Every race during the 2021 season in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service has been a first-time experience for standout rookie J.R. Gray. But this weekend will present an entirely new level of challenges for Gray.
The series will race at Bandimere Speedway in Denver for the first time in NHRA Pro Mod history as part of this weekend’s Dodge//SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil, which means a number of new and unique circumstances for every driver.
Racing at an elevation of more than 5,800 feet presents challenges not seen anywhere else, making for some of the most difficult conditions for any driver.
Gray is excited to take on the first-time test, heading to Denver for the first time to take in an experience that is unmatched anywhere on the NHRA Pro Mod tour.
“I’m definitely excited about going to a new place to race, and I’m looking forward to the scenery and the atmosphere,” Gray said. “I’ve heard it’s a beautiful place with the mountains and everything, and it’s going to be cool to be at a dragstrip racing in the mountains. It’s going to be interesting to see how everyone does, but we want to put down a good first run and hopefully improve from there.”
The race is the fifth event of the 2021 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season and will be shown on Fox Sports 2 (FS2). Jose Gonzalez won the most recent event in Norwalk, and Justin Bond remains the points leader as the season nears the halfway point.
Gray is looking to find his place in the class after struggling in the past three races. He’s suffered a trio of first-round losses, dropping to eighth in the loaded Pro Mod class, but Gray is confident the team is close to turning the corner. They’ve qualified in the top half the past two races, and it’s just a matter of putting everything together on race day.
“Preparing for the season, we felt like we had all the puzzle pieces, it’s just a matter of putting them all together,” Gray said. “I feel like we’re close to doing that, and things are coming together in a good way. We’ve had a fast hot rod, my lights have been good, and I’ve been driving pretty well, it’s just a matter of everything coming together. When that happens, I believe we’re going to win some races.”
To do so in his rookie season would be a massive accomplishment for Gray, who enjoyed a successful career in the doorslammer ranks in other series before making the move to NHRA Pro Mod in 2021. He jumped at the chance to race for veteran Mike Janis and his team, and the relationship has gone incredibly well.
Gray has praised Janis and the team at every opportunity, and the group has meshed instantly, allowing Gray to compete against the top names in the class. That leaves him confident success will be coming soon and could happen in Denver, even as Gray will have to contend against the likes of Bond, Gonzalez, Khalid alBalooshi, back-to-back world champ Stevie “Fast” Jackson, Mike Castellana, and Brandon Snider, as well as the imposing conditions in Denver.
“With Mike and the team, it feels like a perfect fit,” Gray said. “Everyone gets along really well, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to run my rookie season with this year. I like it a lot, and I really like racing in this NHRA Pro Mod class. The level of competition is great. There’s no room for error, and you have to be on your game every time you go to the starting line. At any moment, any of these drivers could get a win.”
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.
The first two qualifying sessions for the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service takes place at 4:30 and 7:15 p.m. MT on Friday with the final two rounds scheduled for 4:00 and 7:15 p.m. on Saturday. The first round of Pro Mod eliminations are slated for 12:15 p.m. on Sunday.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-664-UWIN (8946). Tickets also are available online at www.bandimere.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general-admission areas with a paid adult.