race reports

NHRA Pro Mods at Charlotte

Gray Prevails with First Win

Words by Kay Burk

Photos by Chris Haverly

Jonathan Gray (near lane) took the Pro Mod win over “Stevie Fast” Jackson.


Jonathan Gray took his first win in the J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series on Sept. 17 at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, NC.


Gray, who missed one race on the Pro Mod schedule, entered this event eighth in the standings, and left in the fifth spot. He is the ninth driver to earn a Pro Mod victory this year in the 10 events so far on the 12-event schedule. Gray made it to the semifinals three previous times.


With back surgery limiting the three-time NHRA Pro Mod world champ earlier this season, Rickie Smith asked Gray to drive his nitrous-powered Chevrolet Camaro until he returned. When Smith came back, Gray stayed with the longtime standout, driving another car with Smith making the tuning calls.


Gray previously drove a turbo car in NHRA Pro Mod action, but moved to nitrous when he started driving for Smith.


“It took me about 30 runs to finally learn how to drive it the way he wanted me to drive it,” Gray said of Smith. “It can be a handful and you cannot drive this thing like a Pro Stock car. He’s been a very good mentor to me, probably the best I’ve ever had, as far as teaching me how to do things. I knew we were going to be able to run (well), but to me, it was more about the experience of being able to work with him. It was an honor when he called me earlier this year.”


In their first final-round matchup Gray and Jackson engaged in a bit of starting-line games as neither was in a hurry to stage. Jackson was off the line first with a 0.018 Reaction Time to Gray’s 0.026, but Gray chased him down and nipped Jackson at the finish line by 0.0016 seconds (about 7 inches), 5.809/250.46 to 5.818, 248.39.

Shane Molinari (near lane) had Low ET of 5.778 seconds and top Speed of 256.55 mph, but he got a late start against Pete Farber in the first round and couldn’t make up the difference.

The first round of Pro Mod eliminations is run on Saturday, with points leader Mike Castellana (far lane) running 6.000 at 246.84 in his Al-Anabi Racing Camaro against Khalid Al Balooshi, who clicked it off after his Camaro lost traction. Castellana met Gray in the second round and that was it for his day.

Sidnei Frigo (near lane) won at the U.S. Nationals, but was upset at Charlotte by Jim Whiteley, who was the alternate for Shannon Jenkins. Frigo was off the line first, but got out of the groove and hit the half-track cones, taking himself out of the competition. Whiteley’s 5.921/247.29 was not enough against Little’s 5.876/245.99 in the second round.

In only his third time qualified, Chuck Little (far lane) got the upset win over champion Rickie Smith. Little’s unreal 0.009 RT gave him the holeshot win with a 5.897/244.74 to Smith’s 5.840/249.53 with a 0.090 RT. Little went on to defeat Whiteley 5.874/245.99 to 5.921/247.29 in the next round, but fell to Gray in the semi, 5.825/250.27 to 5.874/245.63.

Danny Rowe (near lane) drove his Corvette to a 5.888/247.88 win against Eric Latino’s Camaro (6.225/220.98). In the second round, Rowe’s 5.922/245.09 could not stand up to the 5.874/247.29 of Mike Janis.

Mike Janis (far lane) began the event by getting past Troy Coughlin, 5.879/247.66 to 5.873/253.80. Janis then turned in a 5.874/247.29 to beat Danny Rowe’s 5.922/245.09. Steve Jackson put an end to Janis’s day.


The Pro Mods will next race Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at Gateway Motorsports Park just across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis, before the season final Oct. 26-28 at Las Vegas.


Point Standings after 10 of 12 events

1. Mike Castellana, 754; 2. Troy Coughlin, 706; 3. Shane Molinari, 597; 4. Steve Jackson, 563; 5. Jonathan Gray, 539; 6. Sidnei Frigo, 527; 7. Steven Whiteley, 514; 8. Steve Matusek, 465; 9. Rickie Smith, 407; 10. Danny Rowe, 400. 




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