2018 NHRA U.S. NATIONALS - PRO MODIFIED NOTEBOOK
MONDAY NOTEBOOK - THE BIG SHOW WINS THE BIG GO - STEVIE FAST SEALS THE DEAL
Stevie ‘Fast’’ Jackson raced to his first career Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory during the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals on Monday. This weekend’s Pro Mod racing, presented by Al-Anabi Performance, is the eighth of 12 events this season.
Jackson ran a 6.167-second pass at 168.51 mph to the trailing run of Jose Gonzalez at 6.682 at 189.26. This is the third career win for Smith and first of the season.
“I want to thank all the people that have stood by us this season,” said Jackson. “After two DNQ’s, all my sponsors and especially Bahrain 1 have had my back this whole time so to come out and win the U.S. Nationals is really special. I really couldn’t do this without my team. I know I’m the driver and drivers always get all the credit but I really got to give it to my guys. This is because of them.”
Jackson defeated Sidnei Frigo, Bob Rahaim, and Mike Castellana to advance to the finals. He is fifth in points.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series continues at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals Sept. 21-23 at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Final round-by-round results from the 64th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, the eighth of 12 events in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.:
ROUND ONE -- Mike Janis, Chevy Camaro, 5.827, 246.12 def. Chad Green, Chevy Corvette, 22.858, 73.05; Troy Coughlin, Ford Mustang, 5.803, 254.71 def. Michael Biehle, Mustang, 5.820, 255.19; Jose Gonzalez, Camaro, 5.797, 255.05 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 5.871, 248.34; Mike Castellana, Camaro, 6.114, 193.02 def. Chip King, Dodge Daytona, 7.248, 135.08; Steve Jackson, Camaro, 5.843, 246.21 def. Sidnei Frigo, Camaro, Foul - Centerline; Khalid alBalooshi, Camaro, 5.857, 249.35 def. Marc Caruso, Camaro, 5.881, 244.16; Jeremy Ray, Corvette, 5.835, 245.94 def. Shane Molinari, Pontiac Firebird, Foul - Centerline; Bob Rahaim, Camaro, 5.826, 248.02 def. Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.861, 249.35;
QUARTERFINALS -- Castellana, 5.798, 251.30 def. Janis, 7.326, 136.33; Gonzalez, 5.819, 255.05 def. Ray, 5.838, 245.81; alBalooshi, 5.857, 248.98 def. Coughlin, 8.889, 83.08; Jackson, 5.835, 246.89 def. Rahaim, 5.895, 246.98;
SEMIFINALS -- Gonzalez, 5.847, 253.42 def. alBalooshi, 5.917, 246.84; Jackson, 5.843, 246.84 def. Castellana, 5.856, 250.37;
FINAL -- Jackson, 6.167, 168.51 def. Gonzalez, 6.682, 189.26.
Point standings (top 10) following the 64th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, the eighth of 12 events in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.
1. (tie) Mike Janis, 573; Rickie Smith, 573; 3. Mike Castellana, 463; 4. Khalid alBalooshi, 451; 5. Steve Jackson, 447; 6. Jose Gonzalez, 435; 7. Chad Green, 422; 8. Todd Tutterow, 352; 9. Jeremy Ray, 350; 10. Danny Rowe, 298.
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - AL-ANABI SHOWS ITS PERFORMANCE ON DAY TWO
CASTELLANA TO THE TOP - Mike Castellana raced to the current No. 1 qualifying position at the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. This weekend’s Pro Mod racing, presented by Al-Anabi Performance, is the eighth of 12 events this season.
Castellana powered to the top spot during his first qualifying attempt of the day and was able to better his time during the second session.
In his 2017 Camaro, he posted a pass of 5.783-seconds at 250.92 mph and is the current points leader in the category.
“Frank (Manzo, crew chief) and the crew did a great job,” said Castellana. “We made a great run the first one, we tweaked it, and were able to improve upon it, we are real happy. Tomorrow I think we are going to see some really good runs tomorrow and see shuffling around.”
FROM ONE LEGEND TO ANOTHER - While championship doorslammer pilot Rickie Smith isn't ready to consider himself a legend, he doesn't hesitate to point out the special decal on his car honors one.
Rickie Smith had many legendary battles against and alongside the storied Bob Glidden dating back to their days as the banner wavers for the Ford Motorcraft brand.
There were times admittedly their relationship was a love-hate kind of deal. They loved their comraderies, and both hated to lose, especially to one another.
"Me and Bob both will always be considered what some would call hard racers, we wanted to win," Smith said. "Bob come up through this stuff just like I did. We started at nothing and ran Super Stock, and Modified, and got into Pro Stock. We didn’t take losing kindly, but I don’t think, I had no bad blood against Bob other than I wanted to beat him.
"We just raced each other hard."
If Smith runs a decal on his car in your honor, it means he thought a lot of you.
In the Motorcraft marketing budget, Smith was the IHRA allotment for Pro Stock, while Glidden ruled the roost in NHRA competition. The two of them could bicker, but if a third party jumped in, the quickly joined forces to repel the outsider.
"We would stick up for each other when it got down to the nitty-gritty and all," Smith admitted. "I could go to Bob’s, and if he had anything I could use that wasn’t his cylinder heads, I could get parts because he’d know the same thing to me. He could come and get anything I had parts wise."
HIGH ANXIETY? - Friday night, with the weather threatening, it wasn't hard to see a bit of anxiety on Jason Scruggs's face. One would think a drag racer with the reputation of being a front-runner, and a proven winner, wouldn't think twice about making a Q-1 pass.
Jason Scruggs knew the magnitude of the moment but was apparently outside of his comfort zone in eighth-mile outlaw Pro Modified competition.
Instead, the Saltillo, Mississippi-based Scruggs was in the first pair of cars out for Friday qualifying at the Chevrolet Performance NHRA U.S. Nationals, a race some now consider to be the most prestigious Pro Modified race, although there are higher paying events.
"I really wasn't anxious, they were rushing us," Scruggs admitted. "We probably don’t have any business here. We don’t have enough testing yet really. They called me last minute and said hey, we had a car or two drop out, wanted to know if I wanted to come. I figure this is the best way to test is at the real world event. This is the first time we’ve ever been on an NHRA track."
Scruggs made a short pull, and coasted to an 8.53, but came back and finished Saturday as No. 17 with a 5.889, 245.72 best.
"We’d have liked to went A to B [Friday] night, but the track was really good, and the car just was too slow," Scruggs said. "Went out there and rattled. You know, we’ll take an educated guess, and hopefully, we can get in, at least make a decent run today."
Scruggs understands with a new arena comes an adjustment phase.
"We’ve been Pro Mod racing Outlaw for a long time, but when you have to run on the NHRA rules system, it’s a whole different deal," Scruggs said. "The car weighs 200-300 more pounds, we lost 1,000 horsepower, and it is racing, but we just need a few more runs."
After all, for much of Scruggs career, he's run only to half-track on purpose.
"I’ve got a total of four quarter mile runs on the car since we put it together, enough to get my license," Scruggs explained. "We did run a 5.81 in testing, so we know we can run with them, but we just don’t really have the data to understand how to read the track and know exactly what to do with the weather changes.
"We just don’t have many runs yet, but we’re going to get there. Hopefully this weekend we can get a little luck and go out and get qualified. That’s the main thing right now."
Scruggs for much of his career has been the face of Outlaw Pro Modified, primary racing and dominating ADRL competition and up until recently bankrolling the Professional Drag Racing Series [PDRA], an eighth-mile series which catered to outlaw doorslammer racers.
"I never necessarily considered myself walking away from anything," Scruggs said. "I’ve still got all of my Outlaw screw blowers and everything. Who knows what I’ll be doing in a year or two?"
Consider Scruggs' hand was called when PDRA announced weeks ago the Pro Extreme division, an eliminator he mastered, was suspended indefinitely for lack of participation.
"We were going to have to make a change with Pro Extreme dying down, and we were going to have to make a change so if we was going to go to a Roots blower program and change our motor program anyway, we just thought before we quit, this would be a good something fun to do," Scruggs explained. "Some of the best racers in the world are out here. Quarter mile, we’ve never done that before so we thought before we get too old to do this, we’ll go out and do it for a while and have some fun. It will be a different challenge is the main thing.
"To say I’m not ever going to go run Outlaw again, I’m not sure. I’ll probably even run some Pro Boost with this car at some point. Right now we’ve got to test with all the weight in it, because like I said, we don’t have any data. But you could pull the weight out of this car and probably be halfway competitive in Pro Boost."
KEEPING IT REAL - Billy Glidden considers himself a realist.
The eldest son of Pro Stock icon Bob Glidden is racing Pro Modified this weekend behind the wheel of a 1968 Camaro powered by a five-year-old, outdated combination.
Still, Glidden is making the most of the moment at a place where his father made winning look so effortless - the Chevrolet Performance NHRA U.S. Nationals outside of Indianapolis.
"We really haven’t raced much this year, different combination, the car’s totally different, I guess it was more trying not to go out and make ourselves look dumber than we already do.," Glidden said with a smile.
Friday night was a special night for the Glidden family, on an evening when Bob Glidden's widow Etta and their sons Billy and Rusty unveiled a tribute to the late champion, Billy was able to slip his outmuscled car into the field at least provisionally. He ran a 6.024, a run he figured wouldn't last long into Saturday's qualifying.
"If you only followed our crew, Shannon and I and J.R. and our friends and my Mom and people around us, you would have thought we just did something really, really, really special," Glidden explained. "So to us it was incredibly special. Quite honestly, you have to look at what Bob Tasca did and get kind of goosebumps about that. He went right down through there with like nothing, there were no hiccups at all it didn’t look like with his run either.
"So if there’s a such thing as people looking down on us and thanking us for what we’re doing, then for both of us, both of our teams last night, that was a pretty decent sign."
Of course, Glidden knows, his dad remained incredibly humbled in his championship heyday, and would quickly deflect credit to the teams and the crews. For Bob, it was never about him.
When the Pro Stock field lined up on the return road for the Bob Glidden tribute, it was evident Whiteland, Indiana's favorite son was there spiritually.
"Anybody that’s in this business or follows this stuff, most everyone’s aware of the time and the effort and the sacrifice, the mental strain that you go through, especially if this is your job," Glidden explained. "You know, when you don’t have all the facts for a story or you don’t have everything but your deadline is now, you’re probably eating Tums and eating bad food and drinking things you shouldn’t drink and tearing yourself up also.
"That was evident by the Pro Stock folks lining up on the return road for the whole procedure last night. That’s pretty special."
With two more sessions remaining, Glidden dropped to 30th in the field, unable to improve on his current position.
BAGGING THE BIG ONE - The Chevrolet Performance NHRA U.S. Nationals is not a new experience for the Carolina Doorslammer legend Todd Tutterow, but winning the event would be. Winning any NHRA Pro Modified event would be a foreign experience for the drag racer who has accomplished most everything to be had on the eighth-mile scene.
Tutterow could only hope this weekend would provide a first-time experience.
"We've come here over the years, and the car has run good," said Tutterow, who first raced Indy in 1991 as a Pro Stock teammate to Rickie Smith. "[We've] come with a blower car, come with a turbo car, and ran well. I hope I can do it good this weekend. There’s a lot of competition here, 30 something cars. It makes it pretty tough. "
Tutterow's "soft" approach has left the team outside of the qualified field with a 5.901, 243.15, good enough for only No. 20 in the list.
In or out, the Indy experience is always one of considerable magnitude for the Al-Anabi Performance driver.
"I've won a lot of different races, championships everywhere else," Tutterow said. "I’ve never won a race in NHRA. Winning Indy that would be icing on the cake, yeah. If I could do it in my career, win some races over here, win a championship, and win Indy, I feel like I’ve accomplished what I needed to accomplish."
ENDERS PULLING DOUBLE DUTY - Erica Enders is working overtime this weekend in Indianapolis, wheeling Elite Performance-powered cars in both Pro Stock and Pro Mod.
Enders is relying on what she calls a “neuro program” to make the mental switch between the two classes.
“it’s just making runs, visualizing runs in my head. Going from a clutch car where I have to shift it to an automatic but building boost. The drivability is completely different obviously. Like the Pro Stock car is all about finesse, this car is two thousand more horsepower than my Pro Stock car has, so it’s a little bit out of control and a little bit crazy. The biggest challenge for me is overriding that finesse feel that I have in my butt from driving Pro Stock and trying to more so, for lack of a better word, manhandle this car. It’s a completely different mindset, it’s a completely
different neuro program but every run I make in it I’m getting a little more comfortable.
She’s currently qualified No. 11 after three qualifying sessions. She says driving the 250-mile-per-hour Pro Mod is like nothing else.
“I don’t even really know that comfortable is a suitable word for it because you’re never really going to be comfortable in a 250-mile-an-hour anything.”
Enders jokes that she may have to retire if she doubles up this weekend in Indy, taking home the Pro Stock and the Pro Mod Wally, but she says going rounds in both classes is what this weekend is all about. - Allyson Johnson
BIEHLE, BIEHLE - When Pro Mod comes to the line, you’ll have no trouble finding Michael Biehle’s car. It’s electric blue color stands out among a sea of red, silver, and black. And he’s hoping his blue Ford can end up in the winners circle at Lucas Oil Raceway on Monday.
At just 16-years-old, Biehle was coming to Wild Wednesdays at Lucas Oil Raceway, and Friday night testing at Edgewater, just outside of Cincinnati. He started racing street cars, but it escalated to Open Comp, and eventually to building his own car.
“I transitioned that car into a 10.5 car for a year or two, and then I just wanted to build a Pro Mod. I worked for a team for a while running a Pro Mod while I was running my own stuff, so I guess that’s how I kind of really got the blood for Pro Mod. Then I just built my own deal and started racing around 2013.”
Biehle started running his Pro Mad car in NMCA, and three years ago made the switch to NHRA, and that’s where all of his focus is now.
Biehle recently competed in the 2nd Annual World Series of Pro Mod at Bandimere Speedway outside of Denver, and while that’s one of the biggest races in the world for Pro Mod, he says it doesn’t really compare to Indy.
“The World Series of Pro Mod is a fantastic race. It’s awesome, it’s fun and I love it, and I hope it’s something that continues and grows and becomes bigger. You know, there’s a lot of nerves with the whole $100,000 on the line and everything, but it’s like, this one [Indy] doesn’t have the money on the line but it has that same prestige to run Indy.”
“I’ve been coming to this race since I was a little kid. It’s one of those things where this is where I’ve always wanted to be, this is where I kind of got the bug, coming up here and watching all the Pro guys, it’s like I want to do that someday. That’s kind of where my dream all kind of started coming together. So to come here and race this race is fantastic, and I’ll be honest with you, if I would ever win this race, it’d probably be my career high of all time no matter what.”
But with the prestige also comes added pressure.
“It does [add additional pressure] as a driver, as a crew chief, as the whole team. I think that this race has its own extra added stress. Obviously every race we go to in NHRA is tough, it’s competition, everybody out here is tough. Any Pro Mod out here could win the race any given day. We know that, but you’ve got to prepare for it the same way you do for every other race.”
Biehle knows that Pro Mod has come a long way in the last few years, and now to the big stage of NHRA drag racing.
“I think it’s great that Pro Mod’s stepped up and it’s obviously getting a big following with fans and everything. When I got into this thing years ago and started working for a Pro Mod team, we come here and run the Nationals and stuff, but it was all on an exhibition deal. I knew then, I just had that feeling, I think this is something that’s going, I hope that it’s something that grows and becomes more like a pro class and everything. And it has, and it’s one of those deals where it’s awesome to see that.”
And Biehle does whatever he can to get new fans, especially kids, familiarized with the sport of Pro Mod racing.
“I try to let my fans in, let them look at stuff. Little kids, I’ll throw them in the car, let them sit in the car and stuff. The more you can get people involved with this stuff and the more they understand how everything goes and come up and take a look at it and get to meet people, it just gets them more involved and then they want to follow closer, follow more and go to more races, and that just helps the whole sport out.”
Biehle didn’t qualify for the 16-car Pro Mod field last year at the U.S. Nationals, but he says this is a new year and they’re more prepared than ever, saying his Ford is “running good and in a happy spot.”
While Biehle says he’ll never stop driving a Pro Mod, he says you may see him behind the wheel of a Nitro Funny Car one day.
“I would definitely be willing to drive a Funny Car, but I mean this [Pro Mod] is something that is my passion, my love. I want to stay in Pro Mod forever, but I would like to have the opportunity to go drive a Funny Car, just to see if I could do it. It’s mainly kind of a bucket list kind of thing, to license in one.”
Biehle is currently qualified No. 14 in the 16-car field heading into Sunday. - Allyson Johnson
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - FRIGO JUMPS TO THE TOP IN FRIDAY'S LONE SESSION
SEEKING SWAGGER - Admittedly, this hasn't been the kind of season Stevie "Fast" Jackson is accustomed to on his resume. Let the record reflect, it's also the kind of season he's not ready to accept either.
Jackson has struggled since a crash in Charlotte, dropping from second in points to eighth after failing to qualify at the past two events. After finishing third in points a year ago in his NHRA Pro Mod rookie season, Jackson understands the importance of the NHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals and knows wholeheartedly drag racing's most prestigious race would be the most opportune time for a get-right opportunity.
“It’s been hard to be me when we’ve sucked as much as we’ve sucked lately,” said Jackson, who won two races in 2017. “I want to get that chip on my shoulder again, get that swagger back and perform the way we’re capable of performing. We’ve got winning on our mind and I’m as hungry as I’ve ever been. We expect to do well this weekend and we’re looking forward to this last stretch of the season.”
Jackson was 14th after Friday's first session with a conservative 6.05 elapsed time.
Jackson's fortunates went downhill after the final round crash in Charlotte, forcing him to bring out a back-up car of sorts. Actually the car Jackson pilots now is the same car he races in Drag Radial competition.
The car purpose-built for Radial vs. The World competition, hasn't adjusted as well as he'd prefer, drawing DNQ's in Bristol and Norwalk. led to not qualifying in Bristol and Norwalk against the loaded
The more than two months off has given Jackson, who advanced to four final rounds a year ago, time to regroup. The disappointing efforts in Bristol and Norwalk didn’t sit well with the talented Jackson and his team, which has led to some serious work being put in over the summer.
“We’ve definitely figured out a lot about the program and I feel like we’ve got momentum,” Jackson said. “If we’re not ready for this race, there’s nothing else we can to do be ready. It was emotionally draining (to not qualify) and I take this personally and wear my heart on my sleeve. We tried some different stuff and it’s taken longer to get it than I thought it would. But from a preparation standpoint, we’re as prepared as we can be.
“This is one you want to win and we’re all fired up. This is definitely a race that’s on your bucket list to win. But it’s not just the U.S. Nationals, it’s this whole NHRA Pro Mod Series. It’s top-shelf competition and it’s an honor just to race here. You’ve got guys you want to crush, but you really respect them. They’re the most talented people in the world running these cars and these people are just vicious. But it’s been a childhood dream to just race at Indy.”