Veteran racer Rickie Smith took advantage of several early exits by most of his series challengers and captured the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series world championship title at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis.
Smith claimed his first season championship title in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series when he took the semifinal victory over event top qualifier Jim Laurita. He was ultimately denied the race victory in the final round when Mike Castellana pulled away for the win.
Smith, who says he will retire from the cockpit after this season, was emotional in the media center after being declared the champion with one race remaining on the Pro Mod season schedule. Smith leads second-place Castellana by 142 points, and a maximum of 138 points is available to a single racer at each event.
“It’s been a long time since we won a championship; we won seven titles [IHRA Pro Stock and Super Modified], but the last one was in 1989,” said the 59-year-old Smith, of King, N.C. “I’ve been doing this for 40 solid years. I drive my own truck and put my own awning up, and it’s time to back off, be a crew chief and let these young guys do it. I am tickled to death to pull this deal off. I want to thank IDG for giving me this time to finish my career out. I want to walk away from this thing a champion.”
Smith’s road to the series crown was opened when title challengers Mike Janis, Von Smith, Kenny Lang, and Danny Rowe lost in the first round and defending world champ Troy Coughlin lost to Laurita in the second round.