Smokies Garage presents Pro Mod class summaries from three major leagues…

Very Tight Very Fast Field! 

Legendary multi-time NHRA Pro Mod champ Rickie Smith picked up yet another victory in the Congruity NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by LearnEV+ event, held at Virginia Motorsports Parks, defeating Kris Thorne in the final round as part of this weekend’s PlayNHRA Virginia Nationals.

It was season race #6/10 during the 2024 season and the final race in the regular season in the category.

This weekend’s event was presented by Canada-based company DPFXFIT by GESi.

Smith ran both low ET and top speed of the event in the final, 5.702-seconds at 253.37 in his nitrous-powered Ford Mustang, to take down Thorne’s “Bahrain 1 Racing” team Camaro which went 5.714 at 252.43 (his quickest run of the weekend). It is Smith’s first victory since Brainerd in 2022 and gives the multi-time champ his 18th career NHRA Pro Mod win.

Racing his nitrous-assisted Ford Mustang — Wily Rickie Smith defeated a star-studded super competitive field of Pro Mods at NHRA Virginia.

“I never thought I’d win another race at 70 years old,” Smith said. “I’m just so proud of the people who are behind me. I wouldn’t have even made it the last three years without them. It’s awesome. I don’t even know what to say. I’m usually crying and overly excited, but I don’t even know if it’s hit me. Out of all the races I’ve won, I don’t know how I pulled this one off. We weren’t even qualified until the last run.”

To reach the final round, Smith defeated Lyle Barnett, J.R. Gray and low qualifier Jason Scruggs.

Thorne moved into the points lead by advancing to his third final round this season and the 11th in his career by taking down Khalid AlBalooshi, Justin Bond and Kevin Rivenbark.

Kris Thorne (far lane) out dashed his racing stable mate Khalid AlBalooshi in round one while en-route to a R/UP placing.

Pro Mod class racing was truly a ferocious affair at VMP – evidenced by 24-cars entered and a 16-car field that ranged from 5.734 secs (pole) and 5.837 secs (bump)!

Left Coast Canadian PM racer Jordan Lazic qualified superbly — #2 (5.754 secs) within the extremely tight field of cars!

The Congruity NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by LearnEV+ will now take most of the summer off and then begin it’s four-race Road to the Championship playoffs at the prestigious 70th annual NHRA U.S. Nationals on Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Northeast Outlaw Pro Mod Challenge VI

2X Northeast Outlaw Pro Mod Association (NEOPMA) champion Mike Decker Jr. raced to victory at the Northeast Outlaw Pro Mod Challenge VI held at Empire Dragway in Western NY state – to earn his first win of the season.

In the final round, Decker defeated a red-lighting Derek Ward, the reigning NEOPMA champion. With the win Decker took over the points lead from his son, Mike “Hollywood” Decker III, who defeated him in the season opener final round in April.

Mike Decker Jr won the NEOPMA feature at Empire Dragway

After three rounds of qualifying, Ward was the No. 1 qualifier with a 3.636-second pass in his screw-blown ’68 Firebird. Buffalo-based Pro Mod standout Melanie Salemi qualified second in Eddie Whelan’s screw-blown “Purple Reign” ’68 Firebird with a 3.666. Decker Jr. ran a 3.671 in his screw-blown Decker’s Salvage ‘19 Camaro to qualify third. Canada’s Kenny Lang charged to a 3.688 in his screw-blown ’69 Camaro to claim the No. 4 spot. Decker III rounded out the top five with a 3.691 in his screw-blown Decker’s Salvage ‘22 Camaro.

Decker Jr. started eliminations by taking out Claude St. Maurice and then Andy Jensen. In the semifinals, he used a .010 reaction time and a 3.683 at 203.99 to defeat Salemi, who coasted to a 5.717 at 83.24.

Ward had earned earned a first-round bye run as the No. 1 qualifier before defeating John Vergotz and “Hollywood” Decker III in the semifinals.

The final round was decided at the starting line when Ward went red by .094 seconds. He stayed in the throttle and raced to a 3.681 at 206.23, but it wouldn’t have been enough to beat Decker Jr., who cut a .004 light and ran a 3.662 at 206.71 to get the win.

Defending NEOPMA champion Derek Ward placed R/UP

The 2024 NEOPMA season will continue in about a month when the series heads to New England Dragway in Epping, NH July 26-27. The series will also in fact return to Empire Dragway for another race date this summer, this coming August 16-17.

PDRA’s North VS South Shootout

Racing on Father’s Day weekend at Maryland International Raceway included “double up” father-daughter and father-son event winners.

The family-focused wins capped off an unpredictable day of racing at the Red Line Oil PDRA Drag Racing Series’ fourth of eight races on the 2024 schedule.

Tommy Franklin won in Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous while his daughter Amber Franklin won in PDRA Pro 632. It was Kurt Steding winning in WS Construction Pro Boost presented by P2 Contracting and Ty-Drive, and son Ethan Steding was victorious in Menscer Motorsports Pro Street presented by Afco Racing.

PRO NITROUS — An unpredictable day of Pro Nitrous eliminations ended with a final-round bye run for 3X and reigning world champion Tommy Franklin. He was set to face Billy Albert in the final round, but Albert couldn’t get his car started for his semifinal bye run.  Franklin staged his Musi-powered “Jungle Rat” ’69 Camaro and recorded a 3.645-second pass at 207.66 MPH to secure the first end of a Franklin family double-up.

Tommy Franklin’s Jungle Rat Camaro was P/N champ at MIR

Franklin faced and beat out fellow Virginians Dane Wood and Buddy Perkinson in the first two round — before then firing off low E.T. of the even (3.632 secs) at 208.49, to eliminate defending event winner Marcus Butner in the semifinals.

PRO BOOST – Pro Boost standout Kurt Steding has had some memorable weekends at Maryland International Raceway, but the 2024 North vs. South Shootout topped them all. He scored his second North vs. South Shootout title in his third consecutive final round at Maryland, and it was the first win for his new Todd Tutterow-tuned, screw-blown P2 Contracting ’69 Camaro.

Pro Boost winner Kurt Steding drove his newly built Camaro to a convincing victory.

Steding’s first-round opponent was his longtime teammate and tuner, Todd “King Tut” Tutterow, the points leader, which saw Steding pull ahead to win with a 3.657 at 205.98. Steding ran a quicker 3.649 at 208.42 beat Steve King’s 3.652 at 204.60 and than stepped-up to 3.617 at 208.88 mph to take care of Travis “The Carolina Kid” Harvey in the semifinals.

The final saw him race transplanted Canadian Melanie Salemi — driver for Eddie Whelan’s screw-blown Al-Lee Installations “Purple Reign” ’68 Firebird.  Salemi had earned round wins over Scott Lang, Marcus Birt and semifinal opponent Johnny Camp.

But in the championship round, Steding left first and charged to a winning 3.601 secs at 209.72 mph while Salemi was forced to lift.

Posted with files by Nate Van Wagen, NHRA Communications & Bruce Biegler
Photos by Dave DeAngelis – Steve Embling – Tara Bowker