This won’t come as breaking news to anyone who follows NHRA drag racing, but Pro Mod cars are not easy to drive. Equal parts powerful and unpredictable, the 250-mph machines that make up the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod series can occasionally humble even the sport’s best drivers. Jeffrey Barker learned that the hard way during Friday’s test session at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Barker, making his official debut in the Bahrain1 Camaro, lost control on his burnout and crossed the centerline. Barker narrowly missed the Christmas Tree but did make contact with the 60-foot timing block and the starting line video camera. Barker wasn’t hurt and his car suffered only cosmetic damage, but it was clearly not one of his best days at the races.
“If you’d have told me yesterday that I was going to run over the [starting line] sign on a burnout, I’d have told you there wasn’t a chance in hell that was going to happen,” said Barker. “It did happen, though. I was just doing a normal burnout and the back end washed out and the tires started to grab. I gave it some throttle to get it straight and the back end came around. No excuses. It shouldn’t have happened.”
Barker may be new to the Pro Mod class, but he’s got plenty of experience in fast doorslammers. He is one of the sports’ most successful Top Sportsman racers and the 2015 world champion. He also grudge races a quick small-tire Mustang for car owner at tracks around his Georgia home. Earlier this year, he had a chance to join Pro Mod world champ, Steve Jackson, as a member of the Bahrain1 team and it proved to be an opportunity that was too good to pass up.
“So far, I’ve made about 17 runs in this car,” said Barker. “We made seven in Orlando in March and another seven a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta [during the NMCA event]. It’s definitely a lot faster than my Top Sportsman car. It’s similar, but there are some differences. This car has a Liberty transmission, so you’ve got more gear changes. The starting line procedure is a little different but nothing too tricky.”
Jackson is known for his brutal honesty, and his quick wit, but he had little to say after Barker’s Friday adventure.
“He just told me to fix it and go run again,” Barker said. “He’s had a few adventures of his own, so I don’t really think he wanted to go there. Luckily, the car wasn’t hurt. We just had to fix a little carbon fiber, but you can barely notice it today. I think the starting line camera got a nice view of our chassis set-up, but otherwise, it’s all good.”
Barker quickly put the whole adventure behind him during Friday’s opening qualifying session with a 5.838-second run that was the second-quickest run of the round. He's all but guaranteed a top-half starting spot in what figures to be a very competitive field.