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Pro Mod midseason review: After Indy win, can Jackson defend his championship?

Coming off a victory at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals, reigning E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Series champ “Stevie Fast” Jackson is now focused on winning his second consecutive championship.
21 Sep 2020
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Steve Jackson

Coming off a victory at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals, reigning E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Series champ “Stevie Fast” Jackson is now focused on winning his second consecutive championship.

There have been just three races in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Series and there are five remaining in the 2020 season, so time is getting short for racers to make a run at a possible championship. Although we’re not quite to the halfway point, it is worth taking the time to reflect on the season to date and look ahead to what might be on the horizon for the Pro Mod class with 20 elimination rounds remaining in the season.

Event Winners

Indy 2Chad Green Indy 3Jonathan Gray
Indy 4    Steve Jackson



Points leaders

EventLeader2nd placeLead1st to 10th
Indy 2Chad GreenJason Scruggs258
Indy 3Kris ThorneJonathan Gray161
Indy 4Steve JacksonJonathan Gray367

Ten takeaways

  • Steve Jackson’s title defense in the E3 Pro Mod series began with a thud when the Bahrain1 driver qualified No. 12 and lost in the first round at the Indy II event, which was the delayed season opener for NHRA Pro Mod drivers. Jackson improved at the second Indy race when he qualified No. 3 and reached the quarterfinals and he completed his comeback at the Denso NHRA U.S. Nationals where he won for the 10th time in 39 NHRA starts. Jackson currently leads the standings although by a scant three points over second-ranked Jonathan Gray.
  • Less than a year after being injured in a serious on-track accident, Chad Green made a triumphant return to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis when he won his first NHRA Pro Mod race. In the rain-delayed final round of the Lucas Oil NHRA Summernationals, Green drove his Bond Coat Camaro to a final round win over Jason Scruggs’ supercharged entry. As an added bonus, Green also made his nitro Funny Car debut at the event and qualified for the 16-car field. 
  • Following off-season back surgery, Pro Mod kingpin Rickie Smith did not drive in the first two events of the season, but the three-time class champ still made an impact with drivers Bo Butner and Jonathan Gray. Butner rented Smith’s car for the first two events and went to the final round while also competing in Pro Stock. Gray, who is expected to race a full season, leased Smith’s second nitrous-assisted Camaro and is one of the leading contenders for the title after winning the Indy III event. Smith returned to action at the U.S. Nationals where he lost in round two.
  • The U.S Nationals was not kind to Pro Mod drivers Kris Thorne and Steve Matusek who were involved in separate on-track accidents during a wild opening round of eliminations. Thorne defeated Jason Scruggs with an impressive 5.76-second run but crashed his turbocharged entry in the shutdown area and could not return for round two. A few pairs later, Matusek heavily damaged his new Mustang in a loss to Todd Tutterow. 
  • The new schedule that has reduced qualifying at most events from four to two sessions has already had an impact on the Pro Mod class as just 11 drivers have qualified for the first three races and by the end of the season that number is almost certain to be significantly lower.
  • The ProCharger engine combination was approved for the 2020 season and it hasn’t taken long for it to make an impact. Khalid alBalooshi, Clint Satterfield, and Rick Hord are currently running the centrifugal supercharger. alBalooshi qualified No. 1 at the first two Indy events and so far, he’s made two of the quickest passes of the season in Pro Mod with runs of 5.722 and 5.729.
  • Before his crash at the U.S. Nationals, Kris Thorne was the Pro Mod class’ undisputed king of speed with his turbocharged Camaro. Thorne set top speed at the first three events with runs of 255.24, 256.60, and 257.87 while most of his rivals struggled to crack the 250-mph mark.
  • The biggest holeshot win of the season so far goes to Justin Jones who beat Khalid alBalooshi in the first round of the Indy II race, 5.92 to 5.85.
  • Steve Jackson is winning rounds not just because his blown Bahrain1 Camaro is one of the quickest cars in the class. Jackson is also doing his part on the starting line. His recent Indy win included a perfect .000 reaction time in round one and an equally impressive .009 in the final against Todd Tutterow.
  • Bo Butner has already won races in Pro Stock, Comp, Super Stock, Stock, Super Gas, and Super Street, and he nearly succeeded in his quest to join Jeg Coughlin Jr. as NHRA’s only seven class winner when he made it to the final of the Indy III race. Butner made it to the final where he lost a close battle against teammate Jonathan Gray.

Biggest surprise: Former series champ Mike Castellana has won just a single round in three races which helps explain why he is currently ranked No. 12 in the Pro Mod class. Castellana’s crew chief, Frank Manzo, is still working to find the sweet spot on the AAP team’s new Jerry Bickel-built Camaro so it’s reasonable to expect a top ten finish.

Most likely to break into the top 10: Former Top Sportsman world champ Jeffrey Barker is ranked No. 16 after three races but he’s just 54-points out of the top ten, which is a very attainable goal with five races remaining. Barker qualified in the top half of the field at the first two races with his nitrous-boosted Bahrain1 Camaro.

Probable championship finish: 1. Steve Jackson 2. Jonathan Gray; 3. Jason Scruggs. Not that he ever lost it, but now that Jackson has another Indy win under his belt, he’s got has his swagger back, which is likely bad news for the rest of the class. In related news, Jackson won the popular Shakedown race at Virginia Motorsports Park last week and set the radial tire record with a 3.50-second (eighth-mile) run, so it appears he’s pushing all the right buttons lately. As for Gray, he’s proven to be one of the best drivers in the Pro Mod class and with Rickie Smith as crew chief, the sky is the limit.

Darkhorse contender: Todd Tutterow has a DNQ on his rap sheet which helps explain why he’s mired in tenth place after three races, but he recovered a lot of points with a runner-up finish at Indy which is far more indicative of his team’s performance. If he can maintain that pace, it’s not unreasonable to think he can erase the 67-point deficit between himself and leader Jackson. 

Coming next:
Tuesday: Top Fuel Harley

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Funny Car
Pro Stock
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