Making one of the biggest changes to his standout Pro Mod career, Mike Castellana wasn’t sure how the adjustment from racing a nitrous car to a supercharger-powered car would go. Through five races of the 2017 NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season, it’s safe to say the transition has been a smooth one.
Castellana has put together a dominant start in his Al-Anabi Racing ’17 Camaro, winning two races and advancing to four final rounds. His 15-3 record during eliminations this year is even more impressive considering the depth and talent level of the class, and now Castellana will enjoy racing at his home track, Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, as part of this weekend’s 48th annual NHRA Summernationals.
“It’s always a fun weekend racing out here and there’s always a lot of people who come out,” said Castellana, who has eight career NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series wins. “It puts a little pressure on you because you want to do well for them, but it’s good for them to all come out and see what you do. You just have to try and concentrate and not think about anything. We’ve been going here for more than 30 years, and we’ll just try to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
The race, which is presented by Aquaball Naturally Flavored Water, is the sixth of 12 events during the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season and will be shown on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) and Fox Sports 2 (FS2). Troy Coughlin is the defending race winner.
Marking the halfway point of an excellent 2017 season, Castellana hopes to build on his commanding 178-point lead over second-place Steven Whiteley. Castellana fell to Whiteley at the season-opening race in Gainesville, but he responded with back-to-back wins in Charlotte and Atlanta. He advanced to a third straight final round in Topeka, falling to Stevie Jackson, another sign of his consistency thus far. Castellana has also delivered plenty of highlights, making the only two runs in the 5.60s in class history. His run of 5.685 in Houston is the quickest in Pro Mod history and he followed with a 5.698 in Topeka.
Working with standout crew chief Frank Manzo, the transition to the new supercharger-powered car has gone quicker than expected, especially with Castellana only testing just before the opener.
“It’s really the people I have behind me,” Castellana said. “It’s Frank and the crew who get the car in the shape it’s in. It’s really them. I have the easy part. It’s been great to see it come together so fast. It’s been pretty exciting to get the car to be so competitive so fast. I was new to driving this type of car, but Frank has helped a tremendous amount. He made me feel comfortable, I got familiar driving it and he helped make everything a lot easier.”
Keeping this impressive pace will be difficult in a loaded class that includes the likes of previous world champions Rickie Smith, Coughlin and Khalid alBalooshi, 2017 winners Whiteley, Jackson and Steve Matusek, and standouts Bob Rahaim, Danny Rowe, Jonathan Gray and Michael Biehle. In all, 30 cars will make up the loaded NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series field at Englishtown, a fact that is exciting for Castellana, one of the original class standouts.
“It’s tremendous to see the way the class has grown and the way it has evolved from where it was,” Castellana said. “It’s just good and exciting to the class get the recognition it should get.”
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 9 with qualifying sessions at 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., continuing with the final qualifying session on Saturday, June 10 at 3:30 p.m. Round one of eliminations takes place on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and continues on Sunday, June 11 at 12:45 p.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at (732) 446-7800. Tickets also are available online at www.racewaypark.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult.