LAS VEGAS – With the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season finale touching down in Sin City this weekend, Pro Mod veteran driver Rickie Smith has already struck it rich weeks ago before reaching the famed Las Vegas strip.
Smith claimed an emotional first career NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series world championship title with a runner-up finish at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals near St. Louis in September.
"It's been a long time since we won a championship, we won seven titles [IHRA Pro Stock and Super Modified] but the last one was in 1989," said the 59-year-old Smith from King, N.C.
Just because a champion has been named, that doesn’t mean the other drivers will be out of luck. Fans can still bet on a spectacular Vegas style season wrap up at the NHRA Toyota Nationals, Oct. 24-27 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Smith’s climb to the championship was chock full of excitement. He clinched the title by racing to two victories in four final rounds in the 10-race season. He also earned two No. 1 qualifying positions in his IDG Chevy Camaro.
"I've been doing this for 40 solid years,” said Smith, who will retire from the cockpit at end of the season. “I drive my own truck and put my own awning up and it's time to back off, be a crew chief and let these young guys do it. I am tickled to death to pull this deal off. I want to thank IDG for giving me this time to finish my career out. I want to walk away from this thing a champion."
Also ready to hit The Strip is second-place driver Mike Castellana who heads to Vegas with an extra boost of confidence since outrunning the newly-crowned series champion Smith in the final round at St. Louis to take his first victory of the season and fourth of his career. He powered his Al-Anabi Racing '68 Camaro to a winning performance of 6.084 seconds at 194.72 mph to finish in front of the newly crowned season champion.
Castellana leads a logjam of talented drivers from second through fifth who will be battling to finish the season in second place. His challengers include Von Smith, Mike Janis and defending world champ Troy Coughlin.
“We’re very happy to get that first win with the new car,” Castellana said. “We’re hoping to get a second one in Las Vegas. We’d like to hold on to second place, but it’s pretty tight up there in the top four.”
Another veteran racer eager to finish his season in the best possible position is the driver of the familiar yellow and black JEGS.com Corvette, who says the season has been fun as the reigning champ and even better to represent a great series.
“It’s been an awesome year, and it’s been great to be a champion,” said Coughlin, who is in fifth place, 24 points out of second place. “Congratulations to Rickie Smith for winning this year’s championship. This season has been pretty decent and we’re having a lot of fun in the Pro Mod class.”
Featuring the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammer cars with an extremely diverse collection of vehicles, including ’63 Corvettes, ’68 Camaros, ’67 Mustangs and ’68 Firebirds as well as late-model cars, the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series offers something for every kind of hot-rodding enthusiast.
NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series sessions are scheduled for Friday, Oct. 25 at 12:45 p.m. and 3:15 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 26 at 2:15 p.m. and the first round of eliminations will follow at 4:30 p.m. Eliminations continue on Sunday, Oct. 27 at approximately 2:30 p.m.
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NHRA PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES FACT SHEET
NHRA TOYOTA NATIONALS
WHAT: NHRA Toyota NATIONALS, the final of 10 events in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. Other racing series showcased during this event include the NHRA Mello Yello Series and the NHRA Lucas Oil Series.
WHERE: The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, NV. The track is located at 7000 Las Vegas Blvd. North, Las Vegas, NV 89115
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 2,100 feet above sea level; Track direction is south to north.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 24-27
FRIDAY, Oct. 25
NHRA PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, Oct. 26
NHRA PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 2:15 p.m.; first round of eliminations at 4:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, Oct. 27 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10:15 a.m.
NHRA PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES eliminations continue at approximately 2:30 p.m.
2012 WINNER: Troy Coughlin
TRACK RECORDS: 5.824 sec by Don Walsh, Oct. ’13; 256.70 by Personett, Oct. ‘11
NATIONAL RECORDS: 5.772 sec. by Melanie Troxel, June. ’11, Englishtown; 258.71 mph by Troxel, June ’11, Englishtown.
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NHRA PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES POINT STANDINGS
(Following the ninth of 10 races; victories in parentheses)
1.Rickie Smith, King, N.C., IDG Chevy Camaro (2) 703*
2.Mike Castellana, Muttontown, N.Y., Al-Anabi Chevy Camaro (1) 561
3.Von Smith, Oak Ridge, Tenn., Dr. Moon / Al-Anabi Chevy Camaro (2) 557
4.Mike Janis, Lancaster, N.Y., Valvoline Chevy Camaro (2) 556
5.Troy Coughlin, Delaware, Ohio, Jegs.com Chevy Corvette (1) 537
6.Kenny Lang, Manitoba, Canada, Summit Racing Chevy Corvette 490
7.Danny Rowe, Laguna Hills, Calif., Agave Underground Tequila Chevy Camaro 470
8.Pete Farber, Baldwinville, Mass., CRC Brakeleen Dodge Daytona 416
9.Chip King, Semora, N.C., Strutmasters.com Dodge Daytona 360
10.Clint Satterfield, Albuquerque, N.M., BAC Enterprises Pontiac Firebird (1) 341
*Already clinched the 2013 NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series world championship title.