Shane Molinari did not have the success he had hoped for during the 2016 NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season, only qualifying for two events. It led Molinari to an ultimatum: either get better or be done racing in the loaded NHRA Pro Mod class.
Through the first seven races in 2017, it’s clear Molinari has gone with the first option. He posted his second runner-up last weekend in Bristol in his turbocharger-powered S&T Truck Repair Inc. '68 Firebird and has qualified the past six races. He sits fourth in points with the hopes of capturing his first NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series victory as part of this weekend’s Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park.
“I’m pretty happy and we’ve made a lot of headway the last couple races,” Molinari said. “Honestly, it’s just been putting laps on the car and playing with a little at a time, making small changes. We’ve qualified in the top half of the ladder every race, so we’re making progress. All in all, it’s been exciting. We’ve got a great crew and everybody works together. That makes life easier.”
The race, which is presented by the Real Pro Mod Association (RPM), is the eighth of 12 events during the 2017 NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season and will be shown on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) and Fox Sports 2 (FS2). Billy Glidden is the defending race winner.
After not qualifying at the opening race in Gainesville, Molinari has been locked in, advancing to final rounds in Houston and Bristol. After a frustrating 2016 campaign, this season has been a completely different story, as Molinari also qualified No. 1 in Bristol in a loaded 30-car field.
He is quick to note how much crew chief Brad Personett, a former NHRA Pro Mod standout, has helped, bringing a comfort level and consistency to the car that Molinari had never experienced before. It’s been a massive difference-maker for Molinari and the results have been obvious over the past six races.
“Obviously the tuner makes a big difference and Brad’s got his stuff together,” Molinari said. “He’s an amazing guy. He’s owned his own car, he’s tuned his own car. What else can you ask for? The guy has been astronomical for us. He knows what’s right and what needs fixed, and he makes sure you’re comfortable in the car. It’s just been a great thing.”
But taking that next step and getting his first victory won’t be easy in a class filled with standouts. Among the 28 cars competing in Norwalk are the likes of points leader Mike Castellana, two-time world champ Troy Coughlin, who beat Molinari in Bristol, 2017 winners Steven Whiteley, Stevie Jackson, Rickie Smith and Steve Matusek, as well as Jonathan Gray, Khalid alBalooshi, Danny Rowe and Sidnei Frigo.
But going from being a fan of the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series class to actually competing in it has been a tremendous thrill ride for Molinari. It still gets him excited racing against the top Pro Mod drivers, but he has proven he belongs among the elite and Molinari hopes the best is yet to come, starting this weekend in Norwalk.
“It’s been way cool,” Molinari said. “Being able to go out and race with these guys, it’s pretty cool. When you think about the guys in the class, it’s just nuts. It’s a lot of fun just to go out there and try to do well. Anytime you can even qualify in this class it’s a great thing. It’s just a bad-ass class.”
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, June 23 with qualifying sessions at 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., continuing with the final qualifying session on Saturday, June 24 at 2:30 p.m. Round one of eliminations takes place on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. and continues on Sunday, June 25 at 12:45 p.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park at (419) 668-5555. Tickets also are available online at www.summitmotorsportspark.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult.