race reports

NHRA Pro Mods at Gainesville, Florida

Smith Takes First Win of Season

Results compiled by Kay Burk

Photos by Steve Gruenwald and Adam Cranmer

Rickie Smith (near lane) got the Pro Mod win over Mike Janis. 


Rickie Smith drove to victory Sunday, March 18, during the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service portion of the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Dragway. This weekend’s Pro Mod racing, presented by Jerry Bickel Race Cars, is the first of 12 events this season. This season all four of the elimination rounds will be run on Sunday.


Smith ran a 5.794-second pass at 249.76 mph in his Chevrolet Camaro to take down Mike Janis in the final round and earn his first victory since Englishtown in 2017 and the 12th of his career. Smith defeated Bob Rahaim, Jim Whiteley and Mike Castellana on his way to the win.


“To be able to come out here after not having a sponsor all winter and not knowing what we were going to do this season and then end up getting a win in the first race is really special,” Smith said. “I started winning championships in 1976, and to keep winning races at this age is just unreal.”


Janis secured the fifth runner-up finish of his Pro Mod career, as he chases his first victory since the 2015 season.


Smith finished the 2017 season ninth in the standings and leaves the season-opening event as the points leader in pursuit of his fifth championship.

New NHRA president Glen Cromwell presents Troy Coughlin with a jacket and award for the 2017 Pro Mod championship. Coughlin retired from racing at the end of last season. 


There was an amazing number of Pro Mods at the event (35!) with many notable names sitting on the outside.


Did Not Qualify: 17. Sidnei Frigo, 5.843, 253.71; 18. Pete Farber, 5.847, 246.30; 19. Michael Biehle, 5.854, 252.52; 20. Jeffery Barker, 5.859, 254.42; 21. Chuck Little, 5.860, 246.39; 22. Rick Hord, 5.875, 248.80; 23. Danny Rowe, 5.882, 247.61; 24. Harry Hruska, 5.884, 250.37; 25. Melanie Salemi, 5.905, 243.24; 26. Eric Latino, 5.918, 247.47; 27. Kenny Lang, 5.936, 243.63; 28. Steve Matusek, 5.963, 246.71; 29. Bill Glidden, 6.013, 235.47; 30. Chip King, 6.021, 243.99; 31. Richie Stevens, 6.051, 231.36; 32. Rick Distefano, 6.149, 240.89; 33. Clint Satterfield, 6.542, 238.93; 34. Brandon Pesz, 7.398, 132.33; 35. Ruben Tetsoshvili, 11.255, 66.07.

Melanie Salemi’s “Purple Reign” didn’t make the field.

Bill Glidden has a new sponsor. 

Brandon Pesz gets a little help backing up. 

Gone is the green from Chip King’s Dodge Daytona. 

Ruben Tetsoshvili qualified number 35. Here’s hoping for better luck next time. 

Castellana ran a 5.750-second pass at 253.56 mph in the fourth qualifying session in his Al Anabi Racing ’69 Camaro to take the No. 1 slot. Castellana used the final pass to better his time and speed from Friday evening to earn the top spot at the opening race for the category.   


“It feels great to start off the season with a No. 1 qualifier, especially after struggling in Gainesville last year,” Castellana said. “We had such a great beginning of the year in 2017, and even though we did fall off a little at the end, we can’t complain because it was such a tremendous season.”


Castellana finished the 2017 season second in the Pro Mod points standings and chases his first category championship in 2018.

Chad Green had considerable trouble after crossing the centerline in his semifinal match. A crash and a fire ended his day. 




ROUND ONE -- Todd Tutterow, Chevy Camaro, 5.833, 248.11 def. Jeremy Ray, Chevy Corvette, 5.939, 244.96; Chad Green, Corvette, 5.788, 248.29 def. Khalid alBalooshi, Camaro, 5.796, 250.51; Mike Castellana, Camaro, 5.746, 252.90 def. Carl Stevens, Camaro, 6.694, 159.44; Doug Winters, Chevy Chevelle, 6.174, 200.56 def. Shane Molinari, Pontiac Firebird, 7.277, 135.20; Mike Janis, Camaro, 5.765, 248.93 def. Dan Stevenson, Camaro, 5.830, 254.86; Jim Whiteley, Camaro, 5.868, 244.16 def. Steven Whiteley, Cadillac CTS-V, 5.869, 250.88; Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.802, 249.90 def. Bob Rahaim, Camaro, 8.363, 121.78; Steve Jackson, Camaro, 5.818, 248.34 def. Jose Gonzalez, Camaro, 5.807, 254.18.

Chuck Little (near lane) and Dan Stevenson during qualifying.

Doug Winters has a new look for 2018. 


QUARTERFINALS -- Smith, 5.800, 249.90 def. J. Whiteley, Foul - Red Light; Castellana, 5.765, 251.95 def. Tutterow, 5.824, 247.47; Janis, 5.779, 248.11 def. Winters, 5.927, 244.47; Green, 5.783, 248.71 def. Jackson, 5.795, 248.11;


SEMIFINALS -- Janis, 5.806, 247.02 def. Green, Foul - Centerline; Smith, 5.808, 249.26 def. Castellana, 6.107, 208.88;


FINAL -- Smith, 5.794, 249.76 def. Janis, 6.597, 159.91.


The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service continues at the NHRA SpringNationals in Houston, TX, on April 20-22. 



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