Source: NHRA Media Department
LAS VEGAS – After a tremendous season that has included two victories, Mike Castellana has one more hurdle to clear to win his first career NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series championship: stopping Troy Coughlin in Las Vegas.
Castellana trails the two-time world champion by 26 points heading into the final race of the season as part of this weekend’s NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The good news is Castellana is still within reach of the world title, but the bad news is he will be trying to track down the red-hot Coughlin at a track where he has always performed well.
Coughlin is a three-time winner in Vegas and is the defending Pro Mod event champ in his turbo-charged JEGS.com Chevrolet Corvette. He has seemingly always run well at the traditional last stop of the year, but he knows nothing will come easy on his way to winning a third championship.
“I'm not surprised at all because every single year it goes down to the wire,” said Coughlin, who has 11 career NHRA Pro Mod wins. “This year is certainly no different and we weren't expecting anything less. We know exactly what we need to do this weekend. We need to qualify in the top half of the field and go to the semifinals at the very least. We'd like to qualify in the top four and win to close the season in style, with the championship and another Wally."
The Las Vegas race, presented by Real Pro Mod Association, is the final of 12 events during the 2017 NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series schedule and will be shown on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) and Fox Sports 2 (FS2). Coughlin is the defending event winner, he has two victories and five final round appearances over the past six races of the season. That’s an impressive mark considering the loaded NHRA Pro Mod class, putting Coughlin in an unfamiliar position heading to Las Vegas.
He took over the points lead with a win in St. Louis, meaning Castellana will have to catch Coughlin at the final race in his supercharged Chevrolet Camaro. That’s a change from previous years, when Coughlin’s big finish in Vegas coincided with him trying to track down an opponent.
"We've never had the points lead at any time in the past except for the two times when we clinched our two championships in Vegas," Coughlin said. "We've obviously had great cars the last six seasons but we always seem to be chasing someone. Now the tables have turned.”
Castellana and famed crew chief Frank Manzo promise to be ready. The Pro Mod veteran won twice earlier this year and went to four final rounds in the first five races. But the eight-time class winner hasn’t been able to replicate that success down the stretch, something he hopes to change under the bright lights in Vegas.
Like Castellana, Coughlin is thrilled for the chance to contend for a world title and past history shows he will be ready. Of course, both will have to deal with a huge field that is filled with talent, including 2017 event winners Steven Whiteley, Steve Matusek, three-time world champion Rickie Smith, Stevie Jackson, Shane Molinari, Jonathan Gray and Sidnei Frigo.
"There's a lot of excitement and a little bit of nerves," Coughlin said. "But I know I've got Steve (Petty), Kyle Pettis and Mike Rees behind me and they haven't made a mistake all year. I just need to relax and do what we do and we'll see how it turns out. This is a lot of fun and times like this remind you why you do this."
Featuring the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammer race cars, the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series offers something for every kind of hot-rodding enthusiast. The class is highlighted by historic muscle cars, like ’67 Mustangs, ’68 Firebirds and ’69 Camaros, as well as a variety of late model American muscle cars. With more than 3,000 horsepower, the suspended door pro mod cars travel the quarter-mile in less than six seconds at speeds exceeding 250 mph.
NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, Oct. 27 with two qualifying session at 1:00 and 3:30 p.m., continuing with the final qualifying session on Saturday, Oct. 28 at 3:00 p.m. Round one of eliminations takes place on Saturday at 5:45 p.m. and continues on Sunday, Oct. 29 at 10:00 a.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-644-4444 or 702-644-4444. Tickets also are available online at www.lvms.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more info, visit www.NHRA.com.