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 in 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 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 the 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 after outrunning the newly crowned series champion Smith in the final round in 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 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 Sunday, Oct. 27 at approximately 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are available for the NHRA Toyota Nationals online at www.lvms.com or by calling (800) 644-4444.