ARTICLE REPOSTED FROM NHRA.COM
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BRISTOL, Tenn. — After back-to-back championships in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, Rickie Smith’s 2015 season has not yet followed suit.
But to get back on track there might not be a better facility for Smith to visit than one that has his name among the “Legends of Thunder Valley.” Smith’s name sits high above Bristol Dragway along with the likes of Wally Parks and Don Garlits, an ode to the tremendous success he has enjoyed at the famed facility.
The success has led to a number of victories in Thunder Valley, including NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series wins in 2012 and 2013. Competing in this weekend’s Pro Mod competition, presented by the Will Kinzer Foundation for Autism Research in association with the Autism Society of Eastern Tennessee, Smith hopes a return to one of his favorite tracks for the 15th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals is the answer to getting his season jumpstarted.
“We would like to win a race or two before the end of the year,” said Smith, who is currently ninth in points and hasn’t advanced out of the second round through four events. “We’ve had two really good years and when you’ve been doing this 41 years, you learn to take the good with the bad and not get bent out of shape when things don’t go your way. It’s not that we’re not running well, we’re just struggling a little on race day and little stuff is biting us. Hopefully we can run well in Bristol and have some luck on Sunday.”
The Bristol stop is the fifth of 10 events during the 2015 season and Pete Farber is the defending winner of the race. Before that, Smith won two in a row, using the win in 2013 to claim the first of his two straight world championships in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.
The quest for a third straight championship has been more difficult as Smith has once again faced off against a talented and massive Pro Mod field. Top contenders include Farber, Danny Rowe, points leader Don Walsh, Mike Castellana, Bill Glidden, who won the most recent race, Troy Coughlin, Troy Coughlin Jr., Kenny Lang and Bob Rahaim.
But Smith believes he is right on the cusp of breaking through in his IDG Chevrolet Camaro as he gets closer to finding the consistency that has been such a major part of his championship runs.
“We should be a little more consistent than we have been,” Smith said. “We’re not running as consistent as I have wanted. But we’re looking forward to going to Bristol. We usually run pretty well there. We just have to do our thing and hopefully we’ll have some things go our way on Sunday.”
For whatever reason, the breaks haven’t gone Smith’s way in 2015, but racing in Thunder Valley has always brought out the best in the veteran standout. Qualifying has gone well this season – Smith has qualified between fourth and seventh at the first four events – but that hasn’t translated to victories.
That could change in Bristol, where Smith has a proven track record and comfort level racing at the fan favorite facility.
“I take a lot of pride in going there,” Smith said. “I’ve won a lot of races there and to be one of the first four to go up (in the Legends of Thunder Valley), that’s been a big honor for me. To get recognized up there, that was a pretty major accomplishment for me. But I don’t let it put any pressure on me. To be honest, I really don’t think about it. You’re so focused when you go into these racetracks. I will just be focused on getting the car up and down the track, and then doing a good job on Sunday.”
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 growing 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, June 19, with sessions at 4:30 and 6:45 p.m. The final qualifying session will take place Saturday, June 20, at 2 p.m. with the first round of eliminations scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
To purchase tickets, call (866) 901-2679 or visit www.thundervalleytix.com. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES FACT SHEET: NHRA THUNDER VALLEY NATIONALS
WHAT: 15th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, the fifth of 10 events in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. The race will also showcase the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
WHERE: Bristol Dragway, Bristol, Tenn. From Interstate 81 North, take Hwy. 11E. Take the Virginia Exit 3 and Hwy. 11E will take you directly to the dragway. From the I-81 South, take Tennessee exit 69 and go south on Hwy 394 directly to the dragway.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 1,475 feet above sea level; Track direction is southwest to northeast.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, June 19-21
TELEVISION: A 30-minute show from this event will be televised on the Velocity Channel in the fourth quarter of 2015.
FRIDAY, June 19: NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 6:45 p.m.
SATURDAY, June 20: NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2 p.m. Round 1 of eliminations at 4:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, June 21: NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES eliminations continue at 1:15p.m.
PAST WINNERS: Peter Farber, 2014; Rickie Smith, 2013; Rickie Smith, 2012; Melanie Troxel, 2011; Von Smith, 2010
TRACK RECORDS: 5.888 seconds by Rickie Smith, June ’12; 252.80 mph by Brad Personett, June ’11.
NATIONAL RECORDS: 5.772 sec. and 258.71 mph by Melanie Troxel, June ’11, Englishtown.
TICKETS: For tickets call Bristol Dragway at (866) 901-2679. Tickets also available at www.thundervalleytix.com.