Ronnie Proctor opened his 2018 season experiencing two things that had never happened to him before: winning an NHRA national event and breaking an engine mandrel. After scoring the first NHRA national event victory of his career at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., his engine completely seized during the PDRA East Coast Spring Nationals at Galot Motorsports Park.

Despite what he described as an "up and down season" to start the year, Proctor's steady performance currently has him No. 6 in the NHRA Division 1 standings and No. 3 in the world. CompetitionPlus Sportsman's J.T. Gonzalez caught up with the Top Sportsman stalwart to talk about his season, his long racing trajectory, and the motivation that keeps him competing.

COMPETITIONPLUS SPORTSMAN: What were your plans coming into the season?

Ronnie Proctor: We planned to run all of the PDRA events and their points system. None of those events conflict with the NHRA schedule. In 2016 we finished first in our NHRA division -- that was our first championship -- and fifth in the world, and this past season with finished third in the division and 10th in the world, so we have our eyes set on the NHRA national championship. That's what we're looking for.

CPS: What did you do to prepare for the points chase this year?

RP: Just everything. We put a new dress on the car, a new paint job, for all the winner's circle pictures we're hoping for. We just freshened our stuff to be ready and set to chase it.

CPS: Tell me about the car, a Ford-powered ’09 Mustang.

RP: That car is the absolute best car I've ever owned or even know. It's a Jerry Haas ex-mountain motor Pro Stock car. I get complimented every race I go to on how well the car leaves and looks. It just goes down the track effortlessly. It's just a good, good car that is easy to tune. Jerry is a very good car builder.

CPS: Who do you rely on for assistance?

RP: More than anything it's my wife, Karen. She is my crew chief, my everything at the racetrack. If we wind up having issues at the racetrack, like changing a trans, we have a lot of friends at the track who will help us out. If a run into any issue where I need someone, we have friends that are willing to help all the time. My wife and I have a lot of friends in the sport; that’s our racing family, and they are fantastic. Sponsor-wise we have C&C Motorsports in Manassas, Va.; Cheweys Automotive in Mount Airy, Md.; and Abruzzi Transmission in Warren, Ohio. Philip Oakley at Oakley Motorsports helped me a lot with tuning and the heads in the car; he is magic when it comes to big-block Fords.


CPS: When did you begin racing?

RP: I started forever ago. My wife said we've been doing this for 40 years, and I said, "Ain't no way." I started forever ago and raised five kids at the dragstrip. We've won multiple track championships, but when we got into Top Sportsman, that's when we went on the road and started running for divisional championships and national championships. We've been doing that probably for about 12-13 years. We've done pretty decent. I've got eight Wallys and some Iron Mans. I won the last IHRA national event in Norwalk, Ohio, so we've done very well in the sport.

I've won the only belt -- it's like a boxing belt -- ever given in Top Sportsman, and that was at an ADRL event at Rockingham Dragway, and it came along with a $10,000 paycheck. I’ve also had the only perfect run in Top Sportsman competition ever. I ran a 6.850 on a 6.85 dial with a .000 light. It was unbelievable. I even asked the late king Ronnie Davis if anyone else had recorded one, and he said, "Nope." I've certainly had a couple of achievements that I'm really proud of.

CPS: So what's your next goal?

RP: Besides winning the national championship, win, win, win. They say national event wins come easier after winning your first one, but we'll have to see about that.

CPS: What got you into racing 40 years ago? What motivates and drives you to keep doing it?

RP: I've always liked playing and messing with cars. I wound up getting a ride in a '55 Thunderbird when I was 19 years old and I was ate up with it ever since. It was fantastic.

The freaking excitement of going mid to low six seconds at over 210 mph keeps me going. I've run 6.47 at 213 mph, and it's just absolute excitement. That's what drives me, what makes me happy. I thank my family and my wife, and I thank God for blessing me with doing this.