Mike Janis isn’t afraid to admit he felt the pressure of being the defending E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service world champion entering the 2019 season. But Janis has reveled in that spotlight, carrying plenty of momentum into this weekend’s 39th annual Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
Janis won last weekend in Charlotte, earning his sixth career victory in the talent-heavy class, and he’ll look to keep that going at Georgia’s House of Speed in his supercharged Al-Anabi Performance Camaro. The veteran has previous success at the track, including a pair of No. 1 qualifiers and a runner-up finish, and he seems poised to take advantage of his car running strong as the temperatures – and championship chase – starts to heat up.
“Atlanta has been a good track for us and we have a lot of confidence going in,” Janis said. “Anything can happen in this class, but we’ll go in with a smart gameplan and that’s all you can ask. When we get to conditions that are a little warmer, we always seem to perform well. We race smart on hot tracks and if it’s warmer, we feel like we’ve got a good advantage. Reading the race track is a big deal to us, and we feel like we really pay attention and race smart when it gets warm.”
The race, which is presented by FuelTech, is the fourth of 12 events during the 2019 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season and will be shown on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) and Fox Sports 2 (FS2). The class didn’t race at Atlanta a year ago, while Mike Castellana won the event in 2017. Janis used a hot start a season ago en route to his first NHRA world championship and he’s hoping to repeat it after his impressive weekend in Charlotte.
He took down a star-studded field in the final quad at the four-wide race, going 5.799 at 248.52 mph to take down points leader Stevie “Fast” Jackson, fan-favorite Erica Enders and three-time world champion Rickie Smith. It moved Janis to third in points and showed once again how well he performs in pressure situations. That spotlight has grown even brighter racing as the defending champion, but it seems to have brought out the best in Janis thus far in 2019.
“It’s a big deal to get confidence after a win like that,” Janis said. “The pressure was instant right after we put that No. 1 on the car, but we know we have to be at the top of our game and show everyone that nothing really bothers us. We try to be as positive as possible and that win was a big deal. Winning never gets old, especially when you fight back. We haven’t won since last June, so winning in Charlotte gives you confidence. It was all really gratifying.”
Janis knows those good vibes can be erased instantly in a class this loaded, which is why he’ll be prepared for a thrilling duel in Atlanta. There will be another full field of standout performers, a list that also includes Gainesville winner Todd Tutterow, Alex Laughlin, Chad Green, Charlotte No. 1 qualifier Jose Gonzalez and Jeremy Ray, but that level of competition makes racing that much more enjoyable for Janis.
“That competitiveness keeps it fun and it all comes down to that will to win,” Janis said. “You have 26-30 drivers all showing up thinking they can win, and that’s the fun part of this whole deal. The competition is so tough right now. It’s really difficult to even make the field, but without that level of competition, it wouldn’t even be fun.”
FuelTech is the presenting sponsor for the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series race in Atlanta, as the class continues its exciting 2019 campaign. Featuring the world’s fastest doorslammer race cars, the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service 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.
“For the third consecutive year, FuelTech is proud to sponsor the NHRA Pro Mod race in Atlanta,” FuelTech stated. “We will have several customers attending this exciting race, and they will have their FuelTech FT600 engine management systems on board and ready for action. We can’t wait for another amazing Pro Mod drag racing showdown.”
The first of four E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service qualifying sessions takes place at 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, and the final two rounds of qualifying take place on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The first round of Pro Mod eliminations are scheduled for 12:10 p.m. on Sunday.
To purchase tickets, 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.