Rickie Smith Celebrates His First Win in Pro Mod for 2020
No one in the pits at Gainesville Raceway during the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod division of the NHRA Mello Yello drag racing championship would have doubted Rickie Smith’s dominate runs at the 51st Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals. Smith didn’t post the fastest speed of the event that honor went to Kris Thorne with a 253.75 mph pass in Round One. He also did not post the lowest ET or quickest reaction time at Gainesville, as those honors went to Khalid Albalooshi (5.739 ET) and Todd Tutterow (.006 RT) respectively. What the legendary Pro Mod driver did do was to lay down elimination runs at 249.81 mph, 249.07 mph, 249.53 mph and 249.63 mph with an average reaction time of 0.045 seconds. That consistency is why Rickie Smith is the most successful driver in the history of E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod and winner of Sunday’s Pro Mod class over Mike Janis at the NHRA Gatornationals.
Off-season back surgery had sidelined the Pro Mod legend who did not compete in the opening two rounds of the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod division of the 2020 NHRA Mello Yello championship. Nonetheless, Smith’s presence in the NHRA pits is never ending and 2020 was no exception. He rented both of his nitrous-assisted Camaro’s to Bo Butner and Jonathan Gray. At the recent Indy III race, the teammates made it to final round, where Butner nearly succeeded in his quest to join Jeg Coughlin Jr. as the only other seven-class winner in NHRA. With no respect for his elders, Gray claimed his second Pro Mod Wally at the same track where he won his first victory three years earlier. On Sunday, Rickie Smith became the fourth winner in the four rounds of the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod championship joining previous 2020 winners Chad Green, Jonathan Gray and Stevie “Fast” Jackson.
Special Race Weekend for Father & Son
It was a special weekend for the Smith family as Rickie’s son Matt Smith also had a dominate day in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle. Matt started Sunday’s finals as the Number One qualifier and outpaced the field to win for the 25th time of his career. Smith claimed his third NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Championship at the season’s final round last year with consistent runs in the 6.7s at Pomona CA. In past years, Smith hasn’t had much success at the legendary Gainesville track and was 0 for 6 in final rounds against his arch-rival and six-time world champion Andrew Hines. However, this was a special day and it didn’t matter that Hines was the sport’s most successful Pro Stock Motorcycle racer with 56 career victories. Smith posted wins against Kelly Clontz, John Hall, and his teammate Scotty Pollacheck who was victorious at the most recent Indy event. Smith finished the weekend with his first win of 2020 on his Denso/Stockseth/MSR EBR, going 6.843 ET at 196.99 mph to defeat Hines.
E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Series is at the halfway point. With four races in the record book and four races remaining, time is getting short for racers to make their run at a possible 2020 Pro Mod championship. Mike Janis holds a slim 16-point lead over Stevie Jackson as the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series continues Oct. 2-4 with the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Pennzoil at “World Wide Technology” Raceway in St. Louis MO.
Photo courtesy of Rickie Smith Racing