GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A remarkable 10 different drivers won races during the 2015 NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season, meaning not a single racer won more than one.
Of those 10 winners, none were Troy Coughlin, something he hopes to change in 2016 and as soon as this weekend’s season opener as part of 47th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. This weekend’s Pro Mod racing is presented by Pro Line Racing and Jerry Bickle Race Cars.
One thing Coughlin would like to keep, however, is the finish, as he claimed his second NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series world championship a year ago in his late model JEGS.com Chevrolet Corvette.
“It's been a pretty remarkable run these last four years," said Coughlin, who also claimed the 2012 title. "You don't think about it as it's happening because you're generally focused on the next round, the next race, but it's neat when you do have time to reflect to see how well we have done.
"It's definitely all about this remarkable team. Steve Petty is the best crew chief in the business, and having guys like Mike Rees, Justin Beaver, and Kyle Pettis stick with us for so many years, that makes such a huge difference. I'm so honored to drive this race car and work with these guys."
Coughlin’s quest for a third world championship starts in Gainesville after slipping past Mike Janis by a mere 14 points one year ago. But, as the parity in winners from a year ago indicates, it won’t be easy. Coughlin will face off against a talented group in a 28-car field in Gainesville, including past world champions Rickie Smith, who posted back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014, and 2010 title winner Von Smith.
Other stalwarts include Danny Rowe, Mike Castellana, Janis, Steve Matusek, Bill Glidden, Pete Farber and Bob Rahaim, who is the defending winner of the Gainesville event. That victory in the first race a year ago propelled Rahaim’s strong season, as he finished third in his sleek silver and black Corvette.
“I think we’re in a really good place right now and hopefully we can pick up where we left off,” Rahaim said. “We have to qualify well and hopefully go rounds, and that’s the gist of it. One of the key things is, and this is what we learned last year, is you have to qualify at every event. We didn’t do that at the U.S. Nationals and that hurt our championship hopes. But we’re really looking forward to this season.”
Smith, who has a Pro Mod-best eight career wins, picked up a victory at his home track in Bristol last season but dropped to fourth in the points standings by the final event in Las Vegas. By all accounts it was another strong season for the two-time champ and veteran of the sport, and Smith has all the pieces in place to make another championship run.
“We’re running pretty good again and I’m real excited,” Smith said. “We’ve been pretty fast everywhere we’ve been in testing. We’ve worked all winter and we’re ready to go racing. Gainesville has always been a place I like. It’s a nice facility and a great crowd, and I seem to do well there. It’s going to be real competitive, but we’re trying to get another championship.”
The level of competition is something that continues to impress everyone in the class and that includes Rahaim.
“The transformation of the class has been incredible,” Rahaim said. “It’s really just phenomenal to be a part of it. It gets more challenging with each event and it seems like there’s a new threshold at every race. There’s a lot of bright minds in the class and it’s just ultra-competitive.”
But that seems to bring out the best in the top drivers and Coughlin is in that mix. He knows what to expect being a defending champion, but keeping that top spot – and earning victories this season in the process – is something that has him as motivated as ever.
"Winning is addictive," Coughlin said. "This crew has been through a title defense before and they know everyone out there will take their best shots against us every single round. There's something about racing the car with the No. 1 on the window. You just want to prove yourself against the car that did the best the year before.”
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, March 18 with qualifying sessions at noon and 3:30 p.m., continuing with the final qualifying session on Saturday, March 19 at 2 p.m. Round one of eliminations is later on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. Round two of Pro Mod eliminations starts at approximately 12:45 p.m. on Sunday.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.