With his team needing a swift turnaround, NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series standout Von Smith knew what was coming. After all, he has learned that his Al-Anabi Racing team has always performed well under adversity.
This season has proven to be no different for Smith and his supercharged Chevy Camaro when his team battled out of a substantial hole with back-to-back impressive performances during the 2014 season. The latest came in Englishtown where Smith earned his sixth career victory, jumping back into the championship chase and taking plenty of momentum into the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers at Smith’s home track, Bristol Dragway.
“We just seem to do our best when it’s stacked against us,” Smith said. “It’s kind of seemed to work that way for us. We would rather be the chaser. The team just doesn’t want to stay down. I’m extremely proud of my team. Everybody goes through it together, and nobody gives up. We’re all fighting in the trenches, and everyone just has that never-say-die attitude.”
The Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals marks the fifth of 10 races during the 2014 NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, and reigning world champion Rickie Smith, who is also the current points leader, has claimed the last two Bristol victories. But nobody enters this year’s race hotter than Von Smith, who won the world championship in 2010 and also grabbed the Bristol victory that year.
The team missed the season-opening race in Gainesville and followed that disappointment with a first-round loss in Houston. Just two races into the season, Smith knew something had to change quickly, and he responded with a final-round appearance in Atlanta.
Smith built on that with a stellar performance in Englishtown, where he was impressive behind the wheel, and his team followed suit in the pits. Smith saved the car from crashing into the wall in an entertaining first-round win against Troy Coughlin; the team worked furiously before the semifinals after an engine explosion in the second round.
Smith beat Jason Hamstra in the final round, capping off a memorable weekend that gave the Pro Mod veteran a much-needed boost.
“That weekend was just a roller coaster of emotions,” Smith said. “It’s that same old adage of being down but not out, and we came back. We had some things go our way, but you need that. We have to keep running well and consistent. We have to catch Rickie, and that’s our goal. We just need to keep going rounds.”
Smith couldn’t pick a better place than Bristol Dragway to keep his hot streak going. The Oak Ridge, Tenn., native lives less than two hours from the historic facility and has always enjoyed success at his home track. Entertaining friends and family comes with the territory, but Smith has also successfully learned how to balance that task over the years.
The biggest challenge will come from a loaded NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series class that includes the likes of Mike Castellana, 2012 world champion Coughlin, Danny Rowe, Kevin Fiscus, and Mike Janis.
“We want to get even closer to that points lead and really make it a battle,” Smith said. “I’m always excited to go to Bristol. It’s a great track and we’ve done well there in the past, so there’s no reason why we can’t have success again. You have to find a tune-up that runs well in the heat, and it’s a matter of getting those good, quality runs in during qualifying.”
Featuring the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammer cars with an extremely diverse collection of vehicles, including ’68 Camaros, ’67 Mustangs, and ’68 Firebirds as well as a wide variety of 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 qualifying begins Friday, June 13, with sessions at 4:30 and 6:45 p.m. continuing with one qualifying session on Saturday, June 14, at 2 p.m. Round one of eliminations is later on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Bristol Dragway at 866-901-2679 or visit www.thundervalleytix.com.