There is something to be said for tight competition. So, what happens when you are competing in a class where 29 cars are vying for 16 spots, and what would have put you number #2 or #3 on the ladder last year, doesn't even get you to #16 this year?
NHRA, along with J&A Service once again proved last weekend that anything can happen on race day, and that if you aren't watching the NHRA Pro Mod field, well you'd better check your pulse, because you might be dead. A record setting low ET bump, the national record broken and the guy still lost, less than one tenth of a second separating 16 cars, and despite all that, by the end of the first round of eliminations, the top 3 qualified cars were all back on the trailer.
Let's not kid ourselves here though, just because you made it to the top of the qualifying field doesn't mean you are out of the woods. There are no class fillers here, and that was proven when the #16, dead last qualifier Eric Latino faced off against the prodigy, none other than Stevie Jackson. Eric showed that you can go from last to first in a matter of 5.77 seconds and that's exactly what he did. Stevie had transmission issues and Eric took full advantage by bustin' the rookie and number one qualifier up.
That wasn't the end of Eric's accomplishments for the weekend though. He came back out on Sunday and faced off against the former World Champion in the Jeg's backed Corvette, none other than Troy Coughlin. This match up ended up being the quickest side by side NHRA pro mod race in history, when Eric ran a record setting 5.72, to Troy near record setting 5.75. Troy took the holeshot win.
What about that Mike Castellana and his new blower Camaro, backed by AAP. Yes I said Mike Castellana and a blower in the same sentence. Didn't expect that one? Well get used to it, because Shannon Jenkins, the Iceman was there in Mike's other car, a brand new Ford Mustang, as one of the few nitrous entries. Mike had to really make a move in Q3 to even get in the field, and when he did, he made the most of it by qualifying #15, and taking that all the way to the final round.
And no, I certainly didn't forget about the kid who surprised a lot of us in Q1 when he came out and dropped the hammer with a 5.80. The Cadillac Kid, Steven Whiteley. By the time we got to eliminations though, that 5.80 was only good enough for the #5 spot. That certain the hell didn't matter to Steven though. He took out Galot Motorsports heavy weight Todd Tutterow and others to find himself in a throwdown with Mike Castellana. Caddy vs. Camaro. Blower vs. Blower. In the end, it was the Cadillac Kid who's win light came on during this battle.
What the Gator Nats showed everyone on the property is a few things. First off pro mod racing is very much alive and well. Second, there is parody in the class with these rules. Third, it doesn't much matter if you qualify first or last, you are in danger of not making it past the first round of eliminations. And lastly, it proves that NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod racing is the best damn heads up racing class in all of drag racing...PERIOD.