of Will Ferguson within the Clark and Rochau group.  We also retained Greg Anderson and Rob Downing in the partnership.”

“By bringing all these great and talented people together we have built a seriously powerhouse team,” Eric winked. “Our drivers have won 6 of 9 NHRA Pro Stock races so far.”

Even though technically GESi had nothing to do with the acquisition of KB Titan Racing, Latino confirms they have chosen to take advantage of the 7-car team to market and promote his GESi brands: G Sport Emissions (for the performance application) and DPFXFIT brand for Heavy Duty On Road trucks.

Fast forward to June, for Eric, the end result of all those off-track developments ultimately opened the door for his first ever Pro Stock class experience at Norwalk’s Summit Racing NHRA Nationals.

He was behind the wheel of an all new 2023 Jerry Haas built Camaro, first ordered in June of the previous year.

Canada’s Eric Latino made his NHRA Pro Stock class debut during the recent running of the Summit Racing NHRA Nationals in Ohio.

“To be honest I was a bit nervous with everyone watching me,” he laughed. “But once I fired the car up and did my burnout all the nervous feeling went away. I got into my routine that I learned on my test runs prior to running in Norwalk.  Overall I’m very happy with this car — it went down the track every run during testing.”

The debut event saw Eric qualify the car #15 (18 cars entered) with a pass of 6.685 secs at 206.73 mph. In round #1 while racing multi-time and defending NHRA world Champion Erica Enders, he delivered big time off the starting line with a .016 to .067 RT advantage — only to succumb when a cam sensor failed and the car shut off just a short time later.

For Eric Latino it’s also true that the move from being a very accomplished Pro Mod class driver to Pro Stock came as a surprise and did raise a few questions as to why from most observers.

“I really enjoyed driving a Pro Mod car when they all had clutches and we had to shift the cars,” he explained. “But once the Pro Mods changed over to convertors and auto shift — I lost some interest. But with that being said — I’ve been lucky enough to drive Al Billes’ ’69 Bickel Pro Mod Camaro a bit this year.  He has been working on a new engine program.   We will be doing more testing then racing — but will probably compete at a race or two this season.”

As to his NHRA Pro Stock future — that gateway is now at hand.

“I’m hoping to run every NHRA race from Topeka Kansas (this coming weekend) right to the Pomona Finals — but this is only if I can get away from work — which remains a more important priority to me then racing this year.  I would like to run the full NHRA season in 2024.”

“For me personally these are very exciting times — it’s by far the best position I’ve been in during my entire racing career,” he affirmed. “I’m very confident in my team — I know there will be a better chance of a win or two for me in the near future.”

Link to GESi Official: HERE

Prior to his switch to Pro Stock Eric Latino’s career was deep into the Pro Mod fray including a PMRA championship winning ’37 Chevy as well as the potent “Team Green” Chevy Camaro

Canada’s previous venture into NHRA Pro Stock class racing came courtesy of Mark & Tony Martino who campaigned a number of national events in the early to mid 2010s.

Posted by Bruce Biegler
Photos by Dave DeAngelis & Bruce Biegler