Tricky Rickie’ begins Pro Mod championship defense

The highly anticipated NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod series debut, presented in Gainesville by Jerry Bickel Race Cars, will feature nearly 30 cars as the first of what is now a 12-race schedule after expanding from 10 races in 2016.

The challenge of staying at the top of the field in the series has only gotten more difficult for Rickie Smith. The talent level is at an all-time high and the class continues to show impressive depth at every race.

“It’s a challenge,” said Smith, who won the Pro Mod season-opener in Gainesville in 2016 en route to the championship. “When you’re young, you’re trying to beat the older guys and now I’m the old guy trying to beat all these younger guys. But I love the challenge and I don’t like to lose. It’s always been that way. I love working and trying to get better.”

Trying to keep Smith from a fourth title in five years are a host of talented challengers, including Troy Coughlin, a two-time world champion in the class, 2011 world champion Khalid alBalooshi, Bob Rahaim, Danny Rowe, Mike Castellana, Steve Matusek, Mike Janis, former Pro Stock standout Larry Morgan, Stevie Jackson, who will make his NHRA Pro Mod debut, and Michael Biehle. [03/17/17]

Sportsman racers begin Gators

Jeffrey Barker, Kathleen, GA, had his Cobalt in second place in the Top Sportsman qualifying with a 6.376 after the second round on Thursday. Lester Johnson, Cynthiana, KY, was on top with a 6.012. [03/17/17]