The strongest start to a season in Steve Matusek’s NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series career is also coming in the most competitive season in class history, an encouraging sign for what Matusek and the rest of his talented team hope to accomplish in 2017.
Matusek won his first career NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series Wally two weekends ago in Houston, driving his supercharger-powered Aeromotive, Inc. Chevrolet Camaro, and the Pro Mod standout currently sits fourth in points. All of it has come maintaining a consistent approach, which leads Matusek to believe the best may be yet to come, including at this weekend’s 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway and beyond.
“We’ve been a team that’s really started to jell,” Matusek said. “We’ve always had a relatively sophisticated program with a consistent car, but the competition is so good in this class. The cards really have to fall your way. But we’ve been really consistent going A to B and that’s been big for us, but we’re still not running to our potential. You have to get down the track, be consistent, and not make mistakes, and not let anybody throw you off your game.”
The race, which is presented by Pro Line Racing and Fueltech, is the fourth 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). Rickie Smith, the reigning world champ, is the defending event winner.
The stop in Atlanta finishes off a rare stretch of three straight races for the drivers, and Matusek hopes to end this string on a good note. He won in Houston and lost in a first-round quad at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, where the slowest time in his group was an impressive 5.863. But that’s the nature of the ultra-competitive NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series class, which will feature 31 standouts in Atlanta, including previous world champions Troy Coughlin, Von Smith, and Khalid alBalooshi and 2017 winners Mike Castellana, the current points leader, and Steven Whiteley.
“When you talk about the talent in this class, the guys are just unflappable,” Matusek said. “You find that the guys in this class are very passionate and understand what it takes. The results have been amazing, and I think that’s a testament to the talent and mindset of these drivers. Everyone is tough-minded and focused, and I’m proud to be a part of this class.”
Matusek certainly deserves to be mentioned among the elite in the class with his standout Pro Mod career. His NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series success is coming now as well, as evidenced by the quick start this season. That early momentum has raised the excitement level among his team, but Matusek knows this is a pivotal stretch to stay in championship contention.
He is eager to finish off this current three-race swing strong, and then Matusek will compete in the NHRA Pro Mod event at his home track in two weeks in Topeka, which is followed by another rigorous three-race stretch in June. But Matusek is thrilled to accept the challenge, even if it includes dealing with the powerful and sometimes volatile Pro Mod cars.
“These cars are just animals,” said Matusek, who finished a career-best fifth in points in 2016. “It’s one of those things you can’t think about; you have to react. You have to know where you’re at and when to say when. You can’t just hop in one and muscle it down the track. In the first couple hundred feet you’re wrestling with them and then you have to finesse it, and that’s truly what makes this class exciting.”
NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, May 5, with qualifying sessions at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., continuing with the final qualifying session on Saturday, May 6, at 12:45 p.m. Round one of eliminations takes place on Saturday at 3:15 p.m. and continues on Sunday, May 7, at 12:45 p.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.