The seven-event E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Modified Series season ends this weekend at the Dodge NHRA Finals presented by Pennzoil at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Four drivers are still in contention for the 2020 championship including a possible first-time champ.
The situation: Brandon Snider, the only one of the four without a championship to his credit, leads the standings over the defending champ, Stevie “Fast “ Jackson, by a mere 26 points, with 2018 champ Mike Janis 55 out of the lead followed by 2011 titlist Khalid alBalooshi (-.56). Unlike the situation in the Camping World classes, there is no points-and-a-half scoring this weekend in Pro Mod, so a maximum of 118 points are on the table.
How we got here: There have been six different winners in the season’s six races, and five different points leaders. The class, which like quite a few others was supposed to debut at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals, but the pandemic forced the first race to Indianapolis at the third event after racing resumed.
Chad Green won that race to take the early lead but lost the lead to Kris Thorne at the next event after Thorne put together back-to-back semifinal showings. Jackson took the lead for the first time after winning the U.S. Nationals, but an early loss in Gainesville and a runner-up by Janis boosted Janis into the lead
Jackson retook the lead in Dallas after a runner-up behind Snider, who had clocked semifinal finishes at the U.S. Nationals and Gainesville and took over second place. Jackson’s surprising first-round loss in Houston to Alex Laughlin and yet another semi by Snider put Snider into the lead heading into the finale.
The scenarios: With just 11 cars entered, everyone will qualify and the fewest points that Snider could earn in qualifying is 2 (for No. 11) and the most Jackson could get is 8 (for No. 1), which would reduce Snider’s lead to an even 20 points -– the value of one round-win -- theoretically meaning that Jackson could tie him by going one round further BUT because Snider currently holds the first tiebreaker (head-to-head record, 2-1) the only way that comes into play is if Jackson beats him head to head. Otherwise, he would have to go two rounds further than Snider, who has been to at least the semifinals the last four events (e.g., Snider loses in round one and Jackson reaches semifinals; Snider loses in round two and Jackson runner-ups; or Snider loses in semifinals and Jackson wins the event)
Either Janis or alBalooshi (or both?) would need to go three rounds further than Snider, meaning he has to lose in round one and they go to the final, or lose in round two and one of them win the race, but they’ll also still have pass Jackson if he lasts longer than Snider
“I don’t think I’m feeling any pressure. I’m not really worried about (the championship). We were just thinking about winning a race and getting our program better. That’s what our goal was this year, so we’re not going to think a different way now. We’re just going to go out and do the best we can.” – Brandon Snider
“When you are competing at this level and get to roll into the last race of the season with a chance to walk away with the title, it’s been a pretty good year. We haven’t been running as well as we should, but I’m pushing all my chips onto the table in Vegas. It’s going to be a shootout and I’m fully loaded.” -- Steve Jackson