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Three-time Pro Mod world champ Rickie Smith eyes late-season surge in Houston

Rickie Smith has raced just twice during the 2020 season and already has one win, and the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil, Oct. 23-25 at Houston Raceway Park, gives him an opportunity to continue his late-season surge.
08 Oct 2020
Posted by NHRA.com staff
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Rickie Smith

Rickie Smith has raced just twice during the 2020 season in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, but it didn’t take long for the three-time world champion to have an impact.

The savvy veteran won the most recent event in Gainesville, picking up his 16th overall victory in the class and proving his incredible career is far from finished. Missing the first two races of the season after recovering from back surgery took him out of the championship mix, but Smith still proved to be a viable threat to win races in his nitrous-powered Camaro. He’ll take that momentum into the upcoming Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil, which takes place Oct. 23-25 at Houston Raceway Park.

“I’ve been blessed to be able to win a lot of races and that victory in Gainesville meant a lot,” Smith said. “I honestly believe in my mind if I hadn’t missed the first two races, I really think we could be leading the points right now or close to it. I feel like we’re as competitive and as good as anybody out there and we’ve still got it. It’s always important to prove you can still win, and I think I proved in Gainesville that I can still drive.”

The race will serve as the sixth event of the 2020 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season and will be shown on Fox Sports 2 (FS2). The class wasn’t originally scheduled to run in Houston, but it was added to the event after weather conditions caused Pro Mod action to be postponed in St. Louis. The Houston Pro Mod competition replaces the postponed race from St. Louis race.

Qualifying will be reopened in Houston, with the talent-filled class getting two attempts on Saturday, Oct. 24 before eliminations the next day. The field from the scheduled St. Louis event will carry over to Houston, with defending world champion Stevie “Fast” Jackson sitting as the provisional No. 1 qualifier.

For Smith, it’s an opportunity to continue his late-season surge at a track where he’s always performed well. Coupled with the success of teammate Jonathan Gray, who won the second Indy race in 2020 with Smith tuning, and the standout feels good about his team’s chances.

“I’ve had good success in Houston, even back when I was racing Pro Stock,” Smith said. “It’s been good to me over the years. It’s a good track and we’ve got both cars running well. That’s been the big thing and we’ll keep going with the flow. I came back and showed I can win and that was big. I know I’m getting older, but I can still win and still have fast cars.”

Smith has proven to be as good as ever on race day this year. He’s annually lauded as one of the best ever on the starting line in Pro Mod history, and that combination of veteran savvy and consistency in the car continues to make him a threat in a class full of standout performers.

Mike Janis is the current points leader over Jackson, but Gray is just 43 points back in fourth. A strong finish by Smith means a top-five finish isn’t out of the equation, either, and he’s been impressed with what his two-car nitrous team has been able to accomplish during a wild and unprecedented 2020 campaign.

“So far we’ve had four (NHRA Pro Mod) races this year and my cars have won two of them,” Smith said. “It’s been a crazy year in 2020, but, honestly, we’ve had a pretty awesome year racing. We haven’t been the fastest car on Sunday, but we just try to make the car go down the track consistently and give myself or (Gray) a chance to win. We just try to go down the track and make everybody else beat us. It’s been a pretty good thing for me, just going from one end to the other on a consistent basis.”

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, as well as a variety of late model American muscle cars.

Two qualifying sessions for the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service takes place at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. CT on Saturday, Oct. 24. The first round of Pro Mod eliminations are scheduled for 11:40 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25.

To purchase tickets, call 281-383-7223 or purchase online at www.houstonraceway.com.